The Beautiful Umbrellas of Chiang Mai

I took notice of the beautiful Thai umbrellas from my early trips to Thailand. Chiang Mai was the place where I acquired a closer acquaintance with them. We visited the Bo Sang Handicraft Center on the San Kamphaeng Road just a little outside Chiang Mai. So come along with me and discover (or rediscover) the hand made umbrellas of Chiang Mai.

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Rom Borsang

Rom means umbrella in Thai. So ‘rom’ is the famous handicraft of Borsang village in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The handicraft center had eye catching displays of umbrellas. They also take you through the umbrella making process. one of the best explanations of the umbrella making process can be read here.

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The Spirit House

But before we get into umbrella making, you might have noticed the spirit houses outside Thai homes or work places. It is an offering to the spirits dwelling that might be dwelling in the area and may get disturbed because of a new house or workplace coming up! A spirit house is a peace offering to the spirits of the area.

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The Sa Paper

The two key ingredients of the umbrella are the sa paper and the wooden frame. Sa is Thai for mulberry. So the Sa bark is taken off the tree and boiled. It is then pounded by wooden mallets. It is further treated. Finally they are dried in the frame on wooden frames.

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The Wooden Umbrella Frames

These are the wooden frames on which the umbrellas are mounted. Both the paper and the frame are handmade.

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Making the Wooden Frame

The making of the frame requires complex hole drilling in the pieces of wood, which is what this woman was doing with dexterity!

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Bo Sand Handicraft Center

Finally the paper after further treatment is mounted on the frame and then painted. We were told that it is the process of making it waterproof that makes the Chiang Mai umbrellas unique. It is done with persimmon fruit and oil but the exact formula is a secret.

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A Beautiful Display

The painted umbrellas are a delight to watch. It was with a lot of difficulty I managed not to buy one to carry home.

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Hand Fans

The factory also had other artifacts as well, hand fans caught my eye too! Conversing with the people working there was difficult as we did not speak each-other’s language but they were quite cheerful about me going around clicking pictures.

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The Paints for the Umbrella

An array of paints were to be seen all around the place! And they not only specialized painting on the umbrellas but on other stuff too.

An Artisan at Bo Sang

For example, this beautiful lady offered to paint my white cell phone in the ravishing colors of Chiang Mai. She could do it on my jeans or handbag too! But the chicken that I am, I did not take up on the offer. I now wonder if I should have taken it up!

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20 thoughts on “The Beautiful Umbrellas of Chiang Mai”

  1. I got myself two small ones. Just for the heck of it. 🙂

    I think I was also writing about these umbrellas, probably it’s buried in drafts somewhere.

  2. Nice to see a post about lovely umbrellas. In China I wanted to buy several umbrellas to gift people. I was told that according to chinese superstition, umbrellas are not to be gifted to near and dear ones.

  3. So, Mai is the spring of Thai Umbrellas? The place is so serene and mythical as beautiful as the umbrellas. The best part is they are hand- made spilling creativity and splendor all the way. They sand papers are done well! No wonder the recipe remains unsaid. Thank you for the post Mrithula Ji.

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I am Mridula Dwivedi, I love to travel! I started my travel blog in 2005. I have been going places since! For more details do check out my media kit! In another life I did a Ph.D. from IIT Kanpur. I was a professor when I quit my job in 2015.

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