An abundance of college students plus some stellar art and music departments at local universities have made Chiang Mai Thailand’s artistic capital in the eyes of many. The city hosts a wealth of young creative talent and spending some time gallery hopping may show you a whole new side to Chiang Mai.
Sangdee Gallery & Cafe
Though the exhibits at Sangdee tend to edge towards the commercial, the community events this place organise make them a real standout. To begin with, they’re one of the few places in town serving great cocktails – this is the place to go if you’ve been craving a martini or a caipirinha, which generally go for 135 to 190 baht a piece, though mocktails are only 75 baht. They also serve snacks and have been known to pass around exotic complimentary shots on particularly lively evenings.
They’ve scheduled jam-packed weeks that begin with a DJ on Tuesdays, followed by live music on Wednesdays, an open mic on Thursdays, and rock parties on Fridays. They also hold a skills share on the first Saturday of every month, and host a travel club. If you happen to have a spare moment in between learning to play the guitar and reciting a poem for the open mic, do check out their two rotating exhibits, as well as the beautiful, multi-level space they’ve crafted, complete with hanging gardens and outdoor seating. 5 Sirimakhalajarn Soi 5; T: (053) 894 955); open daily 11:00-24:00.
For a younger, edgier take on the Chiang Mai art scene, head to Seascape. Founded by Torlarp Larpjaroensook (Hern), the Thai artist who’s also behind Travelfish fave Artel, Seascape is as hipster a hangout as it gets in Chiang Mai. The place is quirky and rich with detail, from the re-purposed truck turned into a planter that greets visitors to the brightly coloured, picnic tables that populate the cafe.
In addition to one rotating exhibit, the Seascape compound houses a giftshop with cool gifts: picture artsy, double entendre lamps for 2,800 baht and vintage-looking wooden sunglasses. The coffeeshop is equipped with a 60 baht, do-it-yourself Nespresso capsule machine, but the Junjun Cupcake shop next door is ready to fill any craving for delicate, chocolate cream-cheese sweetness. 22/1 Nimmanhemin Soi 17; T: (086) 114 2845; open Tues-Sun 11:00-21:00.
Pongnoi Community Art Space
Pongnoi is located well off the beaten track on a ramshackle dirt road southwest of the city, but despite its out-of-the-way location manages to make headlines in the local art scene by showcasing daring work.
When Travelfish visited, Pongnoi was exhibiting “Still Life,” a series of breathtaking installation pieces incorporating electricity to re-imagine common Thai household objects. The staff at the gallery and accompanying coffee shop were beyond friendly, turning on the exhibit just for us, and spending an afternoon sipping coffee and reading while in their outdoor sculpture garden made the trip well worth our while. 161 Moo 13 Thumbol Suthep; T: (081) 288 3908; open Tues-Sun 13:00-19:00; email@example.com.