For most of us, there’s only so much temple-hopping you can do before a big slab of cake, a cup of coffee, and a little crafty retail therapy is in order. Fortunately, in Chiang Mai, there’s Nimmanhaemin Road—often referred to as Nimman—one of city’s coolest streets. This one-kilometre stretch of asphalt manages to pack in bars, art galleries, cute cafés, and artisans, making it a true one-stop destination, which sure comes in handy when you’re in holiday mode and the most activity you want to do is raise a beer to your parched lips.
A favourite starting point is Libraista, a coffee shop for the languid bookworm. Everything in the venue is conducive to a day spent doing little more than reading, eating Shibuya toast, slurping on Rogue beers, and using the free WiFi. Floor-to-ceiling windows, a lounge and outdoor terrace next to a koi pond, a library, and a garden full of colourful and mildly alarming animal statues distinguish this café from the dozens of others in the neighbourhood.
If cake just isn’t going to cut it, check out Rustic and Blue. The restaurantserves some of Chiang Mai’s best artisanal fare—from sandwiches to lattes, from tacos to ice cream—that even the most die-hard health nut might admit to enjoying, as it’s all made from fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients. The setting is the star attraction, though, with a grassy lawn dolled up with a sofa and white tepees complete with personal table settings. Think: casual-chic backyard barbeque.
If it’s hearty Western fare you’re after, well, we’re not here to judge you. Smoothie Blues has got you covered with bagels bursting with hunks of cheese and piles of fresh salad, toasties, homemade muesli, and obscenely large burgers. Comfort food is the name of the game in this eatery. Like any guilty pleasure, you’ll probably be back for more of it. These Western dishes do the trick better than most venues in Chiang Mai manage.
But Nimman is more than just a spot to go on a smoothie bender. Gerard Collection Casa, a bamboo furniture shop, is a great destination if you’ve got enough cash in the budget to ship back a few homemade pieces. Traditional Thai furniture is given a modern update at this very affordable showroom.
Chiang Mai University Art Museum is another worthwhile stop. There’s no permanent collection, so even if you’ve been before, it’s worth stopping in to see what’s new. Contemporary art—both local and international—is displayed, and there’s a big focus on up-and-coming art talents, making it one of the more exciting galleries in the city.
After dark, those in the know head to Warm Up Cafe. Located right beside the street, this nightclub is usually packed with locals rather than tourists, but if you have a little money to spend and want a more authentic experience than beers in a mozzie-filled garden with a bunch of backpackers, then this place is ideal. The slick venue attracts the city’s coolest kids, thanks to a winning combination of live music, EDM in a laid-back lounge, and a great al fresco restaurant and bar. And sushi… Yep, that’s probably what the nightclubs you’ve been frequenting have been missing all this time. Sushi.
Really, you could quite easily spend an entire day on this street alone, and if you were determined to go the distance, you could definitely do worse than staying at the Nimman Mai Design Hotel, which offers a little slice of affordable luxury right in the middle of Chiang Mai’s coolest street.
By Gaby Doman