One of THE places to visit in Chiang Mai is Nimmanhaemin Road, which starts where the Super Highway Route 11 ends to the North West of the Old Town. This is an area largely devoted to bars, cafes, restaurants and guesthouses. Nimmanhaemin Road itself is extremely busy and getting there on the Super Highway can be a slow process as three lanes merge into one at traffic lights. Finding a park might be a challenge too. However once you have arrived there is certainly a huge selection of places to spend time eating, drinking and shopping.
However before travelling anywhere by car you need to ensure you are properly prepared for all eventualities. As you can see from the photo below I have set up my car to ensure we get the best of both modern and ancient protection. The device you can see hanging under the rear vision mirror is a vehicle “blackbox”. It has a forward and rear facing camera and records everything onto a memory card. If I do have an accident it will provide useful evidence of events.
Of more importance are the flowers. These are sold at most major intersections by people who walk down the stationery lines of cars waiting at traffic lights. $0.65 will get you one and when installed with a Buddhist prayer you are then immune from all bad luck when driving and can be assured of a safe trip! By the way you can buy many things when stopped at traffic lights, not just flowers. You may be offered sandwiches, brooms, sweet dried sticky rice pancakes or battery powered bubble makers. It is hard to be bored here even in traffic jams.
So back to Nimmanhaemin. If you have read my blog entry “Thailand Six Months On” you will know that I am not a huge fan of the developed urban areas of Thailand cities and in Nimmanhaemin you certainly get the full range of standards.
For all my slight rantings about the ugly side of Thailand I would like to balance this by using an analogy of a desert and an oasis when talking about what you’ll find over here. Within the wilderness of concrete and advertising there are often many little places of refuge, which can be delightful. The secret is finding those hidden oases in the desert.
For example in a suburban area of little visual attraction out our way this little cafe/wine bar is tucked away in a back street. As it is on the way home from Chiang Mai city we will sometimes pop in for a beer and relax HERE.
Yes there is a point to this further diversion from the blog topic! Nimmanhaemin is full of oasis spots mixed in with the some very ordinary structures. The disadvantage of living 30 minutes out of the city for us is that a “pop out” for a coffee, meal or drink is less doable than if you lived in the area and walked to explore the range of venues on offer. That’s why there are many guesthouses in the area catering for those tourists or longer term residents who want a more inner city experience in Thailand.
If you enjoy coffee then Chiang Mai is the place for you. There are a huge number of cafes, not just in the Nimmanhaemin area, but everywhere you go. We found a wonderful place just round the corner from the hotel where some friends of mine were staying recently. Really excellent coffee served from a place that sat a maximum of ten people in a very nondescript location.
Nimmanhaemin isn’t just for eating and drinking. The status of the area and the income/borrowing capacity of some Thais and foreigners is reflected here:
Shopping on a smaller scale is on offer too. Good quality fashion shops but don’t expect super cheap. Quality isn’t at give-away prices here. Cheap is often Chinese imported rubbish as everywhere.
Treat yourself to some relaxation or body maintenance. This place has gone out of its way to do something different.
There’s always a photo moment round the corner in Thailand. Never go out without your camera. Here Christmas decorations pop up unexpectedly.
I got excited seeing this sign on the street but the place was closed – next time. BTW don’t bring in spirits duty free – bring wine. A Jacobs Creek $7.00 Australian bottle will set you back $20.00 here.
Apart from Starbucks there are other clues about the number of expats in Chiang Mai and the way the local scene has developed to cater for their tastes and expectations.
It’s not all high end French fries. There is plenty of Thai street food here as everywhere off the main drag. Enjoyed by passing Westerners too.
Nimmanhaemin comes alive particularly at night and I have yet to get there to properly explore after dark. I drove through the area on the way to a hotel where I had a Christmas Eve evening buffet with some friends complete with Santa and it looked well worth further exploration. Definitely put it on your list of things to do when in Chiang Mai.
My final photograph is one taken on a side street off Nimmanhaemin Road and maybe reflects why buildings only seem to get one coat of paint here.
Update 7 October 2014:
If visiting Nimmanhaemin Road make sure you read my response to a comment below and also my post covering the Nimmanhaemin at night HERE.
Thanks for reading.