The first time I visited Chiang Mai in 2009, I remember walking out of the riverside Wororot Market and down Tha Pae Road toward the east gate of the Old City. Traditionally the main route into the walled city center, today the road is a mix of shophouse buildings built over different decades with varying degrees of charm. One building, older than most others, on the street stood out. It was three stories of dirty, faded yellow walls and intricate, though broken, wood carvings along the eaves. I was struck by the beauty of the decrepit building but, covered by advertisements and cheap souvenir stalls out front, it was also easy to overlook.
In December 2019 the 130-year-old mansion was reincarnated as a fine dining restaurant backed by some of Thailand’s leading restaurateurs serving northern Thai dishes. Originally Chiang Mai’s first general store, called Kiti Panit, the building is still owned by the same family and, while some of the structure had to be renovated and reinforced, all the decor comes from items found within the buildings after 50 years of being empty – from reclaimed wood to make the tables and medicines bottle from when the building housed a clinic to family heirlooms and photos. It’s gorgeous and upon hearing of its reopening, I immediately started pitching outlets to write about the eatery.
It was a perfect fit for Bangkok-based culture, design and architecture website Kooper.co. which resulted in my post, New Life for Kiti Panit, A Chiang Mai Legacy, as well as an upcoming story for THAI Airways’ inflight magazine, Sawasdee, on heritage homes that now boast some of Chiang Mai’s most unique restaurants.
Having always remembered this building from my first Thailand travels, being able to tour the premises and witness its rebirth offered a full-circle moment.
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