Gap Year Travels: Chiang Mai, a Creative City

[This is the final in a series of posts about my travels through Western and Central Europe and Southeast Asia this Winter/Spring as part of my self-designed Alternative Gap Year. Click here to read more.]

The air is crisp and fresh in Chiang Mai, Thailand. This isn’t extraordinary in and of itself, but it is a delight to step off of the bus (a twelve-hour over night bus, that is!) into the misty mountain-dwarfed town after three weeks in hot and muggy Central Thailand. Oh, and Chiang Mai has great used book shops!

Our time in Chiang Mai was fun-filled with exciting adventures including–but not limited to–two hour-long Thai massages at six dollars each (read: near beatings that leave you feeling exhausted but refreshed), three hours spent mountain biking down (as slowly as our tired brake-clenching fingers would allow) Doi Suthep Mountain, bamboo reed river rafting and riding a banana-happy elephant through a beautiful natural area surrounded by mountains.

We made it to the bottom alive..?!?

You could say these were “creative” experiences in Chiang Mai and the surrounding area, but what I found particularly blog post-worthy was the city’s campaign to join the UNESCO Creative City network. Drawing on the importance of what John Howkins termed the Creative Economy and Richard Florida’s concept of the Creative Class, the distinction Creative City refers to a city which has worked to develop post-industrial knowledge sectors and actively network, nurture and promote its robust creative industries. Such industries include IT, media, software, urban and social development, tourism, art, crafts, design and healthcare. Read a thoughtful post about the Creative City concept at Community Arts Network.

The Chiang Mai Creative City initiative’s mission is to “put in place the foundations, people, connections, marketing and infrastructure to develop and promote Chiang Mai as an internationally known city of creativity and innovation.” Not too shabby, Chiang Mai, and I’d say something is working! There is a distinctly modern, eclectic feel to this ancient, culturally rich walled city. Later this month, in fact, TEDxDoiSuthep (Chiang Mai region) is hosting a TEDx event entitled Creativity and Collaboration.

See more pictures of our pictures of Thailand here.

One thought on “Gap Year Travels: Chiang Mai, a Creative City

  • May 10, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    This sounds like a lot of fun! Have an amazing time and I am jealous 😉


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