Chiang Mai's Tha Pae Road

What we say: 3.5 stars



The slightly grubby and often congested stretch of road running between Chiang Mai’s Narawat Bridge and Tha Pae Gate, which goes by the name of Tha Pae Road, has always been firmly in the say light blue or at best purple set on Chiang Mai’s imaginary Monopoly board but these days, while not yet up there with the dark blue of Nimmanhemin, is doing its best to earn a place in the green row. Tha Pae Road’s cleaned it’s act up.

Ok doesn't look quite like Bond Street yet but everything's relative

Not quite like Bond Street yet but everything’s relative.

Now we weren’t quite sure whether to place this post in the walking, shopping, food, sights or even wats category since this relatively short stretch of downtown street has it all. Probably familiar to most visitors as the bit you tuk tuk down between the night bazaar and Tha Pae Gate’s bars and restaurants, it’s actually well worth getting out to walk along next time.

Even a few old teak buildings left

Even a few old teak buildings left.

The road has always been one of Chiang Mai’s busiest commercial streets, leading off from the most important of the old city’s gates (check our Chiang Mai map here), and it still houses some of the city’s largest banks. Tha Pae is one-way from the river to the moat road but if you were to walk down away from the gate then turning right before Narawat Bridge takes you to the night bazaar while turning left heads towards the bustling Worarot district.

Hill-tribe chic

Hill-tribe chic.

The strip once housed primarily rundown trekking agencies, backpacker cafes of varying quality and stalls selling some of the less sought-after night bazaar items, which is presumably why they had to stay open all day in order to sell their wares; now it’s dotted with an eclectic mix of chic cafes and coffee shops, boutique hotels, galleries and designer clothes outlets with Visa stickers in the windows.

Bring your credit card

Bring your credit card.

The banks are still there but some of the older and often quite splendid buildings that didn’t get demolished to make way for a Krungthai or Kasikorn bank agency have been fortunately restored. The Arts Cafe, seen below, stands near the bridge end of the street and is a good case in point. It makes an excellent spot for lunch or a drink if you’re browsing your way down Tha Pae.

The carefully restored Arts Cafe building

The carefully restored Arts Cafe building.

The Siam Celadon, probably Chiang Mai’s prettiest tea shop, is another good example.

Another beautiful building, now Celadon tea room on Tha Pae

Siam Celadon tea room on Tha Pae.

Would-be investors should know that a few spectacular buildings still await make-overs; the one below towards the Tha Pae Gate end of the street, which currently houses a magazine and newspaper stand, has got to be a prime target.

New boutique hotel?

New boutique hotel?

If you don’t want to take your credit card or pay for expensive designer teas in chic tea houses there are still plenty of budget options both for shopping and for eating and drinking, and even still one or two dusty old “antique” and curio shops you can rummage through. If shopping and drinking don’t appeal, then a couple of very attractive wats may appeal: Wat Mahawan and Wat Bupparam.

Wat Mahawan

Wat Mahawan.

As we said, this stretch has something for everyone, so next time you go to the night bazaar — get out and walk!

Last updated: 9th December, 2014

About the author:
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.
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