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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Secret Chiang Mai - 'Lan Na Traditional Houses Museum'

This is the first in what I hope will be a series of 'secret' places, or people, or whatever, that we discover in our explorations around Chiang Mai and Thailand. After all, one of the main reasons for moving here was to have the time to get below the surface of the place and the culture. It's taken some time, but Chiang Mai is beginning to yield its secrets.


Under the wing of the Chiang Mai University's Fine Arts Department, and the vision of Ajan Vithi Phanichphant, this lovely collection of old Lan Na houses has been assembled behind the CMU Art Museum on a verdant site. Once part of a large farm surrounding an early 20thc. colonial style house (formerly the home of a representative of the Bombay Burma Company) the site now features seven other northern Thai vernacular houses, including a Tai Lue home, two 'galae' houses, a typical merchant's house from the Anusarn area downtown, and a very nice rice storage barn.



Under the elegantly designed rice granary is a small, but good assemblage of old carts and long drums. Intact carts are rarely seen these days, as they are usually disassembled for their decorative carvings and wooden wheels.


Some of the buildings are occupied, while others are used for special events. We enjoy visiting Lung Daeng, an artist with a studio underneath the small 'galae' house, and usually find him working on a variety of projects such as teaching batik to a group of students, growing and brewing natural dyes, or creating his own paintings under the watchful eyes of several dogs and cats.


It's also worth noting that every first Tuesday and Wednesday there is a market of traditional handmade products and produce in the yard beside the colonial house (along the Canal Road), sponsored by the Center for the Promotion of Arts and Culture of CMU. One can visit the old houses daily from 8:30am-6:00pm.

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