Wat Gate, the area of Chiang Mai surrounding 137 Pillars House, our boutique hotel in Chiang Mai, was formerly assigned to foreigners by the government. The house situated on a prime location along the Ping River and adjacent to the Wat Gate Khar Rham Temple for which the area is named. The traditional Thai temple complex of multiple pagodas and living quarters for six full time and six novice monks is also home to Wat Gate Khar Rham Museum founded by former 137 Pillars House owner Jack Bain. The museum is filled with quirky memorabilia that range from ancient farm tools and pottery to ornate court clothing of Chiang Mai royalty. There is also an extensive collection of old photographs on display.
Along Charoen Rat
1. ComeDara: Eye-catching, sometimes psychedelic, contemporary Thai art in a sprawling riverside European mansion.
2. Lan La Moon: Original paintings and photographs by Chiang Mai born artist Ruchipat “Pop” Suvansai and his friends. Next door at Mou Moon his wife purveys her delicately hand-tooled chic leather goods.
3. Color Factory: Kaleidoscopic elephant sculptures designed by the likes of Mark Jacobs and Isaac Mizrahi with 20% of profits donated to support Asian elephants in need.
4. Tanita House: A palm fringed compound of old Thai houses filled with local antiques and artifacts.
5. Sop Moei Arts: Profits from the sale of these magnificently woven baskets and stunning silk textiles support Pwo Karen villagers living in the hill sides surrounding Chiang Mai.
6. Sri Guru Singh Sabha Sikh Temple: Mr. Ishar Singh, the first Sikh to travel to Chiang Mai, made his way from India through Burma into Thailand in 1905 and others followed. Chiang Mai’s first Sikh ‘Gurdwara’, or temple was built here in 1908 and still serves as the Sikh community temple today.
7. Suvannabhumi Art Gallery: Head here for a sneak peek at the next generation of artistic talents from neighbouring Myanmar.
8. Wat Gate Khar Rham Museum: Wander among coins dating back hundreds of years, ancient farm tools and pottery, Lanna royal costumes plus captivating black and white photographs of old Chiang Mai.
9. Circle Source Paper: The German owner sources for organic sheets of paper that are as light as feather, then he invites international artists to print their works on these stunning sheets.
10. Nussara: Moss-covered stones leading to the fish pond present a challenge worth conquering to arrive at atelier-piled high with Missoni-inspired kaleidoscopic cotton scarves, indigo-dyed fisherman pants and thick day-glow wool variations on traditional Thai monk bags.
11. Kome Tong: Thai designer Rattanaphol Taja turns out striking ikat-printed pottery and Thai paper lanterns here while his fighting fish swim alongside the cash register.
12. Vieng Joom On: This riverside teahouse offers romantic nooks for indulging in sublime sips and indigenous blends of tea that also make aromatic souvenirs.
13.The Gallery: The neighbourhood’s most famous restaurant has welcomed luminaries like Hilary Clinton to its Ping Riverside tables for reliably delicious Thai and Western fare.
14. Oriental Style: High-quality Thai home wares are elegantly displayed in a historic six-pillar teak wood house.
15. Vila Cini: Original Thai hand woven textiles and quality antiques fill this stylish, high-ceilinged boutique.
16.Deck 1: Romance fills the air at this open-air eatery with an extensive international menu and a creative chef willing to accommodate special requests and food sensitivities.
17.Love At First Bite: A family-run dessert eatery owned by an affable Thai couple who lived in the United States for nearly thirty years before returning here with recipes for addictive homemade cookies, molten chocolate cake, Oreo cheese cake and coconut cream pie.
Nha Wat Gate Road
18. Healing Family Foundation: For seriously-cute hand-embroidered tees with elephant heads on the front and tails at the back, drop by this artisans workshop adjacent to our hotel.
19. Fai Sor Kam: Thammasat University textile professor Thitichai Arkaraoilapin selects his students’ best pieces to display alongside his natural dyed scarves, slouchy cotton carrier bags and chic raw silk hats.
20. Hinlay Curry House: Owned by another offspring of the Bain family, this homey eatery offers a shaded patio with views of flopping palm fronds and tropical flowers on which to indulge into chicken tikka masala, pumpkin curry and aloo ghobi.
21. Kitchen Hush: Japanese chef Kenji Fujita slices delectable slabs of fresh tuna, salmon and octopus sashimi inside a two-story Thai wooden house with private dining rooms and a sleek wood clad sushi bar.
22. Green O’Clock: Climb the rickety staircase to a cosy nook kept cool by open windows onto the lush greenery. A chalkboard wall lists the surprisingly extensive menu from thick American-style sandwiches to classic indigenous dishes like pad thai and stir fry chicken with cashews.
23. Bake & Bite: A homey café helmed by an American-trained Thai chef who excels equally at homemade bagels, buckwheat pancakes, omelettes and scrambles, lunchtime veggie wraps, and salads as well as authentic Mexican enchiladas and quesadillas.
Seven hundred kilometer northwest of Bangkok and just over 300 meters above sea level, Chiang Mai sits along the Mae Ping River, a tributary of the Chao Praya that flows through Bangkok.