Chiang Mai Artist Village Baan Kang Wat
Baan Kang Wat is an experiment in living art.
Rain lashed the beautiful collection of teak buildings clustered around a central sunken amphitheater while we sought shelter in a cozy coffee shop at Baan Kang Wat last Saturday. Happily, it seems that rainy season is finally upon us. I'd been wishing for rain for weeks because Thailand is currently in the middle of a drought. Andy and I watched the downpour and drank beautifully presented hot cappucinos in The Old Chiangmai Espresso Bar while the rain eased up. I'm so happy to share this experience with you! Baan Kang Wat is a delightful place to spend a few lazy afternoon hours. You can click on the photographs here to see bigger versions.
Shops, art and cafesWhen the sky cleared, we spent an hour or so browsing shops and finding art hidden in every nook and cranny. Peaceful Baan Kang Wat is small, relaxed, and infused with artistic energy - even in the rain!
It's probably one of the most photographed places in Chiang Mai, because it's so freaking lovely. Check out this Instagram feed for other visitor photos.
I was inspired; I wanted to dig out my paper and pencils when I returned home! Baan Kang Wat is so beautiful.
Peaceful nature, art and teak wood buildingsBaan Kang Wat's designer, Nattawut “Big” Ruckprasit, has struck a balance between nature and development in the village. Grass, plants and trees were every way I turned, and a small organic fruit and vegetable plot was hiding at the back of the village. The teak houses were traditional-meets-modern, with brushed concrete walls, hanging art and timeless wooden furniture. Resident artists live above their shops and businesses, so there's a great sense of community and many are long term residents.
There are a few places to have a bite to eat, but the village seems dominated by art and coffee shops. The central sunken amphitheater is where you can enjoy music and games tournaments. There are frequent events and workshops, especially in the cool and dry season. Keep an eye on Baan Kang Wat's Facebook page for upcoming events. I am absolutely going to the next arty workshop!
Zakka design and lifestyleI adored a shop called Jibberish, that sells 'zakka' items. Zakka is a Japanese fashion and design phenomenon that has been gaining huge following in Thailand. Indeed, there's a whole Instagram hashtag devoted to it: #zakkathailand. Zakka means anything and everything that improves your home, life or appearance. It seems to me that zakka products are inspired by minimalist design, with a modern palette of cream, soft pastels, grey and wood. Zakka is strictly NOT tacky: "Cute, corny and kitschy is not enough. To qualify as a zakka, a product must be attractive, sensitive, and laden with subtext." Zakka designers think carefully about how every-day experiences can become a delight for the senses.
Other shops at Baan Kang Wat with cute names like Tiny Space and Bookoo Studio sell hand-painted ceramics, hand-stitched clothes, prints, jewelry, upmarket handicrafts and homeware. I loved these sea-urchin style vases.
Baan Kang Wat artists love the soothing zakka style, though to me it seems that zakka is more of a life-style than just a design-style.
Happily, most the products aren't crazy-expensive, and I love that money spent at Baan Kang Wat goes directly to the artists themselves. I also love that each piece is handmade AND high quality. Some prices are steep, but you can pick up some lovely bits and bobs at generally affordable prices.
Real beauty in the peopleThe village is a photographer's dream: there was something beautiful wherever I cared to look. But I found real beauty while watching artists carefully discuss their work, a couple laughing while struggling to build a Lego comic book character, a woman skipping through the rain with a big white and red umbrella, a student reading with a steaming hot chocolate, a teenage boy photographing his friend and parents pointing out hidden ceramic birds to their children.
A small slice of Modern Chiang MaiI love Baan Kang Wat's teak buildings, peaceful community and distinct Chiang Mai-ish feel, thanks to its local designers, artists and business owners. The village is special because it combines the past and the current, without one taking precedence over the other. It's impossible not to like!
I'm interested to see how the village deals with increasing visitor numbers. It's bound to get more popular because it's so lovely. Will it maintain its slow development and relaxed atmosphere? Passion for what I'll call 'the slow life' really seems to guide development and decisions at Baan Kang Wat, so I feel sure that it will stay special for years to come. Go go go!