Friday, May 20, 2011

Chiang Mai Bosan Umbrella Village

By now you should have read about Songkran, which is Thai new year. If you missed that post, you can use the Blog Archive links on the right side of this page to view it. We were in Chiang Mai for Songkran, but we also had time to see the area and experience some new things before we got all wet.

My Grandma Nita suggested that we visit Chiang Mai. She's been there before, and remembers the elephants, hill tribes, and painted umbrellas. She loved the painted umbrellas, so we made sure to visit a bosan umbrella village, where we got to see how umbrellas are made.

The umbrellas are framed with bamboo and covered in either cloth or saa paper. Saa paper is the really thin but sturdy paper that theThais make from saa tree pulp. Here is Craig standing next to a saa tree.

The first step to make saa paper is to pound the pulp until it is soft.

The next step is to soak the pulp in water, stirring occasionally. This will separate the fibers used to make paper from the rest of the tree.

After a few hours, the paper fibers float to the top of the water. A sieve is used to skip the white paper fibers from the water.

The final step is to allow the white pulp to dry, after which it is formed into a sheet of saa paper!

Artisans use the paper as the canopy material for the bamboo umbrellas. The bamboo is cut and assembled by hand. Here is one artisan assembling a bamboo frame.

Here is another pasting the saa paper canopy onto the bamboo frame.

Craig really enjoyed the umbrella making, and even decided he wanted to learn a bit more about how to make them. So, he sat himself down next to one of the artisans and took an improptu lesson. The artisan happily obliged, and taught Craig how to put the finishing touches onto a pink umbrella (because Mommy's favorite color is pink).

Along with umbrella making, the village also has umbrella painting. You can choose to have your umbrella painted with just about anything, from elephants... dragons...

...or orchids.

You can even get your clothes painted. Craig wanted a dragon painted on his pants. His mom let him do it (not me!)

Here is Dragon Craig!

The umbrella village was really cool. The craftsmanship was top notch and the artisans were all really friendly and happy to teach us a little about this unique trade.

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