Tourists from all around the world flock to Chiang Mai for its vibrant nightlife, unique experiences, and stunning scenery. It’s one of the most popular destinations in Thailand and caters equally to holidaymakers on an affordable getaway or those seeking a five-star holiday. While the natural beauty and rich culture of the region live up to expectations, it’s the experience of local life in Northern Thailand that creates some of the best memories.
Northern Thailand is well-known for its locally crafted goods and nowhere is this more prominent than in Chiang Mai. There is a significant number of artists and artisans in the region, all with goods to display and sell to both locals and tourists. It is commonplace to see these wares displayed at the many roadside stalls and bustling markets, but you can elevate your shopping experience with a visit to Baan Kang Wat Artists’ Village.
The Baan Kang Wat artists village lies to the west of Chiang Mai’s old town and just less than 2km south of the Aleenta Retreat. Its location on the outskirts of the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park encourages a more relaxed atmosphere in which to browse the various items on display and explore the unique aspects of the village.
Baan Kang Wat was the brain child of Nattawut Ruckprasit, an artist and ceramicist himself working predominantly with clay and wood. The idea for a space where artists could run their businesses in a network-style environment was first sparked in 2009, however, it took three years before the first ground was broken. Known by the moniker “Big”, Ruckprasit is no stranger to sharing, having grown up in a large family that was very involved in the community, and this is the premise on which he built Baan Kang Wat Artists’ Village.
The neighborhood operates on a common economy for the businesses within it, making it beneficial for all tenants. The tenants are generally independent craftsmen who struggle to meet the economic demands of the big city and other similarly densely populated areas. Big handpicks his tenants carefully, ensuring that they all display the level of commitment to his philosophy and vision for the village that he desires.
Between ten and fifteen buildings make up Baan Kang Wat Artists Village and many of these act as multi-functional houses. The bulk of the buildings also incorporates living areas for the artists who are required to reside in the village for their first three years as part of the community.
Each house is designed in a style that blends traditional Northern Thai architecture with a more modern approach, and you’ll find an interesting mix of indoor and outdoor areas that accommodate various activities such as designing, exhibiting, selling, and teaching. Big’s own Bookoo Studio occupies one of the buildings, and it’s from here that he produces the small, finely-detailed wooden and clay objects that he is so well known for.
Each building in the village has something different to offer. You can purchase a variety of items, from pottery to clothing, wooden objects, and exquisite jewellery. Many of the traders run workshops from their houses, offering you the opportunity to learn something new and enjoy a unique experience in an authentic and community-based environment. It’s best to allow yourself some time, though, as some of the workshops can last a few hours.
No village would be complete without somewhere to eat or drink, and Baan Kang Wat has several outlets where you can rest and renourish. If you’re pushed for time you can simply stop for a quick coffee or perhaps a scoop of homemade ice cream to cool you down in the sizzling heat, or you can opt to languish lazily over a delicious traditional Thai meal. There are plenty of options to grab a bite in between marvelling at the handcrafted wares on display.
Throughout the neighbourhood, you will see evidence of sustainability and deep integration with the natural surroundings. All the structures are interspersed with lush green spaces and well-laid pathways, making it both pleasant and easy to move between the various shops, stalls, and workspaces, and promoting creativity among the traders.
An amphitheatre lies just inside the entrance to the village. Here, you can enjoy live music, film screenings, and other performances and events throughout the year that promote a spirit of community and shared living. When not in use, this open space is the perfect place to sit and relax, soak up the atmosphere, and simply enjoy the community vibe of Baan Kang Wat Artist’s Village.
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