Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Night Bazaar at Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai’s Night Bazaar is on Changklan Road, from the junction with Thapae road to the south, and is said to be the biggest in Thailand. The market is open everyday from sunset until midnight; the area’s mild climate year around transform the wandering between the stall into a very pleasant activity.

The bazaar has a romantic history. It originated when Yunnanese trading caravans used to stop near the Ping River along the ancient trade route between Simao (China) and Mawlamyaing (on Martaban Coast in Myanmar's Gulf). The clearest sight of this past is the Ban Ho community at the northeastern side of the bazaar. They are Chinese from Yunnan and were in contact with Lanna as caravan traders since old times. In 1887 a group of them settled in Chiang Mai and built the mosque Hidayatun as the center of their community

Being Chiang Mai the textile capital of the country, clothes of all types and brands are the main attraction; but a plethora of stalls sells every kind of souvenirs, handicrafts, knick-knacks and keepsakes. Bargaining hard is essential and a fun part of the experience. The bazaar can get overwhelmingly crowded, especially in the rainy season; then colorful plastic sheets protect the merchandise and create a colorful kaleidoscopic view of an unordered array of narrow, plastic alleys.

The modernization process of the city did not skip this area, and behind the shaky stalls are several arcades and shopping centers selling popular international brands. Starbucks Coffee and all the fast food franchises are well represented here as well, providing thus opportunities for air-conditioned breaks during the shopping spree. Adding to the souvenirs overflow, Starbucks offers a special Chiang Mai cup decorated in an attractive design; if buying it, the coffee to fill it is free.

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