Tha Pae road, Chiang Mai, Thailand
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The re-birth of Tha Pae road

 The re-birth of Tha Pae Road

Today Tha Pae Road is seeing a revival,with top end handicraft boutiques,antique shops as well as restaurants and bars opening up all along the busy one-way road.

Chiang Mai's Tha Pae Road is undergoing an exciting rebirth. Although always seen as the city's main thoroughfare, as the road runs from the old Nawarat bridge to Tha Pae Gate -traditionally considered the main entrance to the ancient moated city -Tha Pae road suffered a loss of trade and prestige in the nineties as it was considered too congested. Many of Chiang Mai's businesses that had been flourishing along the road moved away to newer and more popular locations.

However, today Tha Pae is seeing a revival, with top end handicraft boutiques, antique shops as well as restaurants and bars opening up all along the busy one-way road. The municipality is making good use of the public arena at the western end of the road and most weekends a concert, fair or some kind of event is held, often drawing crowds of thousands. Between Febr uary and April of this year, TAT and other organisations created Sunday street festivals on Tha Pae road, with concerts, buskers, stalls, and other forms of entertainment set up which attracted an estimated 100, 000 visitors -predominantly locals but also some tourists -per Sunday. This unprecedented success has lead to the demand by the public to continue closing the road indefinitely for pedestrians on Sundays, much to the glee of business owners on both sides of the road who say that around fifteen million baht is spent in Tha Pae road each festival.

Although Tha Pae road attracts hoards of backpackers, as inexpensive accommodation can be found along the sois behind it, it is also drawing shoppers to its high quality showrooms. The Lost Heavens, selling tribal and primitive art from around the region is one of the best places to go in town to find rare collectables;Tibetan ceremonial textiles, Yao priest silk embroideries, Sipsong Panna paintings and other fascinating finds. Newer and more cutting edge products are also available, such as Nova Collection's custom made jewelry using silver and carat gold with precious and semi precious stones to create modern jewelry designs at relatively inexpensive prices. Tha Pae's restaurants are some of the more popular in town, with one of the city's most frequented Italian restaurant, da Stefano, serving a mind-boggling selection of Italian dishes in a bright and friendly atmosphere. The Art Café, on the corner of Tha Pae as it t urns into Kotchasarn road is an all day diner serving Thai, Mexican and European food and a place that locals and tourists alike tend to use as a central meeting point.

With Chiang Mai's famous night bazaar as well as the city 's main market, Warorot, both branching off the eastern end of Tha Pae road, pedestrian traffic is constant. That has meant that pubs, bars, ice-cream parlours and noodle shops now also abound along the sides of the road, mostly serving the population of backpackers and tourists. However, the road is not only flanked by businesses, four of Chiang Mai's more revered temples sit along Tha Pae Road;Wat Mahawan and its glittering viharn, Wat Bupparam where many of the cities'ceremonies are held, Wat Chettawan and Wat Saeng Fang are all tourist attractions -although some also serve as car parks for the congested road.

And of course there is the Gover nor's residence which is at the end of the east side of the road by the Ping River. Here is where the Songkran festival procession starts, and where the population is allowed, once a year, to air their grievances by throwing a bucket of water over the governor's head.

Once elephants and cattle jostled across the bridge, up Tha Pae road to enter the city at the gates, now it is tourists and locals, vying with each other to patronise the dozens of shops and restaurants down the road. Tha Pae road holds a special place in the affections of Chiang Mai's people. First time visitors may not feel the same way due to the Mae Kha river -unfondly called by locals, the Mae Kha sewer -which r uns underneath the road emitting rather unpleasant f umes on a bad day. Also detracting from the environment are the scr uffy store fronts that mask the elegant old wooden buildings behind. However, we are all delighted to see the road brought back to life again the recent establishment of quality businesses as well as the weekly festival, which we hope the gover nor will agree to continue.

The Lost Heavens: 234 Tha Pae road (opp. Wat Bupparam)

Nova Collection: 201 Tha Pae road,

Stefano: 2/1-2 Chang Moi Kao Road,

Art Café: 291 Tha Pae road,


- May Issue, 2002

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