Nimmanhemin — or Nimmanheminda — Road and its surrounding sois form Chiang Mai’s rapidly growing chic quarter of town, and indeed the whole area itself is now known as Nimmanhemin or commonly Nimman. Located on the west side of the city in Suthep district near the foot of the mountain, it was until some 20 years ago still just a dirt track on the outskirts of town, but has since seen a meteoric rise to trendiness. Nimmanhemin goes from the Rimcome junction with Huay Kaew Road to Suthep Road in the south, though most of the action is in the northern half of the road and the sois that lead off it. It’s actually where the six-lane superhighway comes to an abrupt stop, so the road is unfortunately very busy traffic wise.
Nearby Chiang Mai University (CMU), with its large student population, probably helped the area’s growth but now it’s also become a sought-after location for well-heeled locals and Thais fleeing hectic Bangkok, as well as Chiang Mai’s large expat community. The kilometre or so of Nimmanhemin Road itself plus the sois to the east and west have become absolutely packed with coffee shops, tea houses, wine bars, sushi joints, live music restaurants, art and craft shops, trendy clothes stores and boutiques with silly names.
In fact we wouldn’t mind betting there are more cafes with free WiFi and blueberry cheesecakes per square kilometre here than almost anywhere else in Thailand, and we do wonder how the population supports quite so many — though it has to be said that they do open and close with bewildering regularity, and what was last week a designer clothes shop is probably this week a specialty tea outlet.
A Starbucks is on the corner of Soi 9 — though we’re pleased to see it often fares far worse than local coffee chains — and an outlet of Chiang Mai’s own Mike’s Burger on the main drag. Other usual suspects are Black Canyon and local chains 94 Coffee and Wawi Coffee (both on Soi 9), plus the expat and increasingly upmarket Thai fave Kasem store.
Restaurants and bars abound; the most famous and a magnet for trendy tourists from Bangkok is the famous Monkey Pub in Soi 9, though you’ll find many more in the same vein — that vein being inside chic bar space, outside garden seating, live bands and big screen TVs for showing mainly EPL football matches. The bars and restaurants are predominantly aimed at rich young Thais and though you’ll find a smattering of expats this area hasn’t really caught on among tourists yet (though it’s only a 10-minute/100 baht tuk tuk ride from, say, Tha Pae.)
Restaurants include numerous Japanese, Thai, North Thai, Chinese and Italian joints , the latter including Lanta Pizza on Soi 5. There are also increasingly good evening street stalls along the main drag offering the usual array of Thai snacks. Apart from the action on Nimman itself, Sois 1 and 3 have plenty of handicraft shops and fashionable boutiques, while the restaurants and bars are concentrated in odd-numbered Sois 3 to 11.
All in all, this is a good spot to waste an evening browsing the boutiques, taking in some live music with a cold beer in hand and choosing from the myriad eateries to dine at — or you could do a coffee-shop crawl in the afternoon, stuffing your face with mango meringue pie while checking your e-mails and browsing the stores in between.
By Mark Ord.
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