Multi-cultured Past along Jarernrasd Road
One of Chiangmai's best kept secrets for historic sight seeing and upscale shopping is Jarernrasd Road, which runs parallel with the Mae Ping River on the east side. "Jarern" means profitable or prosperous and "rasd" stands for "rasadorn" or citizens. (The spelling is "Charoenrat" on many maps). More than 140 years ago, this road was the major business artery in the north, when cargo boats plied between Bangkok and Chiangmai. Take a half hour or so to stroll on foot along this place of history, and enjoy the dining, music and night spots. There's also a spa and a few guesthouses in the area.
The locals know this as the Laang Wat Gate (Gategaraam) area spanning the strip of road between the Nawarat and Nakorn Ping Bridges. The intersection just north of the Nawarat Bridge is a grassy park with terraced steps where visitors can board a boat that heads north to a village market. A church and one of the oldest privately owned hospitals are also located in this area.
About midway between the two main bridges is a pedestrian bridge (Sapan Kaek), under which the steps leading to the bridge was once the royal boat pier for the last king of the Lanna Dynasty. South of the pedestrian bridge are several shops offering home furnishings.
Popular restaurants along the strip include The Brasserie, which draws guests with live popular music such as blues. Some restaurants, such as The Gallery Restaurant and Bar, are still owned by the original families. The Gallery was actually selected as the "best conserved structure," along with receiving several other architectural awards. There are also the several scenic restaurants such as the River Deli which overlook the Mae Ping River.
Neighboring shops around The Gallery Restaurant sell silks and home decorative items. Also in this section is Lanna Cigar, the city's only specialty cigar shop. Art On is a new shop for pottery collectors. All items are wheel thrown and finished in a special glaze. Designers are established artists as well as students displaying original designs so stop in for great gifts to take home. Kuntauy is the place for old style furniture, woodcarving and Asian Arts.
Wrought iron products can be viewed at Nice Products. Every item in their shop is their own original design. More shopping on Jarernrasd Road includes one of a kind clothing, candles and other decorative items. And Sop Moei Arts is located at the historic elephant quay, where many years ago, prized young elephants boarded transport boats to all parts of the country. In addition to dining and shopping, there are several noteworthy historical sights that shouldn't be missed:
Many of the original estate houses still remain and can be viewed just by strolling up and down the road. Only a few of the gracious old residences are homes to their owners any longer. Most of them have been converted into great shops and restaurants.
In the middle of the block is Baan Aurapin, built in 1914, featuring a second floor of gingerbread carving. At the intersection of Kaew Naew Nawarat, another teak residence owned by former Deputy Prime Minister Sukij Nimanhemin was until recently a guesthouse. Near Sapan Kaek Baan Ajarn Yudh features sliding wooden panels. And look for the yellow, two-story cement building on the right side of the street. The father of Thai Prime Minister Taksin Shinawatra once lived in this building.
Once home to the British teak wallas of the Borneo Company, these rambling two-story teak buildings sitting amid the towering umbrella trees brings to mind the way Chiangmai may have looked years ago. The compound has several huge residences more than 60 years old, one of which has been constructed with a total of 137 poles. There's also a garden featuring unique medicinal herbs.
Next door to Wat Gate Garam, this Sikh Temple was established more than 90 years ago. Their prayer book is under the pink cloth in the prayer room. After prayers the pastor serves a bite sized "sweetie" made from peanut and flour. There are about 120 local families, mostly those who speak Punjabi, who regurarly attend this place of worship.
Find this wat on the right side of the street just across from the pedestrian bridge. The building features Chinese influences with figures of dragons and animals so lifelike they seem to be crawling. The stupa is slightly leaning intentionally so as not to point fingers at the gods above.
A sturdy 2 story building that originally served as a school, then as monk's quarters, has a roof topped with "bann lom" as opposed to typical "galae" motif. In the past, it served as a social hall where the women brought food offerings to be unwrapped, cleaned, carved, and presented on trays for merit making. There's an effort underway to renovate this building, which is the same age as The Gallery Restaurant and features similar Chinese style murals.
A museum on the grounds, which was established just a few years ago, is filled with lanterns, European tea sets, old silk hangings from China and other articles from Chiangmai's multi cultured past.
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