Kad Luang, the “great market”

Located in the heart of Chiang Mai, and along the Ping River, this vibrant and energetic area is an important hub for locals. A collision of three markets: Wororot Market, Ton Lam Yai Market and Naowarat Market, Kad Luang has been the definitive commercial center of Chiang Mai for over 100 years. A maze of streets lined with mid-20th century Chinese shophouses, and congested alleyways bustling with pedestrian, car and rickshaw traffic, the neighborhood is a treasure-trove of textiles, basketry, culinary gems, kitchen supplies and so much more.

Kad Luang, meaning “great market” in the Northern Thai dialect, dates back to the time of King Rama V (late 1800s). It was established by one of his wives as a port to ship goods from the North down to Bangkok and also served as a stop on land delivery routes between Thailand and Burma. Traces of Chinese traders from Yunnan, who used to pass through Chiang Mai on their caravan route, are still evident today with a pop-up Yunnanese market every Friday morning just off of Chang Klan Road.

Just across the river from Kad Luang, in the historic Wat Gate area, is where the local office of the East Borneo Company was established in the late-1800s and operated by Brits. They employed many locals and hill tribes from the Shan State on their teak plantations. This influx of commerce spurred Kad Luang’s growth with Chinese settlers establishing many businesses and Punjabi Indians setting up textile and spice shops. Many of these businesses still stand today.

One such Indian is Saifudan Laatlamwaraa, an 82-year-old Indian spice shop owner who was born in the very shophouse on Chang Moi Road that he now operates. Inherited from his father, he has maintained his family’s tradition by dispensing his knowledge of Indian herbs to the shops’ loyal patrons.

In the early 1900s, Ton Lam Yai Market, which runs along the Ping River, was the first construction in the area and comprised of two-story teak shophouses. The property was formerly an elephant resting area after they moved the logs to the river for transport south.  In 1968, “The Great Fire” swept through the market leaving it in ruin. A new concrete structure was built in its place, and still stands today.

The market that never sleeps, activity abounds 24/7. For fresh produce and flowers, early morning vendors flood Kad Luang at the crack of dawn. As the day rolls on, goldsmiths, textile business and more begin to open. In the evenings, the market takes on new life as vendors push into the streets with stalls and carts selling everything from northern Thai culinary delicacies to the latest in local fashion.

Kad Luang is located in the heart of Chiang Mai, along the Ping River, East of the moat.