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Chiang Mai is a shopping paradise because there is such a wide range of unusual goods at affordable prices. The quality may be variable, but the value for money is undeniable. Chiang Mai is one of the handicraft centers of Asia. Many of the market traders from overseas come here to source their goods.
Shopping venues can be found throughout the city. There are over 10 shopping malls, large and small, day markets and night bazaars. It is also home to the famous shopping street, Nimman Haemin Road, where you can find all types of products – traditional or trendy.
One of the reasons why tourists visit Chiang Mai is shopping. The city is known mainly because of the Saturday and Sunday markets and the Night Bazaar. Chiang Mai shopping is more handicraft-oriented than anywhere else in Thailand. The city is encircled by factories and workshops where you can watch craftspeople at work before buying their wares.
Thai silk is celebrated for its outstanding quality, unique designs and affordability. It comes in an array of colors, patterns and plies, and is sold by the yard, or as ready-made clothing and souvenir items such as neckties, scarves, handkerchiefs, shawls, handbags, photo frames, bed covers and the likes.
Thai silk is said to be one of the best silks in the world and quite a number of factories of Thai silk are found in Chiang Mai. Prices and quality do vary greatly; you must be careful and make sure that it is real silk and not synthetic fabric. Also look out for the unique mat mee Thai silk, a traditional tie-dyed silk from the Northeast of Thailand.
These cushions are essentially a stack of triangular cushion strips, arranged in a pyramid shape, and are usually combined with a traditional mat for sleeping or relaxing. The pillows you will see at markets are authentic, as there are no mass producers of them in the region at present. They are instead produced by local farmers during the winter months when agricultural activity is low.
Old mural paintings found throughout Northern Thailand indicate that triangle pillows were made at least as early as 1850. They seem to have been used widely in temples, where even the gods were seen reclining against them.
Soap carving is an ancient art practiced for many years in Thailand. A scented soap bar is painstakingly hand carved into a delicate flower, which is then hand-painted in lovely shades of purple, blue, pink and more.
You can find soap carvings all throughout Thailand, but the north is particularly known for its elaborate and varied designs. The Chiang Mai night markets are the center of trade for these intricately carved little pieces of art. Flower designs are by far the most popular.
Chiang Mai gets good tea-growing weather all year round. Tea was introduced to northern Thailand from China, and grows high in the mountains. Pay a visit to Warorot Market and Chiang Mai Night Bazaar to shop for almost every type of tea you could want, including green tea, red tea, black tea, flower teas such as chrysanthemum, osmanthus or rose, ginger tea, saffron tea, and fruit tea.
When you decide on what to buy, choose tea in a vacuum-sealed package versus tea sachets, which will stay fresh longer.
Paper lanterns are small and simple hot air balloon-like contraptions and are commonly seen throughout Asia. Lanterns are a significant part of Chiang Mai’s Yee-Peng Festival and New Year celebration, when thousands are released into the sky in a colorful display.
The Thai variety (khom loi) is made from lightweight rice paper and bamboo and is powered by a small candle that will stay lit even when the wind is strong.
If you want to bring one home you can find them in Warorot Market, usually from mid-October to February. Before you buy, check that the paper is in good condition and make sure whatever you choose can fit in your luggage.
Another famous and distinctive northern craft are the paper umbrellas. Each one of these beautifully painted umbrellas is a unique work of art. The paper is made from the bark of a tree similar to the mulberry tree and is thin and light but waterproof.
As a major handicraft center in the country, Chiang Mai offers shoppers of all tastes a great variety of things to buy like silk, silver, clothing, rattan, ceramics, interior decor, antiques, Buddhist art, etc. The list of options is endless for shopping in Chiang Mai. Here is a list of markets that are famous in Chiang Mai:
Warorot Market is located on Wichayanon Road, near the Ping River. Warorot Market was built in 1910. At the present time, this market is the biggest shopping centre in Chinatown and a place to see real Chiang Mai.
The most famous souvenir here is northern style food. Kaeb mu (crispy pig skin), mu yo (traditional Thai pork sausage), and nam phrik num (traditional northern style green chili paste).
Outside the market building there are thousands of stalls that sell various food, clothing, souvenirs, household equipment, etc. Warorot market is open daily from 6 am; make sure to come early to avoid the crowds.
The Chiang Mai Flower Market is located just opposite the Ping River, in the area of the Warorot Market. Ton Lam Yai is a great place to see interesting and unusual varieties of fruit, especially strawberries, which are rare in Thailand, but readily grow on the slopes of Chiang Mai's hills and mountains.
All year round you will find the market bursting with color and being perfumed by a hundred different kinds of flowers. Orchids, roses and countless other varieties of flowers are on sale, either cut or arranged, perfect for brightening up your hotel room. This market is open daily from 5am to 5pm.
The Night Bazaar is located on Chang Klan Road. It is Chiang Mai's most popular shopping place in the old city and is a must for all visitors. It is a lively area with department stores, shops and stall vendors. It begins to come to life in the early evening and buzzes till midnight, but a few shops are open all day.
If you are looking for any kind of antiques, paintings, textiles, silverware and woodcrafts then this is the right place, and in general everything is cheaper than in Bangkok. 6 pm is the opening hour of this market.
Shopping can be stressful if you are not familiar with the area. Asia Highlights will help you to enjoy your shopping without worrying about finding the right place and the things you look for. Send us an inquiry if you are interested or have questions.