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Chiang Mai Shopping

What to buy and where in Chiang Mai


Shopping Overview

Chiang 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.

Tha 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 paintings.

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 info.

What to Buy and Where

Hand-painted Umbrellas
The 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 the rain.

Where to Find: Go by yourself, just south of the city, or take a tour of all the handicraft villages.

Saa Paper
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 umbrellas) .

Lanna Textiles
Lanna 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 $3.

Thai Lacquerwork
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 pieces.

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 area.

Hilltribe Crafts
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
Tha 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.


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