February 22, 2011
Consul General’s Corner: Warorot Market
February 21, 2011
When U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney returned to Chiang Mai on February 18th for the closing ceremony of Cobra Gold, we at the Consulate had an opportunity show her more of the city. Where should we take her? We knew she was keen to go somewhere iconic for Chiang Mai, but she had already visited Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep during her last visit. Not for her a quiet museum or park. Ambassador Kenney likes to go where the people are.
As the U.S. Consulate is celebrating a big anniversary this year, we naturally thought of another Chiang Mai institution with an anniversary: Warorot Market, which is marking 100 years. As former Lanna princess and royal consort Chao Dararasmi both lived in the Consulate compound and founded the market, we thought this was the perfect place to take the Ambassador.
When we arrived at Warorot Market, we learned it had more links to the United States than its royal founder. Mr. Somyos Nimmanahaeminda, managing partner and great grandson of the owner, greeted the Ambassador in perfect English as he had received his bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. – the Ambassador’s hometown. He told us his father had studied at another well-known U.S. university: Yale. Moreover, many Consulate staff – myself included – enjoy coming to Warorot Market to buy dried fruit, fresh produce, dry goods and even Lanna dress for ourselves and our children.
As we had predicted, the Ambassador found the market bustling with activity. She gamely tried very spicy northern sausage and purchased sugar snap peas, dried longan fruit, and candied ginger. Many stall owners craned their necks to see who the important guest was, surprised to learn that the friendly and curious customer was in fact President Obama’s representative to Thailand.
From the second floor of the market, we had a panoramic view over the busy central hall, from where we were able to admire the giant photos of the market’s past hanging in the atrium. Mr. Somyos pointed out shots of the original structure and how it had been damaged by fire over the last century. He showed us pictures from World War II and the construction of the market to its current form. At the same time, the historical photos showed us the development of Chiang Mai going up all around the busy market area. Markets are traditionally the heart of any community, and Warorot is no different. We could feel the energy all around the neighborhood. From jellied coconut to fabrics to cosmetics, shoppers were stocking up on what they needed for their day-to-day lives. The Ambassador was so impressed she tweeted, “Stealing a few minutes to shop at Warorot market in Chiang Mai http://yfrog.com/gztebxj. I tried the sausage!”
This was not the usual “official tour” of the city, and it gave the Ambassador much better insight into the people of Chiang Mai. The market is not fancy but caters to their needs, and that’s what is important.
Happy Centennial, Kad Luang!