Chiang Mai is known for many markets, malls and it is indeed a shopping hub.
Since Chiang Mai was the last stop on my trip to Thailand, I had set aside some time to shop at Chiang Mai instead of Bangkok. And standing to its reputation, the night markets, the weekend markets, and the handicrafts village had so many options to chose from.
From the famous paper umbrella to lacquerware, from elephant printed bottoms to Thai silk, from tasting durians to sticky mango rice, from trinkets to silver jewellery, from chocolates to curry powders, everything was there. Here is a Chiang Mai shopping guide on what to buy from where.
Let us walk through the Chiang Mai markets
San Kampaeng Handicraft Village
This is one of the recommended tours to take when in Chiang Mai. The San Kampaeng handicraft village is a village with many small-scale industries strewn all over the district. And since these are wholesale industries, you are supposed to buy these at a subsidized rate.
But you are also a tourist, so I booked this half-a-day tour at my hotel because I wanted to see the handicrafts unique to Thailand and take home a memorable souvenir.
As part of this tour, you hop around all the handicraft factories, and they were good. They explain to you the process of making it, and at the end of each factory tour, there is a good handicraft shop.
Ummm.. this tour is not suitable for the backpacker's pocket. I did not spend at most places, and some areas did not make sense to me as an Indian. E.g., one of the stops was a Gold shop/ Gem shop, and the tour guide raved about it.
For an Indian, gold is not new, and on top of it, it was 18-carat gold which would have me beaten up by my mom for buying that kind of purity. For us, anything less than 22-carat is not gold.
So, in this Chiang kai shopping guide, I am taking you around all the shops in this Sankampaeng handicraft village, and you choose what you want to see.
The very first stop was the leather factory. And I don't buy leather! So when I entered that shop, I was clueless. They had some collection of alligators or crocodile skins. If you are into leather, you might like it.
There are designer handbags, wallets, shoes and sandals and since they are leather, it was super expensive. But this was the first stop, so I did not want to disappoint our tour guide and put down the spirit of the tour. That doesn't mean I bought something :P I roamed around the shop for a while before moving on to the next.
I liked this place as you see how they mold silver, shape it, polish it, create intricate designs. It was fun to watch the work. And there were some nice designs of earrings, toe rings, and finger rings. My friend picked up an earring..
Thai Silk Factory
Everything about Thai silk, from the silkworms to weaving silk out of it, dying it, and weaving it, you can see the end-to-end process of how Thai silk is done. You get to learn a lot about the Thai weaving process and the natural dyes used.
They had a separate section like a museum with displays about the tribes, what techniques they have incorporated from them, and a lot of knowledgeable stuff. This place is for all you fashionistas.
They have awesome stuff to buy, elegant, traditional, for modern women and men. I loved the collection. But yes, silk is so costly. Even a shawl costs a few thousand.
But what I loved the most about this place was, we knew that Thai silk was costly! So they had made these little souvenirs out of Thai Silk, like handkerchiefs, pouches, jewellery holders, tiny stuffed elephants, which were all adorable and affordable. This was great for tourists like me to buy and take back as a souvenir.
Lacquerware was very interesting to watch. Lacquerware is wood polished with lacquer and is ready for something to be inlaid on it. Something like pearl or shards.
And lacquerware comes in two tones usually. Either black and gold, red and gold, etc.
The artifacts we found in Chaing Mai had designs made of eggshells. The eggshells are processed and dried out, and broken into small smalls. These pieces are then assembled into designs over the bowl or dish, or vase. It was very, very pretty out of my budget but lovely work and very tedious work.
Wood carving factory
For all furniture to be purchased and big framed photos and pictures that are intricately carved. The place had some awesome work. I wish, like the Thai silk factory, they could also come up with some innovative souvenirs. How can we buy chairs and carved stools :( So soaked in the beauty of the work, and that's about it.
By now, in all the night markets and weekend markets around Thailand, you would have seen these paper umbrellas for sale.
Watching it being made in the factory was awesome. They choose specific wood and layer it up with paper after paper. The village of Borsang located on Sankampaeng road, is a famous place for the production of umbrellas made from Saa paper, derived from mulberry tree bark.
It was fascinating to watch huge, huge umbrellas being made. The smaller ones are no longer handpainted, they are paper-printed designs placed on top of the umbrella.
However, the bigger ones are still a traditional handpainted way to form beautiful designs. This place is also like the Thai silk factory. They have mini souvenirs, affordable umbrellas to buy, painters who quickly cook up designs on the umbrella. Loved it here. This was the last stop at our San Kamphaeng village tour, and I bought an umbrella :)
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Also read - Go on a tour to visit the Hill Tribes of Chiang Mai - Click here
Map of San Kampaeng District
Sunday Walking Street
The next on this Chiang Mai Shopping guide is the Sunday walking street. The town goes crazy on Sunday. The crowd starts to gather in front of the Tha Pae Gate, traffic is closed down the road and all the way till Ratchadamnoen Road which is about a kilometre stretch, shops are laid on either side. It is extremely crowded. Not just the
At the Sunday walking street, you can mostly find handicrafts and artefacts. Not much of clothes except shawls. But everything else like lamps, cushions, trinkets, makeup items, household decorative items, their famous umbrella, everything. This place is crazy. People just keep pushing you through the crowd. It is there on every Sunday and in spite of Saturday market, night market, this market and that market, it is super crowded. There were some interesting finds to eat too. At 6 pm they play their national anthem and the entire street comes to stand still. I was in super awe! There was also a stage set and there were some dance performances.
Map of Chiang Mai Sunday Market
Chiang Mai Night Bazaar
The night bazaar or the night market is found every evening from 6 pm onwards. I and my friend were a bit early on this street and it looked like a ghost town as it was pouring too. Come night, you do not have space to step out your feet. The shops come abuzz, there are lights everywhere and hardly any space to walk.
The Chiang Mai night bazaar is huge and I would definitely recommend this one for all shopping needs. In fact this is the number one slot in my Chiang Mai shopping guide. They had all souvenirs, handicrafts, clothes, shawls, junk jewellery, handbags, shoes, everything. People who want to buy replica of popular brand handbags can find it here. I bought loads of junk jewellery, they were so pretty! Apart from pushcarts there are also shopping centres and mini mall like buildings with shops. They have a huge collection of dresses and convenient to try them out. You get all your elephant printed shorts and pants here :P And the street has plenty of good eatery joints that you can shop and eat and shop and eat. People usually recommend to do the Sunday market rather than this but I somehow preferred this night bazaar. And this night bazaar is in Changklan road. I dunno where it starts and ends since it was a huge stretch. But it is on this road. I couldn't take many pictures here as it was raining.
Map of Chiang Mai Night Bazaar
Warorot Market - One of the markets during chiang mai shopping
Wonder where the Thai people do their shopping? It is at Warorot Market also called Kad Luang. If you want to get the feel of the local market then this is the place. Opened all through the day. So you get traditional Thai sweets, curry powders, dry fruits, chocolates, spices, everything authentic as used by Thai people. You will find less of souvenir shops and more of fruits, vegetables and traditional sarongs, wraparounds and tribal wears. There was an entire floor selling fish and fresh meat. I bought curry powders from here. And also some dresses and shorts cos they were super cheap. If you want to know what goes into the kitchen of Thai people and what they use in their daily life then Warorot market is the place. Also, there are plenty of shops around the market, so you can walk around the streets too.
Map of Warorot Market - chiang mai shopping
And that's about the Chiang Mai shopping markets. There are a lot of malls, boutique shops and a couple of other markets too. But the above-mentioned markets covered most of my needs. If you stay at Old City of Chiang Mai, all these places plus all the monasteries are walkable from here. If you look into the map of Chiang Mai, the river will run around Old Chaing Mai forming like a square, find a stay inside it and you are sorted.
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