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Chiang Mai, Thailand, is a fantastic city for a lot of reasons.
It’s currently the de facto digital nomad capital of the world, but there’s plenty more for you to see than a load of people chained to their MacBook Airs in co-working spaces.
As with much of Thailand, a lot of what draws people to Chiang Mai is dripping with colour. So why would anyone want to shoot Chiang Mai street photography in monochrome?
The only answer I really have for this is because street photography.
Regardless, whether you shoot in colour or monochrome or with your phone or with a vintage lens on a Sony mirrorless like I did, Chiang Mai has a fair few places you can head to for your street photography.
With enough time, each part of the city would really offer something different.
To keep this sensible though, and to no more than a single day’s shooting, here are two places I suggest in particular.
Chiang Mai street photography at Warorot market
A good place to start your day of street photography in Chiang Mai is in and around Chinatown’s Warorot market, which sits out to the east of the old city.
It’s particularly good if you’re looking for activity. Both inside and out, there’s always human traffic, and plenty of architecture for you to incorporate in your shots too.
Climb a bridge for a better vantage point, or find some natural frames within the bowels of the huge old building.
There’s also a lot of static objects in the non-tourist backstreets to add some flavour to your set.
Chiang Mai’s songthaews
The easiest way to get around Chiang Mai while shooting your street photography is by renting a scooter. If you’re not too confident with doing that, a bicycle is almost as good.
However, should you wish to try out some local public transport, the songthaews are what you’ll be dealing with.
These red tucks are everywhere, and for the most part follow set routes.
Catching one is simple. Simply flag it down as it passes and climb into the back.
However, you should never ask how much the trips costs.
You can ask if it’s going to where you want to be, just to make sure, but never ask how much it costs.
Doing so immediately shows you up as the naive tourist you are, and the price you’re quoted will reflect that.
Just try to look like you know what you’re doing and pay 20 baht when you alight.
Chiang Mai street photography in the temple
My second recommendation for shooting some street photography in Chiang Mai is at some of the city’s many, many temples.
This might sound counter-intuitive but, so long as you don’t lose sight of what you’re trying to achieve with your photography, you can find plenty of opportunity there.
Just ignore the usual temple shots seen in travel blogs, concentrate on the people and the details, and remember to tell your stories.
Personally, I like to stay a little incognito when making photographs at a temple, and shooting with a small Sony mirrorless camera helps with that.
They work very well with vintage lenses too, so if you shoot street photography and / or legacy glass, why not see what’s new in the Sony range on Amazon?
Your Chiang Mai street photography
Chiang Mai has far more locations for your street photography than just the Warorot market and the temples.
The old town is good for capturing scenes of tourists and backpackers, and has the weekly Sunday market too.
The Nimman area is a hotspot for the digital nomad types, while neighbourhoods like Santitham will reveal a more local flavour.
Each will allow you to tell a completely different story with your Chiang Mai street photography.
Just don’t try to do them all in one day.
All the images here were shot with the vintage Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8 on a Sony mirrorless camera.
You can read my full review of this classic lens, or go get your own set-up today! You’ll need:
- one Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8 (find yours on eBay here)
- one Sony Alpha mirrorless camera (find yours on Amazon here)
- one m42-NEX adapter (find yours on Amazon here)
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