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Northern Thailand has a unique sense of style and creativity. Chiang Mai in particular is known for its thriving arts and culture scene, both with traditional Thai handicrafts, such is wood carving, umbrella making and weaving , and contemporary arts and craftsmanship.
Especially compared to Bangkok, the north has a relaxed, “return to nature” feel about it that is apparent in the way people dress (usually pretty casual), speak (supposedly Chiang Mai-ers speak more slowly, but it still sounds fast to foreign ears!), eat (the Chiang Mai hills are filled with fresh produce) and even, decorate their homes and businesses.
Nowhere is this style and creative spirit more apparent than the new artists village close to Doi Suthep, Baan Kang Wat.
A series of shophouses, designed to highlight traditional and modern Thai architecture elements, have been built up around a small amphitheater to create an outdoor lifestyle mall that is pretty dang cute.
All the creative businesses found at the village focus on local, handmade sustainable or organic products and give back to the community in some way. Along with several shops, galleries and studios, there are also a few cafes (mainly selling drinks and small snacks, though there is a place at the entrance serving khanom jin – curry over rice noodles) and even a garden growing leafy greens.
At Nok Pha Nit Studio you can join in playing around with the “art of the day”. When I visited the schedule for the week included ceramics, jewelry and woodcut printing among other things.
The shops focus on selling handmade and locally-crafted goods as well. Jibberish calls itself a homemade zakka shop and stocks a range of items including jewelry, ceramics, cards and more. “Zakka” refers to a Japanese trend that focuses around anything that makes your life and home more comfortable and aesthetically pleasing and aptly describes the items you can find in Jibberish.
After an afternoon of wandering around and getting a bit to eat, you could even finish up with a yoga class.
While you wouldn’t just stumble across the village, it’s a little out of the way, it is still incredibly close to town but offers a nice change of scenery and pace – you’d never know you were just minutes away from some of Chiang Mai’s busiest streets. A great place to go if you need a break from the city and are looking for a unique, local experience!
Baan Kang Wat is open everyday from 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. however the shops all seem to have slightly different opening times.
It’s really simple to get to the village, though the maps I saw online made it look confusing.
The market is close to Wat Umong, a well known forest temple at the base of Doi Suthep off of Suthep Road. It would be difficult to get a songthaew (red trucks that act as shared taxis) here but you could get a tuk tuk. There’s a good chance they won’t know where it is so make sure to have the name written down in Thai, บ้านข้างวัด, or ask the driver to take you to the back of Wat Ram Poeng (วัดร่ำเปิง) – the market is across from the temple.
The easiest way would be to cycle or ride a motorbike to the village. There’s a map on the market’s Facebook Page, though like I said, it’s not that helpful if you’re not familiar with the area. Google Maps doesn’t show all of the little street names so you can’t be sure of which one to turn onto. Here’s how I got there:
There is parking for both cars and motorbikes in a gravel lot to the left of the market.