STREET LOCAL DISCOVERIES
There are so many ways to experience Chiang Mai city that are out of the ordinary. One of these is to immerse and discover the secrets behind every little shops in Lao Jow neighborhood.
Chiang Mai has a rich history when it comes to handicrafts; Lao Jow street, the local China Town, has become an eclectic mixt of culture and products. Located next to Warorot Market, it is a melting pot of textiles shops, bohemian style product, hilltribes embroideries, Lanna costumes, cotton clothes, gold shops, plastic flowers, a Chinese temple, and so many other shops waiting to be discovered!
If you ever visited Chiang Mai, you may have noticed Kuang Men street. Relaying Thapae road to Warorot market, the adventurous visitor in you has to discover each of the tiny alleys surrounding this street - you are definitely in for some discoveries! Here is a vibrant neighbourhood offering plenty of opportunities from souvenir shopping to original ideas for product hunters and vintage textiles. This is a half or full day activity, which you can do on your own. No need to hire a guide; just walk in, immerse yourself and experience Chiang Mai’s local shopping.
Starting from Thapae road, walk down Kuang Men street and turn left at the first little alley; this is the place where you will find plenty of colourful hilltribe style apparels, textiles, hand-stitched quilt, handbags, Akha hats, and countless accessories. Selections and prices can’t be beat. The interesting thing about this alley is that some shops sell textiles, accessories, and costumes from Hmong tribe.
Some others shops sale textiles from Lisu or Karen. Not all products are antiques because authentic hilltribe wares have been more difficult to find since about ten years ago. But you are definitely in for some true discoveries! At the end of this alley, you will find a Hmong market with countless stands of textiles, garments, baby carriers, embroideries and indigo coloured hemp fabrics. Walking in this market, you will feel something about Hmong costumes; they are definitely the most vibrant and colorful of all tribes.
Through tiny little alleys, the market takes you to the back of Warorot market and its famous Chinese shrine called Cong Thao Kong. Built about 130 years ago, this Chinese temple is very typical. Hidden behind modern signage are mid-century and pre-World War II architecture.
The many textile shops - located right opposite the Chinese shrine - offer thousands of different fabrics sold by meter. These shops are - most of the time - owned by Indians who were born in Thailand. They have many kinds of beautiful patterns with reasonable prices.
Opposite these textile shops is a cosmetic emporium which has an extraordinary choice: thousands of cosmetics, shampoos, creams, make up... it’s absolutely incredible! As the prices are very competitive, hair shop owners from all around town come and buy all in big quantities.
Back on main Kuang Men street, you will see at the main intersection a large gold shop, owned by a Thai- Chinese family. Thai gold jewelry often has a purity of 96.5% gold, which is equivalent to 23 karat. The remaining 3,5% consist of alloys such as silver and bronze. For Thai people, gold is more than just a precious metal for the making of jewelry, it functions as a security to them in case of difficult times. Thai gold can be sold back to any gold shop or pledge until the family’s economy gets better.
Another interesting shop, located on the right side of the street is Nai99 Shop, which is well known for its assortment of bohemian and kaleidoscopic Nepalese imported items - from materials to fashion, accessories to home decor. At the second floor is a secret little coffee shop decorated with Himalayan fabrics and art. This hippie style hang out serves some of the most delicious coffees, smoothies and cakes in the neighbourood.
Opposite is a shop selling vintage binto boxes and next to it “Chiang Mai Plastic”. Since 1995, before Chiang Mai had any department store, this place had been an institution, selling everything from plastic accessories to little gift bags, Christmas decoration and sewing material. Over the years, “Chiang Mai Plastic” has grown from one shopfront to three or four (it’s difficult to tell), and it can be fun to walk in the shop and find yourself getting out in a total different street from the one you came in.
Walking in Lao Jo neighbourhood is a colourful and very interesting voyage into the hilltribe handicraft. You can be sure to see the “real” Chiang Mai. It is an epi-centre for trading, exciting shopping opportunities and a general joyful riot of sensory overload!
LAO JOW STREET & HMONG MARKET :
Kuang Men Street and around. Chiang Mai.
Walk from Thapae Road down to Warorot.