Sure, Chiang Mai is full of historical sites, magnificent temples and surrounded by stunning landscapes. But Thailand’s second largest city doesn’t need to hide behind its ‘big brother’ Bangkok when it comes to shopping possibilities. Here are the five top places you should not miss on your trip to Chiang Mai:
Nimmanhaemin Road – exclusive boutique shopping
What was once a sleepy road surrounded by rice paddies back in the 1980’s has evolved into a vibrant street with funky boutiques, trendy coffee shops and fantastic nightlife venues. Nimmaenhaemin Road is about 1.5 kilometres in length but throughout the years it has spread across the sois (lanes/alleys) leading from the street. The shops and boutiques are home to local and international designers and artists who are selling unique fashion, art and jewellery items. The dining options are superb, whether you choose to sip a latte at a trendy coffee shop or sample dishes at one of the various Thai and international restaurants, rest assured the selection won’t be easy for you. Lots of local students live around Nimmanhaemin Road as the location is in convenient proximity to Chiang Mai University, one of the country’s largest universities.
Address: northwest of the Old Town. Leave Bunrueang Road and follow road no. 1004 (Huaykaew Road) for about 1km until you reach a crossroad where you will see the MAYA mall, then just turn left.
Central Festival Shopping Mall – the All-in-One mall
Given its significant smaller size in comparison to Bangkok, Chiang Mai still offers a good amount of shopping malls. Central Festival Chiang Mai is one of the latest and currently the city’s biggest shopping mall. The mall is unique for two major reasons (aside being the biggest mall):
Plenty of well-established international brands like H&M or Marks & Spencer have shops and stores that you can’t find in any other place around Chiang Mai.
It features an ice skating rink on the third floor.
Central Festival is designed to find your way easily around, with lots of maps and clear signs around. Throughout the entire mall you’ll find a good mix of local and international brands. The fifth floor is home to most of eateries which offer mainly Thai cuisine plus a Major Cineplex and IMAX 3D. The mall covers 250.000 sqm of floor space with over 300 shops and spread over 5 floors.
Bo Sang Umbrella Handicraft Centre – Chiang Mai’s famous paper umbrellas
Bo Sang is a village located approx. 8 kilometres southeast of Chiang Mai’s Old Town and famous for its handicraft items but in particular for their umbrellas made from sa-paper. Once you leave Chiang Mai on San Kamphaeng Road towards Bo Sang you’ll notice dozens of shops and show rooms displaying primarily silver items, silk and wood carvings.
The umbrellas are made from the bark of the mulberry tree and are all hand-painted. You can watch the artisans at work or you can – in case you want to purchase a plain umbrella- choose an artist who will paint the umbrella for you. Simply choose the design, the artist and set a fix price.
It is said that a wandering Thai monk, who lived close to the Burmese border for several years, was given respite from the sun by a Burmese woman with an umbrella made from sa-paper. He loved the beauty of the umbrella and learned the art later in his temple in Bo Sang.
Right next to the handicraft centre is a shop that sells the umbrellas among a number of other products.
Location: follow San Kamphaeng Road (no. 1006), approx. 8 kilometres out of town Chiang Mai
Open: daily, 08:00 – 17:00
Warorot Market – Best souvenirs in town
Warorot Market is the centrepiece of Chiang Mai’s small but atmospheric Chinatown, located just beside the Ping River. It’s a bustling three-storey shopping centre and one of the places where locals do their shopping speaking you can find a lot of items with great quality but cheaper prices than at other markets. Along with the open air market just outside Warorot and Ton Lamyai (another shopping centre on the opposite), this area forms one of Chiang Mai’s largest market places. Almost anything you can imagine is available: fruits & vegetables, flowers, meat & fish, handicrafts, chinaware, watches, electronics, sunglasses, clothes & shoes, cosmetics, souvenirs, hill tribe handicrafts, you name it, they (most probably) have it.
Address: end of Chiang Moi Road, near the Ping River Open: daily, 05:00-18:00 (Warorot/Ton Lamyai); daily, 05:00-23:00 (the outside market)
Baan Tawai – Fantastic wooden furniture
If you’re looking to bring home some wonderful Thai furniture, look no further! Located in the district of Hang Dong, Baan Tawai produces furniture of all kinds of woods including the famous rattan. There are numerous shipping agencies around who are specialized in exporting worldwide. You can even see a few creations on the Saturday -/ Sunday Night Markets. Even if you don’t intend to buy furniture a visit to Baan Tawai makes a great afternoon trip. It’s located southwest from the Old Town and easily reachable via yellow Songthaew from Chiang Mai Gate or if you choose to drive by motorbike, just follow highway no. 108.