'Kanom Under the Stairs' is the popular name for this decades-old kanom (sweets) stall, which is located in Warorot Market ... under the stairs
We love Chiang Mai.
We love Bangkok too; we lived there for eleven all too brief months in 2002. But over the last few years Chiang Mai has really grown on us. Travelers who knew the city way back when (and resident Thais as well) love to complain about its sprawl, its pollution, its traffic. I'm sure it was a different place 15 or 20 years ago. What Asian city wasn't?. But we think that, despite its obvious warts, Chiang Mai is still wonderful. It's got its own personality, a lot of soul, and a heart as big as a northern Thai's.
Unfortunately there are those who'd like to turn Chiang Mai into the Bangkok of the north. You've heard this story before, in other contexts: 'modernity', progress, big is better, old is bad, development must be favored over community. In Thailand it also means money politics; those standing to benefit from urban re-development are almost always politically hooked up.
In the name of progress, which in this instance can be defined as 'more room for more cars', the Chiang Mai municipal government has proposed to widen a number of roads in the city. It's laughable, really. On the morning we left it took us 12minutes in weekday rush-hour traffic to get from the other side of the Ping River to Chiang Mai's airport. That is not traffic that justifies slicing up neighborhoods and turning thoroughfares into ring roads.
Two of the roads set to be widened cut through an old neighborhood known as Gat Luang. If you've visited Chiang Mai and spent time at either Don Lamyai Market (known for its flower sellers out front), Wararot Market (with its kanom jeen nam ngiaow sellers in a 'cellar' food court), or the brilliant, grilled pork-scented night market that sets up on the street between the two, you've been to Gat Luang. Perhaps you can imagine what widening its two main roads by 16 meters each will do to the now pedestrian-friendly neighborhood.
While we were in Chiang Mai we spent several days in Gat Luang talking to people in its markets and shops and on the street about life in the 'hood and in the markets and what widening those roads will mean for the community. This isn't a case of a couple of farang (us, in other worlds) going all silly and nostalgic over the redevelopment of two dirty old markets. Most markets are bigger than themselves. These two markets are the core of a neighborhood, and most of the people who live and work here object to the road widening plan.
The question is, do they have the power to do anything about it?