Chiang Mai Travel Guide -> Sightseeing -> Handicraft Shopping In Borsang

The North of Thailand and Chiang Mai in particular, is famous for its ancient arts and crafts, among them the umbrella-making, wood carving, lacquerware, and silverware (which includes hilltribe jewellery). Bronze crafting and silk workshops can also be found, although bronze crafting is generally more associated with the Central Plains of Thailand, and silk weaving more with the Northeast (Isan), respectively. All these products can be bought in the shops of Chiang Mai, and, of course, at the famous Night Market on Chang Klang Road, but you can also visit the studios and workshops where these items are produced and watch the process of manufacturing.
Umbrella Makers
The Umbrella Makers at Work
Borsang, a village east of Chiang Mai, is the umbrella making centre, but a lot of other handicraft industries can be found on the way. Most of these "studios", however, today operate  factory-style and although the products are still made by hand, you should not expect to find unique, singular pieces. Most of the shops go towards mass production and you will see e.g. long shelves with hundreds of identical wooden elephants.

Very popular as a gift or souvenir (because of its light weight, but also because of their beauty), and also a real Lanna specialty, are lacquerware products. Boxes, trays, figurines, etc. are made of bamboo and then covered with three layers of black lacquer. After the black lacquer has dried, the surface is painted: all the parts that are meant to remain black are covered with a sticky yellow substance. After this the object is coated with a new layer of transparent lacquer. When the transparent lacquer is almost dry, all of the surface is covered with gold leaf. After 20 hours, the object is rinsed with water and  the gold leaf that was on the sticky substance is washed away. What remains are the golden ornaments on the black lacquer. You can see demonstrations of this technique in the workshops of Chiang Mai. (The lacquer panels and door frames at the temples of Chiang Mai were made the same way).

Fan Production
The Fans are decorated with Colourful Paintings
The craft for which Chiang Mai is perhaps most famous is umbrella-making. The umbrella-making centre is located in Borsang, as already mentioned. You can visit the workshop and watch the umbrella-makers at work. First, the frames are assembled from bamboo. After that, the umbrellas cover are made of silk or cotton or "sah", a paper made from tree bark. They are covered with hand-painted motifs; mostly very colourful. Fans and lampshades are also produced. All items come in many sizes from tiny to enormous.

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Last Updated 10.02.2007