Street Smarts

Let's face it. It has been ages since adjectives like "sleepy" or "charming" have been attached to Chiang Mai. For years, Thailand's second city has been grappling with the same environmental problems as Bangkok (explosive population growth, unsightly sprawl, heavily polluted air and incessant traffic) with little of the capital's cosmopolitan sheen to compensate—except, that is, in the area of housewares, crafts and design, where Chiang Mai still maintains an edge. Reputedly Thailand's artistic capital, it enjoys perennial influxes of expatriate and local artists, gallery operators and designers attracted to the long traditions of craftsmanship.

The arty epicenter...

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