Warorot Market’s secret treasures

Warorot Market or Kad Luang in local parlance is a Chiang Mai institution. It's a rabbit warren with something astounding around every corner.

By | Mon 8 Feb 2016

We have all been to Warorot Market, it is a Chiang Mai institution. Our mothers took us shopping there in our youths and now we take our foreign friends to take Instagrams and try out bugs and all sort of local delights. For over a hundred years, Warorot has maintained its market vibe, changing its produce and faces as times and generations go by.

Nicknamed Kad Luang (Big Market in Lanna dialect), Warorot used to be the trading centre for the north of Thailand. Nowadays it is a place where you can go to find pretty much anything you need from plastic containers to fresh meat. We all have our regular merchants or vendors we visit. Our favourite material shop, a tasty sai-ua or regular noodle shop. Today I decided to go and do a bit of exploring to find some places to introduce you to that you may not have ventured to before.

E.A.R. Herb Shop

Herby aromas engulf you as you enter this Daigan Alley style herb shop.

I remember a time when I was young, my mother told me to buy spices to make a Chinese soup. Attracted by the aroma of spices, I walked by this shop, a dilapidated old shop that has not changed in its 80 years. Set in a wooden building on Chang Moi road between Chiang Mai Jai Dee fabric shop and Jib Aung Tueng drug store, this wooden building looks as though it has been forgotten by time.

E.A.R. Herb shop sells a hundred different types of spices, mostly imported from India and Malaysia. Three generations of herb doctors have been running this family business and you will always find a member of the family sitting behind a cluttered shelf or seemingly under a mound of herbs. There is a yellow placard reading ‘Compounding zone, please do not come inside, thank you very much’. Being herb doctors, they create their own unique medicine by using family formulas to pound a variety of herbs together for different ailments. All you need to do is tell the herb doctor what illness you suffer from – headache, allergies, etc. – and he will either produce a herbal remedy for it or create one just for you.

Sugar and spice and all things nice…

This is Chiang Mai’s version of Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley. A seemingly magic shop full of mysterious and exotic potions! Stop on by to nose around, sniffing herbs, tasting medicine and enjoying this eclectic little shop which I hope will be here for many more generations.

Open 8.30am-5.30pm (closed on Sundays)
54 Chang Moi Road
053 235 611

The Tailor Alley

Most of us never venture up to the second floor of Warorot, but if you do walk up the escalator (which by the way has never been in operation, even when it was first installed nearly a half century ago) you will come across over ten tailor and seamstress shops, all offering their services at ridiculously cheap prices. I once ordered a tailored suit made and voila, a week later I had it for only 300 baht – there are surprisingly long queues here. Some specialise in simple fixes such as adding zippers or doing seams, while others offer more sophisticated tailoring. Prices are so adorable starting at 40 baht to have a pillow case made and going up to 750 baht for sack dress. So instead of paying a fortune at boutiques to get simple tailoring, come and support these local tailors at Warorot.

Open 8.30am-5.30pm (closed on Sundays)
Second Floor Warorot Market

Thamel Coffee

Down the Lao Jow Street (China town) of Warorot, there are all sorts of colourful shops selling a variety of things such as Lanna costumes, plastic flowers, fabric and gold. One particular shop, Nai99 Shop, has been open for many years and is well known for its assortment of funky and kaleidoscopic Nepalese imported items from materials to fashion, accessories to home décor. If you are a regular at Warorot you must have either clocked it as you walked past, or ventured in to spend a few pennies. But if you are really nosy, walk in and there is a tiny little sign advertising a coffee shop. A small steep wooden staircase leads you up the stairs, flanked by Nepalese knickknacks, to an adorable coffee shop. You will feel as though you are sitting in a hippie hangout in Pokhara, surrounded by Himalayan fabrics and art, as you sip coffees, smoothies, teas and take bites of delicious cakes and other goodies. Interestingly, most of the clientele are tourists, with a good mix of backpackers and Chinese.

Welcome to another world!

This colourful private zone will protect you from the busy alley outside. Chill…

Open Daily, 8.30am-5.30pm
45-47 Kuang Men Road (Lao Jow Street), Chang Moi
053 232 228
Facebook: Thamel Coffee

I am sure that there are so many other wonderful little gems and treasures in this labyrinth of a market. And if you find another secret, don’t forget to tell Citylife!