Colorful umbrellas make excellent souvenirs after the factory tour.// (c) GTH & Nathan DePetris

In Thailand’s north, Chiang Mai, the cooler weather affords many eco tourism adventures year-round. In addition to tiger preservers and elephant camps, eco-conscious adventurers can visit cooperatives that make traditional umbrellas and weave silk fabric.

While all of the sustainable tourism options and attractions benefit the local communities around Chiang Mai, incorporating a visit to the Handicrafts Village into your upcoming vacation also supports and sustains traditional handicraft workers whose art is in jeopardy of being lost as rural areas industrialize. You’ll have the opportunity to help communal Umbrella and Silk ‘factories’ that support dozens of workers.

These unique artisanal umbrellas are made from the paper of the Sa tree, and demonstrations include the making of the stems, paper and the intricate painting process. Artists in the coop can also decorate designs onto any surface. During your visit, you can add launder-proof designs to bags, shirts, pants, and even the back of cell phones.

Hundreds of umbrella styles can be found at the factories in Chiang Mai, Thailand, including these classic black and white ones.// (c) GTH & Nathan DePetris

Nearby at the silk factory, visitors are shown the process of making silk from the worm to the loom. After the educational demonstrations showcasing traditional techniques, there are ample shopping opportunities and a large store where the co-op’s goods are available for purchase.

You can buy with confidence here from local artisans and take home unique souvenirs while also supporting the community. Sometimes, you can even meet the artisan who wove the cloth or made the umbrella, painted the design or embroidered the silk. What better souvenir than a chance to interact with the artist that your purchases are supporting while winding up with a memento with meaning after your arrival home.

If You Go:
Chiang Mai handicraft village
Chiang Mai / Tourism Authority of Thailand
Thailand’s gay travel information website