Published/Last edited or updated: 31st July, 2017
Chiang Mai’s shopping potential covers the full spectrum with wide choices in every department, from practical travel purchases and souvenirs through to stuff you never knew you wanted. Hard-core shoppers will be in their element and even browsers will be tempted.
We’ll start with the practical. For essential travel items and telephones, both new and secondhand, Central Kad Suan Kaew shopping mall on Huay Kaew Road is probably the most convenient spot. Phone shops are widespread throughout town though and even a 7-eleven store will sell you a SIM card. For computer hardware and software Panthip Plaza is a good bet as are Computer Plaza and a strip of adjacent IT outlets on Manee Nopparat Road, west of Chang Puak Gate.
Just about any of Chiang Mai’s large shopping malls contains at least one specialist camera shop while we also like Denchai Trading on Rattanakosin Road for new equipment, plus their efficient repair service.
For books we recommend Suriwong Books on Sri Donchai Road for probably the widest choice of English-language books in town, or Asia Books, which has outlets in Maya and Central Airport Plaza. For secondhand books, our fave is Backstreet Books just around the corner from Tha Pae Gate. If you can’t find what you’re looking for among their vast choice then they also have a second store—The Lost Bookshop—at the moat end of Ratchamanka Road in the Old City.
Stores selling camping, hiking and outdoor goods are also liberally scattered across town though there is a useful clutch on the eastern end of the western moat road, Manee Nopparat again, with decent trekking gear and army surplus equipment available. A number of knock-off bag and rucksack shops lie along Chang Klan, though for more kosher gear, and quality hiking equipment, try the Supersports chain which has outlets in Kad Suan Kaew, Central Airport Plaza and Central Festival.
Unless you’re after a Beer Chang T-shirt, Thai fisherman’s pants or a tie-died dress, then again the aforementioned department stores are your best option for clothing and shoes. Kad Suan Kaew is probably the most convenient option if you’re staying in the Old City.
Unless your stay in Chiang Mai is a brief one, you should get the chance to take in either the Saturday Wualai or Sunday Ratchadamneon walking street markets, both of which cover a wide range of handicrafts and hilltribe chic, from cheap and cheerful knick-knacks to expensive original artwork. If you can’t catch either or can’t get enough of that browsing, fall back on the night bazaar which, as well as offering a huge range of the aforementioned, also has the more generic Thai market products such as slogan-plastered T-shirts, fake football shirts and pirate DVDs and electronic games.
For classier souvenirs and “the things you never realised you needed” type shopping head up to the chic lifestyle and craft boutiques on Nimmanhemin Road and adjacent sois.
Covering most bases though is the city’s proliferation of shopping malls which have mushroomed in recent years. Closest to the town centre, and longest standing, is the old and now slightly down at heel Central Kad Suan Kaew, a huge brick building located just past the northwest corner of the moat.
Top of the range are the new and state of the art Promenada, just off the Superhighway ring road on the east side of town, and Maya on Huay Kaew Road. Falling somewhere between are Central Festival, also off the Superhighway to the northeast and the huge Airport Plaza, located as the name suggests in front of Chiang Mai's international airport. Any of these, depending of course upon which part of town you’re staying in, should be a 120 to 150 baht tuk tuk ride, but check with your hotel since some have courtesy transport available too.
Backstreet Books: Chang Moi Kao Rd, Sri Phum; T: (053) 874 143; open daily 10:00-20:00.
Central Airport Plaza: 2 Mahidol Rd, Hai Ya; T: (053) 999 199; open daily 11:00-21:00, weekends 10:00-21:00.
Central Festival: Superhighway, northeast sector, Faham; T: (053) 998 999; open daily 10:00-22:00.
Computer Plaza: Manee Nopparot Rd, Sri Phum; T: (053) 404 488; open daily 10:00-20:00.
Denchai Trading: 11/2 Rattanakosin Rd, Sri Phum: T: (053) 234 999; open Mo-Sa 08:30-18:00.
Kad Suan Kaew, (Central Huay Kaew): Huay Kaew Rd, Suthep; T: (053) 224 444; open daily 10:00-21:00.
Maya: 55 Huay Kaew Rd, Chang Puak; T: (053) 081 555; open daily 10:00-22:00.
Night Bazaar: Chiang Klan Road, between Thapae and Sridonchai Rds, Chang Klan; open daily around 17:00-24:00.
Panthip Plaza: 152 Chang Klan Rd, Chang Klan; T: (053) 288 383; open daily 10:00-22:00.
Promenada: Superhighway, east side, Thasala; T: (053) 107 888; open weekdays 11:00-21:00, weekends 10:00-21:00.
Saturday Walking Street (Wualai): Wualai Rd, Hai Ya; open Saturdays around 17:00-22:00.
Sunday Walking Street (Ratchadamnoen): On Ratchadamnoen and Phra Singh Rds, between Tha Pae Gate and Wat Phra Singh, Phra Singh; open Sundays round 17:00-22:00.
Suriwong Books: 4/54 Sridonchai Rd, Chang Klan; T: (053) 281 052; open weekdays 10:00-20:00, weekends 09:00-20:00.
The Lost Bookshop: Ratchamanka Rd, Phra Singh; open daily 10:00-20:00.
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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