Mai is Thailand's major producer of local crafts. It's rich
history, diverse ethnic groups and influences from neighbouring
Myanmar (Burma) and Laos, have all contributed to the variety
and quality of handicrafts produced here.
While Chiang Mai has gone upmarket in recent years, you
can still find competitively priced silk, wooden carvings,
art, hand painted parasols and hand-made paper - especially
in the handicraft villages around the Sankampaeng district
of Chiangmai. Many producers are located along the main
road around the villages.
In the centre of Chiang Mai, the Night Bazaar, offers masses
of handicrafts, silver jewellry and local hilltribe products.
Open every evening, it's also a good place to find bargains,
eat, or simply watch the world go by.
Pae Road runs from the old Nawarat bridge to Tha Pae Gate
- and offers a shopping extravaganza. Tha Pae Gate - traditionally
considered the main entrance to the old moated city attracts
many shoppers to its top end handicraft boutiques, antique
shops, restaurants and bars. It's also excellent for funky
Chiang Mai is also famous for its excellent quality furniture.
Shipping agents can take care of transporting items to your
country, and often the shop will arrange. For further details
of shipping- see essential
village of Bosang just outside Chiang Mai on the
Sankampaeng road, has been making its painted handmade umbrellas
for the more than 200 years. Nobody knows why umbrellas
are found in this particular village or from where the craft
originated, although it is widely speculated that the skill
originated in China, and was brought to Chiangmai. Bosang
produces beautifully painted umbrellas made from local Saa
paper and bamboo to protect against the sun, rather than
Where to Find: Go by yourself, just south of the
city, or take a tour of all the handicraft villages.
Made from the bark of a local tree, Saa paper makes great
gifts. Used as an umbrella covering, for painting, lanterns
and stationery products, the paper comes in many colours
and is meticulously made by hand. Bark is taken from the
Saa tree and boiled for around three hours, then pounded
with large wooden mallets against tree stumps until it becomes
mush. After pounding it is thrown into large concrete vats
and stirred with long bamboo poles until flakes rise to
the surface. These flakes are lifted out with blue screens
on wood frames. Each screen measures approximately 1 1/2
by 2 feet and the flakes settle on the screen while the
water runs through. The screens are then set in the sunlight
to dry producing wonderfully textured paper.
Where to Find: Visit the "factory" where
the paper is produced at the Bosang handicraft centre
on the outskirts south of Chiang Mai City. (Close to the
textiles are a specialized group of fabrics and designs
created in northern Thailand. Traditional Lanna fabric and
clothing are much different from what we see in the West.
Lanna garments are not cut and seamed, but rather they are
squares and rectangles of fabric that are folded, tucked
or joined in other ways. Within the squares and rectangles
are various designs, borders and embroidery.
Where to Find: Styles and designs vary depending
on which ethnic group has produced them and the motifs will
identify a clan or village. You can buy textiles at the
many handicraft shops in Chiang Mai and the Night Bazaar
on Chan Klan road.
Renowned Thai silk has a wonderfully lustrous quality
but is more suitable for tailored garments rather flowing
gowns. Many shops offer competitive prices depending on
the weight texture of the garment.
Where to Find: Around the Amari Rincome are a number
of shops and old family-run silk shops like Patcharin Thai
Silk (348 Tapae Road) offer good buys at around $10 a metre
for quality cloth. Malai Come near Tapae Gate, (279 Tapae
Road) has a great range of silk scarves starting at around
Chiang Mai is probably best known for its traditional Gold-Leaf
Lacquerware. Patterns are traditional northern Thai
art forms and are still made with great care at some of
Chiang Mai's oldest Lacquerware centres. The process was
originally brought to northern Thailand by the Tai Khern
people of Chiang Toong, Burma, a few hundred years ago and
is now one of Chiang Mai's leading crafts. Bamboo is used
as the base wood for many of the high quality Lacquerware
items while other woods like Mango are used for lower quality
Where to Find: Sankampaeng, or Hang Dong just south
of Chiangmai on Highway 108, shows this special northern
Thai cottage industry with all the various designs and styles
of Lacquerware in factories on both sides of the road.
Ceramics - Celadon
Celadon, with its delicate green and blue tones, has long
been produced in the North. The blending of local clays
and wood ash to make the distinctive glazes has been passed
from one generation to another for centuries. Siam Celadon
& Tea House at 158 Tapae Road, a magnificently restored,
wooden mansion specialises in Celadon pottery. Prices are
reasonable (a two foot Celadon lamp, around US$80 and a
tea set $25).
Where to Find: Tapae Road and the Sankampaeng area.
A traditional art, silversmithing in Chiang Mai began centuries
ago along Wualai Road, an area still known as the Silver
village producing many traditional silver items such as
trays, bowls, and boxes.
Where to Find: Tapae Road, Wualai Road and the Sankampaeng
The area around Chiang Mai is home to a number of different
hilltribes with their own customs and crafts who produce
beautifully crafted silver jewellry, colourful embroideries
and hand-woven textiles.
Art and Collectibles
Pae Road is one of the best places to find collectibles
like Tribal and primitive art from around the region; Tibetan
ceremonial textiles, Yao priest silk embroideries, Sipsong
Panna paintings and other fascinating finds. Custom made
silver and gold jewelry using with precious and semi precious
stones is also a good buy here.
Where to Find: Tha Pae Rd:
Clothes etc., Head to
the vast Central Airport Plaza on the airport road
for local deals Popular with Thai teens the fashion outlets
here often include western sizes. Lanna Village - a new
attraction, has several floors of handicrafts, interior
design products and souvenirs at almost night market prices.