[Article by Robbie Fraser]
It’s not easy to interview a city, but I’ve done my best. Two months ago I touched down in Thailand and soon made my way up north to Chiang Mai. This wasn’t my first trip to the country. I’ve been through the insanity that is Bangkok, a city that is home to over well over ten million. I’ve been to the breathtaking beaches and scattered tourist traps that make up Phuket, and even to a few small towns along the way. But Chiang Mai is something entirely unique. It’s that uniqueness that has the city on the verge of becoming a UNESCO creative city. The possibility of such a title is something the community here takes great pride in, a fact visible on the hundreds of roadside signs promoting the potential honor. If Chiang Mai is successful in its attempt to become an internationally recognized city of craft and folk art, it will join only four other cities in the world.
The primary factor in Chiang Mai’s ability to rise above the dozens of other cities vying for similar recognition is the fact that it sits at a cultural crossroad. If you spend enough time in the city, you will undoubtedly come across a few children in the intricate dress of the Lanna tribe. The Lanna are traditionally a hill people that were an independent nation until a few hundred years ago. Today, they have melded with mainstream society in many ways, but in many ways they remain proudly independent, careful to retain an art-focused culture that has persisted for centuries. They are most visible at the city’s night markets. Some are selling art, always handmade, and almost always incredible in its quality. Others are making art, performing it. Children dance while the smooth sound of drums and a bamboo flute drifts through hundreds of individual stands.
Robbie Fraser is an associate editor for Synchronized Chaos Magazine. Fraser may be reached at email@example.com.