In addition to their deliciously famous Khao Soi Noodles, Chiang Mai is also well known for it's silk and hand-woven textiles. Along San Kamphaeng Road lay many factories and show rooms creating and displaying silk, silverware and gems. Approximately 8km south east of this northern hub of Thailand, you'll find local artisans spending their work days crafting the world famous Sa Paper umbrellas and parasols at the Bo Sang Umbrella Village Handicraft Centre.
Fun Fact: Sa paper is produced from the bark of the mulberry tree.
From creating the bamboo struts, covering them with paper and hand painting, every step from start to finish can be seen on the short walk around the production area. The end of the area features several talented artists who hand paint their designs on the umbrellas and parasols.
While customers normally have them paint an item purchased at Bo Sang, you can also bring in just about anything of your own to be hand painted. Once you choose an artist, feel free to negotiate the work, design and price!
So how does a country known for it's food and agriculture come to be known for something as beautiful and delicate as it's parasols? It's rumored that a wandering Thai monk was given respite from the sun and rain by a Burmese woman via a parasol. He was enthralled by it's beauty and delicate but useful nature, so he spent time learning the art and then brought it home to his temple in Bo Sang. The locals learned the art and embraced it during the seasons they were off from field work.
Adjacent to the outdoor production area of the Bo Sang Handicraft Center, is a shop that sells many of the umbrellas, parasols and other products made at the center. Open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., you will also find silk, cotton, lacquerware, ceramics, silverware, leather ware, woodcarvings and antiques. Keen to the traveler's limited luggage woes, they smartly offer a shipping service so don't worry if you end up buying more than you can bring home.
Best time to visit: Each year, during the third week of January, the town of Bo Sang hosts an Umbrella Festival where local artists compete and show off their wares.