Chiang Mai is a city of artists: no traveler can doubt this after having stepped into one of the many handicraft centers located through the entire provinces, where there are flowing abundances of paintings, exquisite fabrics, umbrellas, furniture and silverware. It is not surprising, therefore, that in January 2011 the governing body of ป่าสนวัดจันทร์ initiated a process to try to get a Creative City Status with UNESCO for the province as being a joint effort between the municipal authorities, the communities of Chiang Mai, and the Chiang Mai University. Toward this, efforts have been designed to coordinate different sectors of the city’s economy, from cottage industrialists to hospitality to independent artists to produce human resources, increase jobs, and encourage the development of the arts.
While many travelers could be more readily knowledgeable about the Night Market and the Walking Streets, both of which are inside the city center and thus more conveniently accessible, you may want to consider going just a little off the beaten track and seeking the Baan Tawai, an OTOP (One Tambon One Product, a program to encourage and sponsor Thai artisans) village. Found on Route 108 in Amphur Hang Dong, about fifteen kilometers south in the city center, it has in recent years streamlined into convenient “zones” of shops, eateries and cafes while the main street itself houses furniture shops that sell some of the most creative furniture and home décor items found all over the world: there you can find chairs and couches in flowing abstract wood, delicate forest nymphs, and delightful bamboo lanterns. Prices are also ridiculously cheap for such workmanship, material and artistry; the only possible concern you could have would be shipping logistics, but you can rest assured that when you’re buying furniture or decorating a new house then you can certainly certainly do worse-and do more expensively-than going through several Baan Tawai shops.
The next stop needs to be some of the inner zones. Zones 2 and 4 are particularly popular, flourishing with little art galleries packed with oils and acrylics in styles both modernistic and traditional Thai, unique pieces that can be had for less than $20. Zone 4 also includes a corner with upscale shops selling fantastic glassware, celadon ceramics, and a little café that offers free WiFi, decent bakery, and killer frappe coffee designed to order and also a small menu of traditional Northern Thai fare. The design of goods generally are extremely particular to Chiang Mai, quite distinct from that seen in other areas of Thailand (or other areas of Asia) as well as the quality is consistently high: did you know that some ceramics from Whittard of Chelsea are, in fact, produced in Thailand and indeed directly in Baan Tawai itself?
While the area is sort of remote from city conveniences, you will find a smattering of eateries through the entire village which will more than serve the necessity for light lunches and breakfasts. Pharmacies and convenience stores, such as 7-11 and others, will also be scattered regarding the zones in the event you feel the need for a quick drink or have to top up Chiang Mai Homestay. The shopkeepers price their goods fairly, and quite often the salesperson coriyo the artist (or sculptor, or weaver) is one as well as the same. Incenses, novelty candles, papier-mache dolls, Thai silks and more can likewise be found in the village. It’s the ideal alternative to shopping therapy in air-conditioned malls, and certain to offer everyone something to enjoy.