|Introduction to the Wat Gade Community
Puripunn Baby Grand Boutique Hotel is located in a quiet area known to Chiang Mai folk by the name of the local temple, Wat Gade, located on the east bank of Chiang Mai’s Ping River. Before transportation shifted from river to rail to road nearly a century ago, the Wat Gade community was a hub of Chiang Mai’s trade.
Wat Gade itself, some six centuries old, has a deliberately skewed chedi (relic spire), politely not pointing directly at heaven. The temple museum displays a trove of artifacts from bygone Lanna life.
A short riverside walk leads north of here to the Super Highway bridge. To see more of the Ping’s leafy upper reaches, walk south down Charoenrat Road to the tour boat pier near Naowarat Bridge.
Either side of the bridge stand Christian churches. Missionaries played a major role in laying the foundation for the development of Chiang Mai’s health and education system so Chiang Mai’s king allowed church building on this side of the river in 1897. The Tourism Authority of Thailand office stands just south of here.
Puripunn’s design echoes harmoniously with the surrounding vernacular architecture. The exquisite old buildings reflect the prosperity of Chinese merchants who immigrated here between 1867 and the coming of the railway in 1925. That period was the height of the teak harvesting era, when it took up to 90 days to reach Chiang Mai by boat from Bangkok. Logs were floated downriver in rafts to wharves here. Trained elephants then hauled the timber up alleys like the ‘Log Lane’ beside what’s now The Gallery restaurant. Even today, the area’s also dubbed 'Baan Chang' (elephant village).
Along this stretch of Charoenrat Road, wooden paneling and gingerbread tracery distinguish rows of galleried teak buildings, most notably Six-Pole House, now occupied by the Oriental Style shop. Chief among the discretely located teak mansions is the filigree edifice built for the Bombay Borneo Company, a British firm that installed northern Thailand’s first swimming pool. Masonry Chinese-style shophouses, too, retain original features, such as lucky decorative motifs on their whitewashed stucco walls. Conservation-minded owners have since converted some of these romantic old structures into restaurants, boutiques and antiques emporia.
The shops offer originals or reproductions of traditional crafts as well as contemporary Lanna designs. Chiang Mai is renowned for modern clothing, accessories and décor objects crafted from indigenous materials and design accents to stylish effect.
After dark, souvenir hunters head to the hectic Night Bazaar. For a more authentic Lanna experience, cross the Ping over the footbridge by Wat Gade, which ends in the midst of Gad Waroros — a traditional Northern-style open air market. Under a forest of umbrellas, this maze of stalls hawks everything from farm produce to clothing and ceramics. But it’s the adjacent all-night flower market*, Gad Ton Lamyai, that most tingles the senses, filling the black velvet air with color, commotion and fragrance.
* Ton-Lamyai Market, adjacent to Wararos Market, is the biggest flower market in Chiang Mai.
While guests can head for the city’s bright lights for dining and socializing, residents and in-the-know visitors party on this side of the river. A string of bar-restaurants line the Baan Chang riverside. Cooled by the river breezes and layered in terraces down the riverbank, these establishments offer good Thai food, live bands and a sabai (relaxed) ambiance.
On a balmy night, a stroll along the riverbank and the adjacent moonlit streets capture an essence of old-style Lanna that’s now rare to find in cosmopolitan Chiang Mai.
THE ANCIENT KINGDOM OF LANNA THAI
Thailand's Far North is situated at one of the most important historical crossroads of northern South-East Asia, a mountain-meets-rivers nexus where peoples from the ancient Chinese empire and the tribal peoples of a geographic area that is today, Thailand, Laos and Myanmar traded goods and fused cultures for centuries. Once an important stopover along mule caravan routes between ancient Chinese Empire and the coast of Burma (Myanmar), the kingdom of Lan Na Thai — literally 'Million Rice Fields', was established when local Thai princes rose to prominence in the region in the 13th century.
Chiang Mai was founded as the new capital of the ancient Lanna Thai kingdom, which included the provinces of Chiang Rai, Nan, Chiang Mai, Phayao, Phra, Lampang and Lampoon in present-day Northern Thailand. Lanna Thai influence reached as far as the Shan States in Burma, Sipsongpanna in China and Lan Xang (Lao PDR). The Lanna kingdom was incorporated into the Kingdom of Siam by treaty approximately 100 years ago.
Noted for its cultural splendor and rich history, Lanna Thai heritage continues to fascinate connoisseurs of Southeast Asian art.
As descendants of this spellbinding Northern Thai kingdom, it is with great pride and pleasure that we share with you, the many charming traditions and enchanting aspects of Lanna Thai culture during your stay with us at Puripunn — which literally means we share our home-town with you. The word 'Puri' comes from the word 'buri' which means town or city and 'punn' means to share.
Welcome to Puripunn — your 'home' while you're away from home.