Thailand's northern hip hub
ITS reputation for gilded, Buddha-filled temples and treks to hill tribe villages aside, Chiang Mai in northern Thailand has in recent years attracted creative types seeking a chilled-out alternative to Bangkok, 560km away.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Nimmanhaemin Road, a thoroughfare west of the old city centre, anchored by Chiang Mai University and known as Nimman.
The area's tranquil side streets, called sois, are home to quirky coffee shops, design boutiques and galleries.
These, along with boutique hotels like Artel Nimman, where guests access the ground floor by a slide, make Nimman an appealing base from which to explore the city.
Tucked behind an ivy-covered facade, this gallery/design shop/lounge is a hub for the city's young creatives. Catch exhibitions, performances and screenings by local artists, or pick up unusual handmade notebooks, key chains and figurines.
Where: 22/1 Nimmanhaemin Road, Soi 17
At this Aladdin-meets-communist-China boutique, you can find Mao buttons and rabbit-shaped paper lanterns, hand-sewn corduroy loafers bearing red stars, and mandarin-collared tops with billowy sleeves, along with colourful lamps and pillows.
Where: Nimmanhaemin Road, Soi 1
Following in the footsteps of generations of Chiang Mai silversmiths, Ms Sirilak Samanasak displays her nature-inspired gold, brass and silver earrings and necklaces at this whimsical contemporary shop, where metal birdcages and insects stand in for display cases.
Where: Nimmanhaemin Road, Soi 13
KAO SOY NIMMAN
In a courtyard with lanterns, nine variations of Chiang Mai's signature dish - khao soi, an egg noodle, curry-based soup - are served, from classic chicken thigh to pork sausage (from 50 baht, or S$2).
There are many other northern specialities to sample as well, like sweet pork curry and chilli dips with vegetables.
Where: Nimmanhaemin Road, Soi 7
The winner of several coffee-making awards in Australia, Mr Arnon Thitiprasert - known as Tong - returned to his native Thailand in 2011 to open this exposed-brick and wood caffeine paradise, where Chiang Mai's young and hip charge up on single-origin blends and silky "flat whites", similar to lattes, adorned with hearts and phoenixes.
Where: 15/3 Nimmanhaemin Road