International Students Find a Home at Chiang Mai’s Baan Din

 | Thu 31 Jul 2014 22:37 ICT

Living in Chiang Mai, you can’t avoid the city’s transient nature; the large exodus of people constantly moving in and out. Amidst this exodus, a platform is needed for people to stop and share their stories.

For many young people in Chiang Mai, a cosy shisha bar off Nimmanhaemin serves as this platform.

Baan Din, in a photo from the bar’s Facebook page

Off soi 13, deep in the heart of Chiang Mai’s university district, sits a hookah bar named Baan Din. Growing in popularity in recent years, Baan Din has become somewhat of a landmark destination for a typical night out amongst students.

Baan Din sports a straw roof and mud walls, which were hand-built from the ground up by the owner and his sister. The hut is dimly lit by the hues of green and yellow light that are refracted by coloured glass bottles fixed within the walls. On one side of the bar, people sit on the floor, shoeless, gathered around rusty coffee tables supporting large hookah equipment. The smell of cherry-infused shisha drifts into the street as, once again, a large crowd of students gather for the evening.

“Most of the people who come here tend to be wai-loons (the affectionate Thai slang for youths),” says the bar owner, Wanchai Suharitdumrong. “Why do they come here? I don’t know… It wasn’t my idea!” he adds with a laugh.

There is a very established social scene at Baan Din, one that reflects a community that has attempted to find stable grounds in a place that continues grow and change.

“Baan Din is a great place to chill and hang out with your friends, but it’s an even better place to make new ones,” says one loyal customer.

Baan Din and the social hub it embodies reflects an emerging culture of youths who are socialised by an increasingly globalised world. Many people are no longer raised in a single, rigid culture. Rather, their communities resemble cultural melting pots. As a result, each person brings to the rickety wooden tables at Baan Din an interesting story that is reminiscent of their diverse background.

“The main reason that I like Baan Din is because of the diverse and unique people that tend to congregate there,” says Chiang Mai International School alum Chandler Kietz. “When you go to Baan Din you’re liable to meet at least a handful of new and interesting individuals; the kind of people you probably never would have met otherwise.”

There are more youths in the world than ever before, and Thailand is more susceptible to the influences of other cultures than ever before. Whether these influences are considered positive or not, there is no denying their strong presence in Thailand’s youth culture. But instead, however, of jumping on the bandwagon and accusing Thai youths for opening up to more materialistic leanings, there should be larger efforts to acknowledge the stronger cultural awareness and open-mindedness that has been adopted by a lot of Thailand’s young people.

The diverse and loyal community that has been created at Baan Din is one that reflects this interesting cultural phenomenon.

“As a third culture kid, Baan Din has been a way for me to connect to people who share the same experiences as me,” says a student from Payap University. “I’ve created friendships with people from all over the world, and it’s amazing knowing that if I were to travel to a new country there will be at least one person I’ve become friends with at Baan Din who I can contact to take me around.”

Next month will mark four successful years for Baan Din, a fairly grand achievement for its location, in a place where most businesses have a one-year lifespan. The bar will hold a celebration on August 19th to mark the occasion.