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Captivating Chiangmai – Inspiration behind my shoe design

The Inside House Hotel - Image taken by Yvonne Liao

Why Chiangmai?


My mum and I embarked on a 4-day 3-night trip to Chiangmai, Thailand last December. Both my mum and I are avid travelers, and we used to travel more frequently before the COVID19 pandemic. But we always travelled separately for several reasons. My mother’s travel companion has always been my father, while my preferred travel companions are my friends. My parents loved visiting different parts of China, whereas I always preferred either fast-paced cities or laidback islands. However, since my father passed away in 2020, my mother stopped travelling altogether. Hence, I decided to plan a mother-daughter trip for us as another small step forward in adjusting to our new lives without my father.

 

We decided on Chiangmai as it was on my father’s travel bucket list. He had always wanted to visit Chiangmai but did not manage to do so before his passing in 2020.


Brief History of Chiangmai

 

Located at the northern part of Thailand, Chiangmai is the third largest city, after Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima. The city was historically important due to her proximity to the Ping River, which is a major tributary of the Chao Phraya River and major trading routes.

 

Translated as “a new city” in Thai, Chiangmai was founded in 1296 to replace the former capital, Chiang Rai during the Lanna Thai Kingdom. Lanna, loosely translated from Thai means “a million rice padi fields”. Chiangmai later was occupied by Myanmar in 1558 until 1774 where Siamese King Taksin overthrew the Myanmar ruler.

 

The older part of the city located in the west bank of Ping River used to be surrounded by walls and moat to prevent attacks from neighboring Myanmar Bama people and Mongol Empire. It is also where many of the ancient 13th and 14th century temples are located.

 

Design Inspiration

 

We stayed in The Inside House, a boutique hotel nestled in the heart of the old Chiangmai City located about 15 minutes away from the airport. Within several minutes upon arrival at the hotel entrance, I became mesmerized with the city instantly, especially with the Lanna architectural elements of the hotels and temples.


“The Lanna style can be beguilingly simple: stark white pavilions, stupas with octagonal bases, teak doors topped with floral wooden screens. The more ornate structures include wats with carved gold leaf motifs, detailed lacquering and Burmese stye-style stacked roofs with metal trims. The layout of temples reflects the Buddhist cosmology…" The Lanna way of life and its architecture were intertwined for hundreds of years, keeping the spatial proportions and rythms of a people who live close to the earth.”

(Quote taken from The New York Times article “The struggle to save Thai architecture”)


From left to right: Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple, Wat Phra Singh Woramahawihan Temple and Wat Pha Lat temple - Images taken by Yvonne Liao


 

“Lanna is a concept of simplicity and humility, coming from nature,”

Jullatat Kitibud, designer of modern Lanna buildings

(Quote taken from The New York Times article “The struggle to save Thai architecture”)


During our short stay, I fell in love with the intricate details of the hotel and temples; it felt like I was transported to another world where there is a harmonious spiritual balance between the people and the environment. Thai people are warm and friendly, and they seem to move at a slower synchronized rhythmic pace - never frenzied, never hurried. As a Buddhist country, I could feel the spiritual reverence and respect that Thai people have towards their people and surroundings. This is a refreshing contrast from the hustle and bustle of New York city, where the fast pace of life makes people move much faster along the busy streets that weave in between the large, cold, intimidating, yet faceless skyscrapers that dominate the large cities in the United States.

 

Curious to learn more about my design process? Click here to learn more.


Lanna Heart – Shoes that comes from the heart

 

And it is in Chiangmai that I derived the inspiration for my next shoe design, which is a pair of Mary-Jane flats. I decided to call her “Lanna Heart” because of my love for Chiangmai and the hotel we stayed. Nestled at the courtyard of the hotel is a huge bodhi tree. Its overarching foliage and gentle presence adds a layer of enchantment and peaceful spirituality to the hotel scenery. Commonly called the “tree of awakening” or “tree of wisdom”, the bodhi tree is large sacred fig tree where Siddhartha Gautama, who became known as the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment or buddhahood under this tree. The bodhi tree is also a symbol of enlightenment and awakening and its heart-shaped leaves represent the peace and happiness of developing one's heart.


Images of The Inside House Hotel - Bodhi tree at the center of the hotel, together with intricate design details that adorn all parts of the hotel, as well as the handwritten welcome card from the hotel staff - Images taken by Yvonne Liao


As explained by the staff, the hotel is called The Inside House because happiness comes from within our hearts. This simple, yet profound concept resonates with me because it serves as a timely reminder that we are responsible for our own happiness; we become happy when we do the things we love that come from our hearts.


Image taken by Yvonne Liao
Lanna Heart Mary-jane shoe design (Image taken by Yvonne Liao)

 

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery (The Little Prince)

 

Where to stay and visit in Chiangmai? Best things to do in Chiangmai

 

I highly recommend these places below to stay and visit if you are in Chiangmai. Transportation is very easy to get around in Chiangmai, and I opted to ask the hotel front desk to get a private taxi for us to get around. But if you are feeling more adventurous, you can definitely rent a motorcycle or tuk tuk to travel to different places.

 

1)    The Inside House - Beautiful and rustic boutique hotel located within the Chiangmai old city.


2)    Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple – Located about 40 minutes car ride away from the old city center one of the most famous temples in Thailand where relics of Buddha is said to be held.

 

3)    Wat Pha Lat temple – also called the sloping hill temple. Little is known about the history of this temple, but it is said to be one of the temples that Thai king Kue Na rested while he was on his way to enshrine the buddha relics at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple. I recommend this temple for its beautiful scenery and it is also less crowded than the bigger temples such as Was Phra That Doi Suthep.

 

4)    Elephant Nature Park - It is an elephant rescue and rehabilitation sanctuary in Northern Thailand, founded by famous elephant rights advocate, Saengduean Chailert. At this sanctuary, elephants are allowed to roam freely and visitors can choose between half-day to few days overnight trip to volunteer and help the elephants. My mum and I enjoyed the trip very much as we gained a lot of insights about elephants through the passionate tour guides.

 

5) Weekend Night Markets - there are a couple of night markets in Chiangmai, and we went to the Sunday night market along Ratchadamnoen Road that is about 15 minutes walking distance from our hotel. There are many interesting food and things to buy, and the most fascinating store I chanced upon was the cooked insects stall featuring crispy crickets, grasshoppers and silk worms amongst many other insect delicacies.



Street stall selling crisply insects (Image taken by Yvonne Liao)

6)    Oasis Spa - Definitely recommend going for some soothing and relaxing massage in Thailand. The prices are totally reasonable (compared to New York prices). Oasis Spa has several locations throughout Thailand, I have been to the location in Phuket and now, Chiangmai.

 

7)    Makkha Health and Spa - My favorite massage location in Chiangmai. There are several locations and I visited the Makkha Health & Spa Chiang Mai (Ancient House). I tried the 2 hour Thai massage and herbal ball treatment and the service was excellent. I highly recommend this service if you are the type who enjoys a rigorous massage to unlock your stiff muscles.


I hope this blog provides you with a little more insight behind my design inspirations. Want to learn more about my shoe designing process? Subscribe to my weekly newsletter to get updates on my upcoming footwear collection!


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