Explore Chinatown in Chiang Mai

New York, London, Melbourne, Toronto and Bangkok are just some of the world’s major cities that boast a Chinatown serving a thriving Chinese population. Chiang Mai is perhaps a lesser known entry on this list, but not a surprising one, given the size of the local Chinese population and the number of travellers from China that descend on the city annually.

Located on the bank of the Ping River outside the old city walls, Chiang Mai’s Chinatown is just a short 1km walk from the Tha Phae Gate. It’s the city’s oldest trading area and is home to many of the Chinese families living in Chiang Mai. While it’s a relatively small part of this large city, it contributes to the area’s diverse offering, and its history dates back to the 19th century after the Treaty of Peking allowed Chinese nationals to travel freely outside the borders of China for the first time.

The main entrance to Chinatown is in Chang Moi Road. It’s easily identifiable by the large red arch that stretches across this busy street and is adorned with traditional red Chinese lanterns. A wander through this bustling area is a pleasant assault on your senses. The smells, tastes, sights and sounds lead you into the heart of the city’s Chinese community with lots to explore and experience.

 

Chinatown Chiang Mai - akyra Manor Chiang Mai Hotel

 

The Warorot Market

The popular Warorot Market, or Kad Luang, is the oldest public market in Chiang Mai. It’s somewhat of a landmark in the city and one of the main attractions of Chinatown. The market is predominantly indoors with stalls selling a variety of fresh produce and handmade goods and while there’s a distinct Chinese vibe, it also attracts many Thai crafters and vendors.

Food is the main focus of the market, with the bulk of the ground floor featuring fresh meats, fruits and vegetables as well as an array of readymade snacks and meals. It’s a great introduction to both Chinese and northern Thai cuisine, and a fantastic place to sample the various foodstuffs and soak up the atmosphere of a traditional Chinese-Thai market.

There are plenty of stalls selling Thai souvenirs and authentic handmade wares catering to tourists from around the globe, but the market is also popular with the local Thai residents who haggle over household goods, textiles, clothing and other practical items. Warorot Market is an integral part of Chinatown in Chiang Mai and an experience that you don’t want to miss out on.

 

Flower Market

Just across the Wichayanon Road towards the Ping River, you’ll come across Talat Ton Lam Yai, a traditional flower market selling all manner of plants and flowers. While some vendors are traditional flower sellers, others craft leaves and blooms into displays and sculptures for household or celebratory use.

The flower market hums with activity in the evenings when the air is cooler and the flowers less inclined to wilt. However, there’s still plenty of activity in the daytime with various stalls selling fresh foods and dry foodstuffs.

 

Chinese Shrines

A wander through the streets of a Thai city wouldn’t be complete without happening upon a shrine or two, and you will certainly catch a glimpse of some exceptional examples in Chiang Mai’s Chinatown. The Pung Thao Kong Shrine is a notable sight on the Praisanee Road adjacent to the Ping River and is the oldest shrine in Chiang Mai. It’s authentically Chinese and decorated in a traditional style, embellished with Chinese gods, dragons and painted reliefs.

The Kuan U Shrine is another sight worth seeing on your wander through Chinatown. It was founded in the 19th century by immigrants from China who became traders at the Warorot Market. The shrine is also known as Guan Yu, who is the Chinese god of loyalty and well respected in the Chinese culture. Although not as brightly adorned as Pung Thao Kong, the shrine stands out with its traditional Chinese elements.

 

Other Attractions

A stroll through Chinatown will unearth plenty of unique finds, quirky scenes and interesting street life. A maze of lanes and alleyways house many little wholesale shops and stalls selling a variety of goods including Chinese teas and silks. The streets are lined with vendors and everyone has something to sell.

You may also happen upon a traditional Chinese apothecary with an interesting assortment of dried herbs and traditional medicines promising to treat an array of illnesses and complaints. One such shop has passed from generation to generation in the same family and has operated in the area for more than a century.

Don’t be surprised to find groups of Chinese or Thai locals watching television, sitting on the roadside having a bite to eat, or enjoying lively conversations. Scenes like this are commonplace across Chiang Mai and Chinatown is no exception. It provides tourists with a fascinating glimpse into the everyday life of these colourful local residents.

There is lots to enjoy here and the hours spent exploring is certainly not wasted time. Although Chinatown in Chiang Mai isn’t the largest of its kind, it hums with activity and is a worthwhile inclusion on your list of places to visit when exploring Northern Thailand’s largest hub.

 

 

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akyra MANOR CHIANG MAI HOTEL

22/2 Nimmana Haeminda Road Soi 9,

Su Thep, Muang Chiang Mai District,

Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand

 

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