There's so much more to Thailand than just beaches and bars – though, you definitely should check those out! Whether you're new to the Asian country or you're a regular that's looking for something serioulsy cool, head for Chiang Mai. With trendy galleries and unique stores, this beautiful hinterland destination is where you'll find Thailand's thriving art-and-culture scene. Immerse yourselves and visit these great spots for your culture fix...
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Over the past decade, Thai artist Hern Larpjaroensook has built his own gallery room by room – adding exhibition spaces, a bar, and then a restaurant and shop. This hands-on approach also extends to his artwork, which features a prominent use of up-cycled materials. As well as his own work, he regularly showcases up-and-coming local artists, and serves visitors a range of fresh, organic cuisine.
CMU Art Centre
For the chance to see the works of local artists before they make it big, head to this offshoot of the Fine Arts Department at Chiang Mai University. It serves as combination incubation lab and exhibition space for students, allowing them to showcase their latest works, mingle with curious visitors and also collaborate with more established artists. While raw, there is undoubted talent on show here at this centre.
Nimman, Chiang Mai
With its magnificent temples, old city wall, and slew of traditional crafts, Chiang Mai is Thailand’s most cultural city, and was the capital of the Lanna kingdom until as late as 1899. This independent spirit continues to thrive today, and nowhere more so than along the one-kilometre Nimmanhaemin Road, known universally as Nimman. Here, on the edge of Chiang Mai University, lies a bohemian street full of cool cafes and incredible shops.
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Hands down the best bookshop in the city, this hipster-friendly bookstore specialises in hard-to-find art and design tomes, along with style bibles like Kinfolk, Cereal, and the altogether more common Monocle. Hang out here long enough and some of the trendiness might just rub off. If you don’t manage to make it, worry not – there are now five other Booksmith branches located throughout the Thai kingdom.
The concept of this fun fashion store really sums up the inspired creativity at which Thai designers have excelled in recent years. Essentially, they take worn out inner tubes from vehicles – ranging all the way from bicycles to trucks and tractors – and transform them into cool accessories, including totes, messenger bags and wallets. It’s a smart eco-solution for an adaptable material that might otherwise be tossed away.
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