The Wat Ket community in Chiang Mai is a local historic community located on the east side of Mae Ping river. Formerly, before the train arrived to Chiang Mai, Wat Ket used to be an important boat landing along the river way from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and other Southern cities. Therefore, this area was inhabited by people from various nationalities: Chinese traders, western missionaries and native people. The community’s diverse culture is reflected through international architecture which still remained till nowadays. Today, this neighbourhood is famed for its slow life atmosphere with some great stops from where to enjoy beautiful views of Ping River. It is also an art and shopper’s paradise with little shops and art galleries to discover.
As the weather can be pretty hot, start your visit during late afternoon, from the Nakhon Ping Bridge, next to the Rimping Condominium. Walking on the way to Nawarat bridge, your first stop will be at La Luna Gallery. Situated in a beautiful colonial house, this artistic hub showcases the talents of contemporary Asian artists. (La Luna Gallery - Daily 9am-6pm).
Right opposite this gallery is The Tigris Moon by Sabina Fay Braxton, with unique textiles for fashion, interior, custom carpets and accessories. Sabina’s signature is the layering of rich textures into her designs using innovative extrapolations of traditional techniques (loom weaving, hand-printing and hand-painting). Her fabrics have featured in Harry Potter, Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Christian Lacroix and many more. (The Tigris Moon - By appointment only - Tel. 091-072 2242).
A few hundred meters passing these two galleries you will find on your left hand side the Elephant Parade House. Elephant Parade is a social enterprise which runs the largest art exhibition of decorated elephant statues. You will discover many wonderful models in this shop. Created by artists and celebrities, each Elephant Parade statue is a unique art piece. The life-size, baby elephant statues are exhibited throughout the world to raise awareness of the need for elephant conservation. 20% of Elephant Parade net profits are donated to elephant welfare and conservation projects. (Elephant Parade House Wat Ket - Daily 9am-6pm).
Continue walking for a few meters and discover the splendid Sop Moei Art’s tiny shop. Designers from this shop collaborate with Karen weavers to create high quality hand-woven textiles, scarves, baskets and home decor. (Sop Moei Arts - Open Monday - Friday 10am to 5pm).
From there, don’t miss visiting the temple Wat Ket Karam which dates back from 1428. In this temple’s ground is the Ket Kaew Chura Manee pagoda which is worshipped by the community and a museum dedicated to displaying antiques and hard-to-find old photos that tell the story of Chiang Mai.
From there, if you are hungry or thirsty, a few options are available for you. You can sip a cup of tea with some pastries in the very elegant Vieng Joom On Teahouse, or enjoy a refreshing drink with sandwiches or relish delicious Thai cuisine at the famous Riverside Restaurant. Both places are located along the Ping River and they offer unforgettable views. Around five to six o’clock, you will probably be able to see paddlers, coming from down the river.
Vieng Joom On Teahouse is easy to noticed as it is the only pink building in this area. They offer more than 50 kinds of premium worlwide quality tea, served with homemade scones, pastries and cakes. (Vieng Joom On Tea House - Daily 11am-6pm).
The Riverside Restaurant is located close to Nawarat Bridge, and it is one of the most famous bars and restaurants in town. This long-running eatery, with a riverfront patio, serves exotic cocktails alongside Thai and international cuisines. Each evening, starting from 8pm, they also have the hottest live bands in town and you can choose to enjoy your evening at the bar, at a table next to the river, or on have a meal on the second floor of this beautiful traditional wooden house. (The Riverside Restaurant - 5pm to midnight. Closed Tuesdays).
After all these visits and walks, why not pamper yourself in an oasis of tranquility? Passing The Riverside restaurant is Rarinjinda Wellness Spa, a holiday getaway which offers relaxing spa treatments and an exclusive indoor heated hydrotherapy pool. Relax in this pool with eight stations including bubbling area, foot jets, back-hip-tummy jets, aqua bed, level jets, back-leg jets and swan neck. The spa often offers special promotion for the hydrotherapy pool so check out their website for the latest promotions. (Rarinjinda Wellness Spa and Resort - Daily 10am to 10pm).
Later in the evening, for the best steak, pizza, burger and pasta, head to The Duke’s Restaurant, which is located across the Nawarat intersection. The Duke’s is Chiang Mai’s original “scratch kitchen”, serving down-to-earth cooking. Every day, home-made sauces, breads, soups, dressings and cakes are freshly made in-house. (The Duke’s Ping River - Daily 10am to 10pm).
Last, but not least, end this beautiful day with a walk on the Iron Bridge. This majestic creation was made out of steel some seventy years ago. At sunset, it lights up in spectacular colours and is a favourite place for locals to hang out. Crossing this bridge from The Duke’s restaurant’s side will also take you on to the night bazaar which is very close.
Day time or night time, the Ping River is a masterpiece of Chiang Mai history. Walks along this spectacular riverside will give you many happy and colourful memories.