Wualai is now primarily known for its weekly Saturday Night Market, however, it’s one the city’s most important historical places. The quarter was originally established by King Kawila, the first king of Chiang Mai, at the end of the 18th century. It was the time when everyone was heavily involved in the restoration of Chiang Mai, since its independence from Burma. King Kawila was focused on several projects around town, yet was eager to create some sort of signature for the city. He brought in several villagers from an area around the Salween River who were famous for their extraordinary silversmith skills. The new community settled just outside the Old City’s walls, which is now widely known as Chiang Mai Gate. The name of the community was ‘Ban Wua Lai’, named after the area they came from (which, by the way, is now part of Myanmar).
Old Chiang Mai Cultural Centre
During the day, you can dine here at one of the city’s best vegetarian restaurants, all-you-can-eat for just 159 THB. At night, it’s one of the best places around town to watch authentic northern Thai music and dance performances, paired with a delicious Khantoke Dinner.
Location: just a few minutes from Central Plaza Airport, at the end of Wualai Road.
Wat Sri Suphan
Also known as ‘Silver Temple’ this stunning and beautiful temple is located right at the end of Soi 2 (Soi means ‘alley’), roughly 70m from Wualai Road. The temple was originally built in 1502 although only few remains can be found from the original one, since it has been several times destroyed the past 500 years. Wat Sri Suphan plays now a very important role in the preservation of silversmith art. Since 2004, silversmiths are encouraged to work on the temple’s design and façade and it’s not rare to watch artisans at work here. The Lanna School of Ancient Arts utilizes Wat Sri Suphan as school for the new generations of silversmiths.
There is a Monk Chat which takes place every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 17:30-19:00 where you can ask any question about Buddhism and Thai culture. A meditation introductory course takes place right after the chat. Both, chat and mediation, set you back at 150 THB.
Location: Wualai Road Soi 2
If you’re already around here, why don’t you visit one of the few shops here? Regardless if you plan to buy anything, the craftsmen offer a wide range of goods, plus, with a small purchase, you would certainly help to sustain the silversmith art here.
Saturday Night Market
Every Saturday from 17:00 until midnight, Wualai Road turns into a bustling market area and a no-traffic zone. This market draws every week thousands of visitors with hundreds of vendors setting up their stalls around the length of the road, offering mainly handicrafts and paintings of all shapes and sizes. Take your time to dawdle around the market, watch people haggling and indulge to delicious Thai food. And if your feet feel tired from walking around, get a foot massage at one of the countless open air massage places.
Chiang Mai Gate Market
The Chiang Mai Gate Market marks basically the entry point to Wualai Road.This big square is home to two daily market: the morning market from 04:00 – 13:00 and the night market from 17:00 until midnight. The morning market in particular is very interesting since it’s not very much frequented by foreigners before 09:00. It’s a great place for watching locals buying their daily good, monks collecting alms, or simply for taking great photos. Most of the vendors open their stalls in the canopied market area (usually food and flowers can be bought here) while others set up their stalls outside and sell mainly clothes.
The night market is yet another exciting and colourful area and the ideal place if you plan to sample some local dishes. Whether that’s local rice porridge, Som Tam (green mango salad) or stir-fried minced beef with chillies and basil leaves, you’ll be definitely excited to see the immense selection of food – on top, most meals will be jus around 35-50 THB per portion!