Heritage Houses of Chiang Mai

Picture of Frans Betgem

Frans Betgem

Frans Betgem is a Dutch veteran in the travel industry in South East Asia. He is the founder of Green Trails and Chiang Mai a la Carte, amongst others. He also is the founder and admin of the Facebook group Chiang Mai Memories.

Table of Contents

The Heritage Houses on Thapae Road

There are a number of Chiang Mai Heritage Houses on Thapae Road. Old pictures that were taken before the arrival of the railroad in Chiang Mai in January 1922 show a street with mostly wooden houses. Some of the iconic heritage houses were already there, others were constructed after modern building materials started arriving by train from Bangkok. During the 1920s Thapae Road developed into the main business centre of Chiang Mai, eclipsing the Wat Ket area. We consider these houses the tangible heritage of Chiang Mai.

Yong Chang House

The Yong Chiang house is at the Upakut intersection, named after the Wat Upakut. It is on the corner of Thapae and Wichayanon roads, address 2-4 Wichayanon road. A Chinese merchant built it in 1903. It appears on many pictures. This building is also known as the Sri Prasert building. The Sri Prasert shop sold bicycles and radios. In 2014 this house was the Long Chang Boutique Hotel for a short time. Currently, it houses a branch office of the UOB Bank.

Colonial style house
Yong Chang House on Thapae Road

Leow Yong Nguan House

The Leow Yong Nguan House belongs to the Saeleow Family. It dates back to 1915. A man called Uy Saeleow built the house.  He was an immigrant from China who was involved in trading on the Ping River, based in the Wat Ket area. He operated boats that carried cargo to Bangkok back and forth. Local people called him “old turtle Uy”. His first residence was the house that now is the Gallery Restaurant on Charoenrat Road. The Wat Ket area was the commercial centre until the opening of the Bangkok-Chiang Mai railway in 1922.

The commercial center then moved to the Sanpakoy area and Thapae Road. I would date the year of construction of the house on Tha Phae Road actually after that, looking at the style of building and the materials used. Uy gave this house the same name: Leow Yong Nguan House.  In the beginning, the store sold agricultural products and textiles. Later on, it sold electronics, bicycles, and motorbikes amongst others. Uy Saeleow passed away in 1932. A pizzeria, Street Pizza, occupies the first floor at the moment. There are several souvenir shops on the ground floor.

Heritage House in Thapae Road Chiang Mai
The Leow Yong Nguan House in Tha Phae Road in 2018

Kitipanit Store

The Kitipanit store on Thapae Road was probably the first department store in Chiang Mai. The building was constructed in 1925. The arrival of the railroad in Chiang Mai had a profound impact on the city. Many new shops and businesses opened in the Sanpakoy area and on Thapae Road. The Kitibut family was the owner of Kitipanit Store. Chin Kiew Kitipanit was the manager. The Directory for Siam and Bangkok of 1927 lists the store under “Motor, Cars, Accessories, Tyres, Oils, etc.” as well as under “General and Piece-Goods”.

The Bangkok Times, the leading English-language newspaper in those days, issued this directory annually or bi-annually. According to other sources the store also sold household goods, kitchen utensils as well as imported clothes and cosmetics. The wealthy and privileged were doing their shopping at the Kitipanit Store. After many years of neglect, renovation started in 2019 on this beautiful house. In December 2019 a Thai restaurant was opened under the name Kitipanit. The restaurant serves Lanna Cuisine. On the website, it says “since 1888″…..

Colonial style house
Kitipanit restaurant just after opening, December 2019

Ratanapon Stationery Store

This beautiful building on Thapae road dates back to 1932. Sometimes you will find the spelling Rattanapol instead of Ratanapon. The Puwakoon family of Chinese descent owns the house. The house took 13 months to build and for a long time was one of the highest buildings in Chiang Mai. It now houses a stationery shop.

Colonial style house
Ratanapon Stationary Shop

Raming Tea House Siam Celadon

The Raming Tea House Siam Celadon is located on Thapae Road. The building dates back to 1915. It is built in the so-called Gingerbread style. Khun Anukornburi was the owner of the house. He was of Chinese descent and the founder of the Nimakon clan. In the early days, the house was a shop selling construction materials. The shop was called “Nim Cheo Chuad”. In 2002/3 the house was renovated and then became the Raming Tea House Siam Celadon.

Tea House Siam Celadon

Old house
Raming Tea House

The Charoenprathet Road Heritage Houses

The former Chiang Mai British Consulate

The ruler of Chiang Mai granted this plot of land to the British government in 1884. In 1917 the construction of the new Chiang Mai British Consulate began under the supervision of an architect called William Osborn Keats. The building remained a focal point for society in Chiang Mai, only closing for three years during World War Two and again for two years from 1970, before it was officially closed in 1978 and sold. A luxury hotel, The Chedi Chiang Mai, opened here in 2005. The old British Consulate became the restaurant of the hotel. In 2013 Anantara took over the management of the hotel. The old consulate building is now the Service 1921 Restaurant and Bar of the Anantara Chiang Mai Resort.

Colonial style building Chiang Mai Historical Houses
Former British Consulate Chiang Mai in 1995. Picture by Albert Cosi

The Lanna Ancient House

The Lanna Ancient House dates back to 1867. It is the oldest of the Charoenprathet Road Heritage Houses. The house used to belong to Grandmother Moung Kham Suaysuwan, a Burmese logging contractor. This area also was the location of the office of the Forestry Department of Siam. The British and the French consulates were on the same street too. In addition, a foreign court was located nearby Nawarat Bridge, close to the present-day Chiang Mai Governor’s Mansion. The house underwent renovations in 1997, 2007, and 2017. Asset World Corporation (AWC) is the owner of the building. AWC is part of the Thai Charoen Corporation Group (TTC), which also owns Thaibev, the producer of Chang Beer.

The last renovation in 2018

The last renovation of the house was a major one. They constructed shops in a similar style on both sides of the house. Elephant Parade and other companies occupied these shops. A restaurant called The Chocolate Factory occupied the house, which was beautifully renovated. The Chocolate Factory and the shops failed to attract a lot of people. In 2019 the restaurant closed and Elephant Parade closed its shop too. Some of the other shops are still there, but the project to bring this place to life again has failed. The Lanna Ancient House is still there though. It is the oldest non-religious building in Chiang Mai. It might become the restaurant of a future boutique hotel at this location, according to some people.

Old house on stilts teak trade Chiang Mai update October
The Lanna Ancient House

Luang Yo House

This beautiful two-story half-wooden, half-concrete house is hidden behind the front building of the Diamond Hotel on Charoenprathet Road. It is one of our favorite Chiang Mai Heritage Houses.

The house belonged to a Mon-Burmese merchant and nobleman who came from Moulmein. His name was Mong Pan Yo (1845-1927). He settled down in the Kingdom of Chiang Mai, where he was employed in the King’s palace. Mong Pan Yo was devoted to his adopted home by building Buddhist temples, renovating pagodas, constructing bridges, roads, and canals. He became well known and respected among local Thais and British ex-pats. After Siam annexed Chiang Mai, King Rama V elevated Mong Pan Yo’s status to nobility, gave him the name Luang Yonakarn Phichit, and awarded him forestry concessions. His company owned 300 elephants. King Rama VI gave him the hereditary surname Upayokin (sometimes spelled Upayogin).

Luang Yonakarn Phichit

Luang Yonakarn Phichit financed the renovation of the Wat Chedi Liam in Wiang Kum Kam in 1908. He also allegedly supported the Burmese Wat Upakut which was located on the corner of Charoenprathet and Thapae roads. The Burmese Wat Upakut was next to the Siamese Wat Upakut which is still there. In 1957 the Burmese Wat Upakut had to make way for the Buddha Sathan building, allegedly because no one was taking care of it anymore. Unfortunately, Baan Luang Yo has been neglected somewhat. I remember there was once a Kantoke dinner restaurant, then the Fwandee Latex store, and most recently it has been up for rent. This is very unfortunate. We really hope this house will be preserved.

Old colonial style house
The Luang Yo House on the compound of the Diamond Hotel in 2020

The Mosway Teak Manor

This 130-year old golden teakwood house is of mixed European-Lanna architecture that belongs to the Upayokin family. The name of the house is the Mosway Teak Manor. It is also on Charoenprathet Road, very close to the Luang Yo House. Mosway Upayokin was the oldest son of Luang Yonakarn Pichit. He took over his father’s forestry business. Mosway built his very own big teak manor near the Luang Yo House, the house of his father. He managed the business very well and became a well-respected member of Chiang Mai society, just like his father. Mosway had a son named Sumin Upayokin, who took over the family’s timber business after finishing a bachelor’s degree at Thammasat University.

The old Antique House restaurant

For many years the Mosway Manor housed a popular restaurant under the name Antique House. There were tables and seating in the garden. I celebrated my bachelor party in the garden of Antique House in November 2005. The restaurant closed in 2011 and moved to a location on the Chiang Mai-Lamphun road, along the Ping River. A restaurant reopened in 2012 under the name Baan Jangarpor. This restaurant closed in 2016. Since then the house has been empty. I passed it many times. There is no one living there, but the house still looks in quite a good condition. It is one of the beautiful Chiang Mai Heritage Houses. We hope it will be preserved.

Old teakwooden house Chiang Mai Heritage Houses
The Mosway Manor in 2016

Khun Chowng-Liang Lue-Kiat House

This teak wooden mansion is more than 100 years old was once the house of Khun Chowng-Liang Lue-Kiat. It is another of the forgotten heritage Houses. It is located in Charoenprathet Road, Soi 1, opposite the Ban Ho Mosque. The house has been empty for a long time. It is often obscured by parked cars. I have been inside only once, quite a few years ago. Ch’un Chowng-Lin, a Muslim merchant from Yunnan province, China, was a descendant of the Chinese explorer Zheng He.

Old teakwooden house

More heritage structures on the Chiang Mai Historical Houses and Buildings page.