I’ll always be a crafter, and I guess that finds me in places that are not always on the typical travellers’ path. Back home I make my own cards, so on my travels I will search out paper craft supplies to incorporate into these.
In Thailand you will find paper handicrafts in abundance. Sometimes the quality isn’t the greatest, but one of my favourites is Bo Sang, in the North, close to Chiang Mai.
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.
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.
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.
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 in Thailand where they make paper handicrafts by hand… I would love to hear your recommendations?