Dubbed Thailand’s creative hub, Chiang Mai’s crafty pedigree peaks each December with Chiang Mai Design Week (CMDW), a weeklong festival celebrating all things crafty in the moated city. After two modest, pandemic-wrought editions, this year’s event — slated for 3 to 11 December 2022 — is a dizzying roster of workshops, talks, installations, live music and food and crafts markets featuring over 150 creatives.
Organised by the Creative Economy Agency (CEA), a government-backed organisation that drives design solutions and innovation in business, culture and lifestyle, the festival celebrates the city’s creative districts and connects creatives, artists and entrepreneurs. Titled “Local Rise’ation”, the 2022 edition highlights the power and resilience of local neighbourhoods and micro-creative districts around the city.
“The pandemic revealed an opportunity for new design conversations,” explains Imhajai Kunjina, CEA’s Specialist of Business and Innovation Development. “Without international tourists, it’s up to local creatives and businesses in the arts, design, food and music sectors to pull together. How do we encourage a creative economy during lockdown, for instance? In a way, it’s about decentralising design, so it can help everyone living and working in the city — not just artists and designers.”
CMDW is an opportunity to get acquainted with Chiang Mai’s deep artisan, design and cultural roots and its eclectic retro and contemporary vibe. Stroll pocket creative districts around the city, nosh on fusion bites, hop cafés, galleries and temples, and soak up the laidback town’s artisan charm. As in years past, events will take place in Three Kings Monument, Lam Chang, Chang Moi, San Khampheng and expand to new parts of the city. CMDW also kicks off the city’s festival season including the local favourite Nimman Arts & Crafts Promenade (NAP), making early December a great time to head north. How to navigate the week’s diverse and jam-packed programming, and make the most of your visit? Put these ‘must-dos’ on your radar and keep tabs on latest programming updates at chiangmaidesignweek.com.
Design-hopping in Chang Moi
Ground zero for design week events, Chang Moi is one of the city’s most dynamic creative districts. Start at Thapae Gate, on the eastern flank of the city wall, and stroll along Chang Moi Kao Soi 1 all the way to Thailand Creative Design Center (TCDC), a contemporary art and design space. Pop by Tai Tun Baanfor a retro brunch, sip espresso at the photogenic Brewginning Coffee, then duck into Wat ChumPoo to see a replica of the Doi Suthep (Chiang Mai’s landmark mountaintop temple) chedi. Check out indie labels, second-hand shops and hipster cocktail bars in Kodang Ratchawong, a gritty warehouse district. End the walk in the cool, minimalist halls of TCDC, the epicenter for CMDW talks, exhibitions and installations.
Timeless San Khampeng
The area’s eclectic mix of traditional celadon ceramics, sa (mulberry) paper and hand-painted parasol studios, local markets and makers and the boundary-pushing MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum make it a natural spot for design week activities. While you’re in the area, swing by Jaiboon’s A-frame coffee atelier for craft espresso and homemade cheesecake. Drive beyond the district through a small forest-lined road to neighbouring Mae Kampong for an afternoon of cafe-hopping in the slow-life, mountain village.