This gold shop in a Chiang Mai market catering primarily to local residents is almost certainly owned by a Chinese Thai. Ethnically Chinese Thai families, many of whom have been in Thailand for generations, in some cases for hundreds of years, dominate the small businesses in local markets. While these Chinese Thais are thoroughly assimilated into Thai society, they remain part of the Chinese trading networks that exist throughout Southeast Asia. The Chinese style decoration on the shop’s door and the neon-lit Chinese characters above the woman’s head make it clear that the shop caters to, among others, the many Chinese who visit Chiang Mai every year.
The Chinese women are shopping for cosmetics at the night bazaar in Chiang Mai while their boyfriends look on. In the second image, the vendor in the green tee shirt on the right has punched in a price on his calculator and is ready to begin the haggling festivities. This will take place in English and be rather amusing, as nobody involved speaks much English.
This night bazaar vendor sells colored wax flowers displayed in small black bowls. There are many vendors selling these at the night bazaar. They sit around carving pieces of wax when waiting for customers – there are carvings on this man’s table in front of the wallet. But it was unclear to me where the coloring is done, because I did not see anybody doing this in the market. Nor was it clear to me that vendors like this one personally made all of the flowers sitting on the tables in front of them. In any case, this man is counting what appears to be a fairly meager take for the evening.
Chiang Mai has a huge night bazaar in the downtown area. Shops indoors and stalls that set up every afternoon outdoors, all loaded with plenty of stuff nobody really needs. Lots of people wandering around buying that stuff. And finally, when your bag is full of stuff you don’t need, there are plenty of places to eat. Amongst the restaurants are several fairly pricey—at least by local standards—seafood places. Given that Chiang Mai is several hundred kilometers from the ocean, I could not help but wonder what fresh crabs and oysters were doing sitting on piles of ice in a local night market. Until I recalled that Chinese are obsessed with seafood and will pay big money to eat it. And sure enough, most the diners in the night bazaar seafood places are Chinese.
The young guy in the photo is turning a whole fish wrapped in foil that is cooked on the big open air grill. I did not want to gawk and point my camera at diners in the restaurant, so I did not walk over to the tables to see how the fish is finally served, but I have no doubt it is tasty.
Grapes imported from where else—California—are a pricey treat available in Chiang Mai markets. I have seen them go for about $5.25 a pound in supermarkets, though I am sure they are less in an outdoor wet market like the one in the photo. In a place where a mango costs 50 cents or so, these grapes are expensive. People pick them off the stems and take the individual grapes away in a plastic bag. Thailand has a Muslim minority in the south of the country near the border it shares with Malaysia, but this trip to the market was the first time I saw women wearing the hajib here in Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand.
The centerpiece of Wat Chedi Luang, which according to its Wikipedia entry, means the temple of the big stuppa is this enormous stuppa in the center of the temple complex. Construction was begun by one of the Lanna kings in the 1300s, though the stuppa was not completed until the mid-fifteenth century, only to be damaged by an earthquake one hundred years later. A restoration was undertaken in the 1990s, though this has been the subject of controversy as some claim new elements in the reconstruction are in the Central Thai style, not Lanna style. Well, it’s all Thai to me. I felt quite fortunate to get a group of young monks in the foreground instead of a crowd of Chinese tourists.
In addition to being a very striking building, the library at Wat Phra Singh is an example of classical Lanna architecture, or so I have read. Before the modern Thai state began to take shape in the late 18th century, a Lan Na kingdom centered in Chiang Mai ruled much of the northern part of what is now Thailand. The history is complex and I certainly only know the barest outline. But Lanna as a tradition (and a marketing buzzword) is alive and well in Chiang Mai today – Lanna architecture, Lanna style, Lanna cuisine, Lanna massage, et cetera, et cetera… Be that as it may, Wat Phra Singh has one cool library building.
Wat Phra Singh is a large, wealthy temple complex in the center of Chiang Mai’s old city. I walked in when the apprentice monks were being led by elder monks in chants in the largest of the temples. I wanted a picture or two, but about the time I got ready to point and shoot, the chanting stopped and everybody got up and filed out of the temple. I did, however, get a number of images of the grounds, of which this is one.