Warorot Market or Kad Luang by the Ping River and Chinatown and Little India in Chiang Mai are where you go to feel the daily pulse of Chiang Mai. There are many markets by different names in the area, but you often hear people saying they are going to the “main market”, Kad Luang or Warorot.
Initially, the location of the market was the place for the funeral ceremony of Chiang Mais ruler “Khuang Main” (ข่วงเมรุ). Princess Dara Rasmi developed it to be a market in 1910. It was named in honour of Prince Intavaroros Suriyavongse, the 8th ruler of Chiang Mai.
The colours of Chiang Mai
Fabrics, gold, flowers, clothes from the hill tribes of Chiang Mai, school uniforms, sandals, and food in plenty can all be found in the area. Warorot is where the Thai tourists come to look for the best northern sausage, pork rind and various dip sauces and pastes. I like to walk through the narrow alleys, walk up to the overlapping bridges and also walk some stairs to get a panoramic view of the market life below. It is essential to linger around a bit and indulge in the atmosphere.
The contrasts of Chinese billboards, fuming red Songthaew buses, noisy Tuk Tuks, the fragrance of jasmine, and striking colours of marigolds and orchids while hearing the Indian vendors doing their bargaining in any of the fabric shops. Look in another direction, and an older Hmong or Lisu in traditional folk costume might be filling up their pickup truck with dried fish and shrimps. A group of Bangkokians passing by discussing where to eat the best Khao Soi or find the tastiest nam phrick num aubergine and chilli paste.
And you just maybe might catch a glimpse of an old gentleman still proudly navigating his samlor (three-wheel bicycle rickshaw)through the area.
Where to start?
An excellent place is to start at the old and colourful Chinese dragon ornamented Pung Thao Kong Shrine, and walk along Prainsanee road along the river and via Ton Lam Yai market with housewares and all the flowers needed for ceremonies in the daily life in Thailand and then slowly make your way up to Warorot/Kad Luang.
When to visit Warorot?
Early morning is the best; more people, more life, and better light. The second option is to arrive around 4.30-5 pm; evenings are pleasant. Avoiding the sauna heats of the afternoon is highly recommended. Warorot market’s opening hours are from 4 am until 6 pm.
If you are in town during the Chinese New Year, it is definitely worth coming here to see the celebrations in the area. There will be parades and “dragons paying visits to the gold shops” it simply adds another level of ambience to the area.
Places with an atmosphere for a coffee or a light meal.
The Wawee coffee shop has a neat wooden building just by the river. You can also try a slow-cooked fish at Maadae or get to the rooftop of De Nawarat Chiang Mai Boutique Apartment.
If you don’t mind the heat, a Khao Soi inside the Warorot market on a rickety wooden chair is a great place to suck in the atmosphere.