I visit Chiang Mai’s Umbrella “factory”
On my last week of classes, myself and three others jumped on a Sawng-Thaew and headed about 40 minutes out of the center of town to get to Bor Sang Village.
We really had no idea what to expect in terms of how far away the location was, but the time whizzed by quickly. We passed by a Chinatown area, as well as countless temples sitting by the sides of freeways. There always seemed to be something new to look at, despite the fact we had been living here for almost two months.
We passed my ukulele back and forth, playing songs and singing together.
Finally, we arrived at the Umbrella Factory.
We asked our Sawng-Thaew driver to wait for us while we explored the factory and the surrounding area.
We entered in the building, which mainly consisted of a massive, high-ceiling gift shop packed tightly with local art and souvenirs. Colorful lanterns brightly lit up the space.
Then, we made our way out into the courtyard, which had a little grassy area with plumeria trees, surrounded by shade structures, under which, crafters worked.
We walked through the factory, which smelled wonderful, like sun-dried pumpkin seeds. Sandalwood bases were being carved at the first station, so I assume the shavings were a heavy contributor of the aroma. In the next area, bamboo twigs (called Muay Buhrak) were being bent into shape by quick-fingered Thai women. The skeletons of umbrellas slowly took form. We also saw colorful paper being made from scratch, with sheets of dyed fiber drying on racks.
Next were the painting booths, where Thai artists painted images onto bags, shirts, iPhone cases, and umbrellas. I got an elephant painted on my ukulele for only 100 baht! Definitely my favorite souvenir from the trip.
Besides watching the umbrella makers and the painters, and doing a bit of gift shopping, the factory itself didn’t offer much. However, the trip out here was well worth the 45 minute drive.
Exploring the area around the factory was a great look into the world of Thai craftsmen. I wandered into woodcarver shops filled to the brim with wooden wonders. It felt surreal to be in a giant maze of carved trinkets and furniture. I walked into a massive woodcarver’s shop, and even saw the owner slaving away at a massive armoire I recognized decorations that are commonly found in Thai restaurants in America, as well as the early forms of spirit houses or elephant statues seen around Thailand. It was fascinating to see these goods in their first stages.
We also passed by rolls of the same fabric that are used to make the baggy pants found throughout Thailand. I’m not sure where the fabric was (ehem) fabricated, but this definitely gave some insight into the origins of the thousands of pants.
Suddenly, a massive monsoon hit, and I ran for cover so that my newly painted ukulele wouldn’t melt away. The four of us had split up to explore, and it was a bit hectic trying to locate each other so that we could get back in the Sawng-Thaew, but soon we were well on our way back to our hostel. The irony was that none of us had umbrellas.