Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Paper handicrafts in Laos and Thailand

Wherever I travel I'm always on the look out for craft supplies. I'll always be a crafter, and I guess that finds me in places that are not always on the typical travellers' path. 

In Laos or Thailand you will find paper handicrafts in abundance. Sometimes the quality isn't the greatest, but there are a few places that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend for a visit.

Ban Xang Khong, Luang Prabang, Laos

The village of Ban Xang Khong, just a couple of kilometres from the city of Luang Prabang in Laos, has specialised for many years in manufacturing and selling products made from silk and Saa Paper (paper made from the bark of the Mulberry Tree).

Whether you are just passing through, on holiday or looking for a place to source from, this area is where you will be able to fill a couple of hours admiring the handicrafts and stocking up on souvenirs.

There are a number of little stores run by local people still using traditional methods to create beautiful handicrafts. What I enjoyed most is the opportunity to see items being entirely made by hand, including the Saa paper.

Ban Xang Khong - paper making

To be able to appreciate the diversity of products, you will have to wander through a number of shops, but the larger ones in the centre have the most variety.

How to get there:

Go to the North station (you can take the little wooden bridge if you go by bicycle). At the North station, continue for about 50 yards, and turn left (just after the petrol station). Then, go straight on. The village is on the left, along the Mekong. A great way to get there is by bicycle.

Bo Sang, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Most people head out to the Bo Sang handicraft centre in Chiang Mai on a tour, combining a visit to the silk, silverware and gem factories.

Is this a must do whilst in Chiang Mai, well it is if you are a keen crafter like myself or if you are looking for good quality handicrafts for souvenirs.

It is easy enough to get to independently, by bus, taxi or even Songtaew (a little more complex). We took a motorbike.

I didn't entirely know what to expect, anticipating something very touristy and people pushing to sell their wares. And it was a bit touristy, in terms of set up, but that just made it more enjoyable than having to struggle to communicate and understand what it was all about.

There is a well laid out 'tour' of the 'factory' where the paper umbrellas and parasols are made by hand. Each worker is responsible for a different stage of the process of whatever item they are making that particular day. 

Bo Sang - making handles

Bo Sang - mini umbrellas

After wandering round the production area, there's an area with local artists who are offering numerous choices of hand painted designs. These can be painted right there in front of you in minutes, onto items you have purchased in the shop or whatever you have with you: mobile phones, clothing, bags. Someone even had a design painted onto their shoulder.

Bo Sang - suitcase painting

I wasn't prepared for this opportunity, or the price. It is really very cheap, particularly when you realise that these designs will make a lovely hand painted gift for absolutely anyone.

After much deliberation, and consideration of my attire for the day, which really would have been a waste of a good painting. I settled on getting my bag decorated.

The result was absolutely lovely, and I have been sporting my bag with pride every where I venture, ever since.

I urge you to visit this place, just for this! Bring items to be painted with you take home a personalised souvenir for that special someone.

Getting there

Head South East, out along San Kamphaeng Road, from Chiang Mai city. Bo Sang is 8km, but you can't really miss it amidst the silk, gem and other showrooms in the area.

If you go there around the third weekend in January they hold the Bo Sang Umbrella & San Kamphaeng Handicrafts Fair each year, where all the local artisans compete to see who can make and decorate the best products. Now that would be so cool!

Have you been to any places where they make paper handicrafts by hand... I would love to hear your recommendations?


Indian Craft Export said...

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