The last capital of the Lanna Kingdom before she became part of Siam, Chiang Mai was established in the 13th century and has retained much of her regality and majesty in the thousands of 'wat's and the people's sense of pride in her fabled history. It is not hard to believe how Chiang Mai stirs within her visitors a poetic state and romanticism as one walks around the walled city and the lovely Doi Suthep precinct. Her history of art production and appreciation through the fusion of cultures and heritages through the centuries have also led Chiang Mai to become the artistic capital and creative epicentre of The Land of Smiles. One comes to Chiang Mai, not primarily for the art institutions, but to be personally immersed in the various art studios and residencies that have produced Thailand's most popular and renowned names in contemporary art. The access that Bespokcracy has to many of these studios and artists will ensure you have the most intimate experience, leaving you with a renewed sense of passion and appreciation for the arts.
wee black book : CHIANG MAI EDITION
TOKYO WEE BLACK BOOK
This private museum does more than exhibit the family collection of Eric Bunnag Booth and his stepfather, Jean Michel Beurdeley. It has helped take a huge step forward in solidifying Chiang Mai’s gaining recognition as Thailand’s true artistic epicentre by showing the best in Thai contemporary art like Montien Boonma and Navin Rawanchaikul and hosting rotating exhibitions that centres on Thai and ASEAN identity and culture, housed in a refurbished 3,000-square-metre warehouse by Thai architectural firm allzone. And with a name that literally embraces the ‘new’ (‘Mai’ is ‘new’ in Thai), you can be sure that it will be a forward-looking institution to bring Chiang Mai’s plum position to a new high.
31st CENTURY MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY SPIRIT
2 accomplished Thai contemporary artists based in Chiang Mai and setting up their own spaces as physical manifestations of their respective unique visions- this is the theme of this pair of recommendations. Torlap “Hern” Larpjaroensook’s U-shaped Gallery Seescape also houses his studio, and a cafe which all aims to expand people’s minds of what a traditional gallery space should be and to defeat the notion that art is only meant to be hung on a wall, obscure to the average viewer. Kamin Lertchaiprasert, on the other hand, whose works are in the collection of the Guggenheim and other esteemed institutions, has set up a more conceptual space that he described as a “station of spirit”. It consists of 7 shipping containers, each displaying the artworks of a particular artist and are often more alternative and experimental in nature.
WAT CHEDI LUANG
This complex, which briefly housed the Emerald Buddha (now at Bangkok's Wat Phra Kaew), dates from 1411 when the original chedi (stupa) was built by King Saen Muang Ma. The already-massive edifice was expanded to 84m (276 ft.) in height in the mid-1400s, only to be ruined by a severe earthquake in 1545, just 13 years before Chiang Mai fell to the Burmese.
6-5-1 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku | 03 34 00 25 36 | website
French-Thai fusion restaurant that has long held the position of best restaurant in Chiang Mai.
KHAO AT FOUR SEASONS
Nestled amid verdant rice fields and mist-clad mountains beyond, KHAO by Four Seasons is the resort’s flagship restaurant. It offers an authentic culinary journey, meticulously designed by the resort’s chefs, that take you deep into the vibrant culture of Northern Thailand.
S N O O Z E
Being owned and designed by the same renowned architect, Ong-ard Satrabhandhu, it only made sense if we spoke of both boutique hotels in the same breath. Both properties intentionally transport you into an almost monastic sanctuary-like space through the clever use of various attributes of small courtyard houses amidst lush greenery. Both are also monuments to Thai Lanna culture - a mix of Chinese, Dai, Laotion, Lua, and Burmese influences – with historical artefacts and other objets d’art from the owner’s personal collection to complete the dedication. The fact that rooms in both properties are also housed in 2-level blocks is also a deliberate design feature- to ensure guests can take in the stupa of surrounding temples from the comfort of their temporal homes.
137 PILLARS HOUSE
This chic, modern boutique property derives its name from the 137 pillars that the centrepiece original teakhouse is built on. Its fascinating history involves a Louis T. Leonowens, better known as the son of governess Anna Leonowens from Anna and the King, who built the teakhouse in the late 19th-century. The former Baan Borneo is now painstakingly restored with 30 gorgeous suites and a pool with a vertical-garden as one of its walls.