Bor Sang, located on highway 1006 heading east from Chiang Mai towards Sankampaeng, a short 6 km drive from town, used to be the typical sleepy rural village where to have a glimpse of two storey wooden houses and rice fields. Throughout the times, villagers in tiny hidden lanes have perfected the craft to create the country’s most famous umbrellas with paper made from the Saa (mulberry) tree. While at first it was just a hobby that supplemented Bor Sang villagers’ earnings from annual rice crops, with time the production of these umbrellas prospered, and this prompted the villagers, in 1941, to establish a handicraft cooperative. This same cooperative today organizes the annual Bor Sang Umbrella and Sankampaeng Handicraft Festival.
Bor Sang Umbrella and Sankampaeng Handicraft Festival is held in January every year. This three-days annual event fully celebrates the village’s reputation as the production place for Thailand’s most famous umbrellas, sold all over the country. Nowadays, tourists from all over the world visit the village to study the process and skills that go into making a handicraft entirely from natural products, and to buy exquisitely hand-painted dainty parasols made from mulberry paper and silk decorated with beautiful floral motifs painted in dazzling colours.
For over 100 years, Bor Sang village has been associated with the production of umbrellas made from Saa paper derived from mulberry tree bark. According to local history, a monk travelled to neighboring Myanmar, where he came across Saa paper umbrellas that offered protection against both sun and rain. Legend has it that he returned skilled with the production technique and introduced the umbrellas to the elders of Bor Sang village. These, with the times, added their own artistic skills to create a distinctive colorful and very practical umbrella. The villagers, using silk and cotton weaved at neighboring Sankampaeng, eventually added a second line of umbrellas decorated with images of the north, flowers and birds and mountains, all intricately hand-painted.
Today, Bor Sang village exports both Saa paper and silk umbrellas; Bor Sang parasols are popular decorative and gift items sought after by visitors from all over the world. They are seen at trade shows in a variety of sizes, from giant parasols that offer a shady canopy from the sun, to minuscule variations that adorn popular cocktail drinks.
I arrived at the place on a Saturday late afternoon, the second day of the festival. I had visited Bor San many times in the past, but I assure you that nothing quite compares with the buzz that permeates the village during this colorful event. I started my walk at a time when not so many people were around, and enjoyed to the full the scene of houses along the road colourfully decorated in Lanna style and illuminated with hand-made lanterns. Literally thousands of craftily painted umbrellas of different sizes, from the smallest to amazingly big parasols, are hung from the rafters and beams of adorned houses and shops, transforming Ban Bor Sang into a picturesque village.
There is a grand procession of local products and a variety of handicrafts for sale. Bor Sang Umbrella and Sankampaeng Handicraft Festival fair is livened up by car parades displaying decorated umbrellas, a food festival serving northern-style Khantoke meals prepared fresh for your delight, displays of traditional village life and beauty contest parades, including the famous Miss Bor Sang pageant.
Bands play short concerts, and there is local entertainment in the form of a variety of exhibitions, shows and cultural performances at different times of day and night, including a competition to design the year’s most attractive umbrella. The audience is a mix of both tourists and residents all dazzled by the sight of Bor Sang’s innovative handicraft skills.
The festival starts from the entrance and ends at the end of Ban Bor Sang village. If you are in Chiang Mai during this time, do not miss the opportunity to see an event that fully represents village hospitality and charm at its very best.
FOR MORE INFORMATION contact the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Chiang Mai Office, +66 (0)53 248604, (0)53 248607 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Bor Sang Umbrella Festival on You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iilckCoS7Y