Chiang Mai Handicraft and Creative Decor at Baan Tawai
Chiang Mai is a city of artists: no traveler can doubt this after having stepped into one of the many handicraft centers located throughout the provinces, where there are flowing abundances of paintings, exquisite fabrics, umbrellas, furniture and silverware. It is no surprise, therefore, that in January 2011 the governing body of Chiang Mai initiated a procedure to apply for a Creative City Status with UNESCO for the province as a joint effort between the municipal authorities, the communities of Chiang Mai, and the Chiang Mai University. Toward this, efforts have been made to coordinate different sectors of the city’s economy, from cottage industrialists to hospitality to independent artists to develop human resources, increase jobs, and encourage the development of the arts.
While most travelers will be more readily familiar with the Night Market and the Walking Streets, both of which are within the city center and therefore more conveniently accessible, you might want to consider going a little off the beaten track and trying the Baan Tawai, an OTOP (One Tambon One Product, a program to encourage and sponsor Thai artisans) village. Located on Route 108 in Amphur Hang Dong, about fifteen kilometers south of the city center, it has in recent years streamlined into convenient “zones” of shops, eateries and cafes while the main street itself is home to furniture shops that sell some of the most creative furniture and home décor items found anywhere in the world: there you will find chairs and couches in flowing abstract wood, delicate forest nymphs, and beautiful bamboo lanterns. Prices are also ridiculously cheap for such workmanship, material and artistry; the only possible concern you might have would be shipping logistics, but you can be assured that if you’re buying furniture or decorating a new house then you can certainly do worse-and do more expensively-than browsing through several Baan Tawai shops.
Your next stop should be some of the inner zones. Zones 2 and 4 are particularly popular, flourishing with little art galleries full of oils and acrylics in styles both modernistic and traditional Thai, unique pieces that can be had for as little as $ 20. Zone 4 also features a corner with upscale shops selling fantastic glassware, celadon ceramics, and a little café that offers free WiFi, decent bakery, and killer frappe coffee made to order as well as a small menu of traditional Northern Thai fare. The style of goods in general are very particular to Chiang Mai, quite distinct from that found in other regions of Thailand (or any other parts of Asia) and the quality is consistently high: did you know that some ceramics from Whittard of Chelsea are, in fact, made in Thailand and indeed right in Baan Tawai itself?
While the area is somewhat remote from city conveniences, there is a smattering of eateries throughout the village that will more than serve the need for light lunches and breakfasts. Pharmacies and convenience stores, such as 7-11 and others, are also scattered about the zones should you feel the need for a quick drink or need to top up your pay-as-you-go phone cards. The shopkeepers price their goods fairly, and often the salesperson and the artist (or sculptor, or weaver) are one and the same. Incenses, novelty candles, papier-mache dolls, Thai silks and more can likewise be found in the village. It’s the perfect alternative to shopping therapy in air-conditioned malls, and sure to offer everyone something to like.
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