Where to shop in Chiang Mai

Where to shop in Chiang Mai

With its colorful market maze, international stores and glistening shopping malls, Chiang Mai is a shopaholic's paradise. As Thailand's second largest city, Chiang Mai comes second only to Bangkok as the country's haven for both keen shoppers and souvenir buyers.

Modernity meets tradition in Chiang Mai, making the most culturally significant region in northern Thailand. As a city of contrasts, Chiang Mai boasts a variety of artifacts, ranging from traditional handmade objects and cottage crafts to international labels and imitation brand products.

While you can find great deals at any of the city's picturesque markets, you might also find yourself wasting your money if you don't know how to haggle or identify what is worth buying. That is why you must be prepared before you venture into the world of shopping in Chiang Mai.

Craft and Walking Street Markets

The city is home to over 15 markets, which are the ideal place to soak in the local culture while you either purchase souvenirs, grab a snack or even treat yourself to a massage. Chang Khlan Road might be an ordinary street full of shops and restaurant by day, but when the night comes, a famous night market brings the place to life. The Night Bazaar is also one of Chiang Mai's top attractions.

From handicrafts, clothing, high-tech items and all sorts of knickknacks, the Night Market is the perfect place to go on a shopping spree and put your haggling skills to the test.

San Kamphaeng, Chaing Mai's Handicraft Scene

Once the capital city of the country, Thailand is a treasure trove of culture, history and tradition, and as such, it houses the most significant traditional handicrafts of country. The main area to purchase these culturally significant souvenirs from is San Kamphaeng road, the city's famous traditional arts and crafts highway. Here is a great place to take in the local culture and find a huge variety of products and antiques, including lacquer-ware, celadon, silk and textiles, woodcarving, silverware, umbrellas, and a whole range of hill tribe arts and crafts.

Over the course of the last few decades, San Kamphaeng's has become Thailand's main Thai silk centre, and its prominence is such that it has attracted to the region relevant figures such as Lady Diana.

If you're looking for those brightly-colored hand-painted umbrellas the region is famous for, head to Bo Sang Handicraft Center. Known as the umbrella village, Bo Sang's local artisans have been manufacturing them for at least 200 years and they will paint beautiful designs on items you choose.

Shopping Centers

Street markets might be the city's heart and soul, but when it comes to convenience and escaping warm and humid weather, shopping malls are the place to be. Although Chiang Mai is not nearly as mall-obsessed as Bangkok is, the city's shopping malls are highly valued amongst locals. What's not to love about a single complex that offers essential products, clothes, cinema, massage and restaurants? The most popular shopping centers are Kad Suan Kaew and Central Airport Plaza.

Kad Suan Kaew is a massive shopping mall that houses an endless selection of shops. Kad means market in Thai, and inside this mall is like a Thai market, open until 9pm and air-conditioned. Located outside the center on a road lined by great cafes, the Kad Suan Kaew features department stores offering western sized clothes. Since this is more of a local's mall, it's a great place to enjoy some traditional Thai food and a real Thai massage.

Central Airport Plaza might be harder to reach - as it is located near the airport - yet many opt for it due to its modern cinema.

Shopping tips

Don't forget it is customary to haggle in Thailand so after you ask for the price, suggest something around half of that. Always barter unless there is a sign saying “fixed price.” Carry cash in your wallet as you will need it to purchase goods from the market. While bartering is not accepted in the malls, they do take most debit and credit cards, which can be increasingly convenient from time to time.