Borsarng Umbrella Festival
18 - 20 January, 2002
It can be said that Chiangmai Province is the heart of Thai handicrafts. Visitors take delight in admiring, purchasing and taking the various products back to their home countries. In fact, it is very probable that there are more Chiangmai produced handicrafts scattered around the world than there are in Chiangmai itself. Such is the importance of local, cottage industry handicrafts that two festivals will soon be upon us and for first-time visitors, these are a must to see.
The first festival (held annually at this time of year) is the Borsarng Umbrella Festival held, naturally, at the village of Borsarng. The village is on the outskirts of Chiangmai City, about 9 kilometers east along the Sankampaeng Road, and any songtaew (red taxi) will be happy to take you there . The Festival held during January 18 - 20, 2002 is a big event for the villagers (as well as giving visitors an insight into rural Thai "fun-days"). Many villagers will dress in their finest Lanna Thai costumes. There will be a Festival Parade of brightly decorated floats, folk dancing, beauty contests and all the expected hubbub of gongs, cymbals and drums.
Every day in Borsarng, you will see umbrellas as you've rarely seen before. Umbrellas to keep the rain off, parasols to keep the sun off, tiny umbrellas to decorate a cocktail glass and huge umbrellas to enhance your garden, patio or terrace. Some are made from stretched cotton over bamboo and are undecorated plain and simple while others, made from specially prepared mulberry (saa) paper are a riot of color and exotic scenes of Thailand and the Orient. These are always popular with visitors to ship back home.
The art of umbrella making is not new to the village of Borsarng. It has been perfected over several centuries but the origin of the skills have been lost in time. One story suggests that as the Dtai (Thai ancestors) migrated south, from their native Yunnan Province in China, they brought with them their large, many tiered, ceremonial umbrellas. A family of these migrants eventually settled in what is now Borsarng and began making umbrellas both ceremonial and personal as a means of livelihood. Another oft-related tale says that a boy from Borsarng, who had become a monk, travelled far and wide. During his wanderings in Burma, he was presented with an umbrella as he was without protection against sun and rain. The monk inquired of the maker as to how this useful piece of equipment was crafted. Upon being told, he noted the details. Eventually the monk returned to his native Borsarng and, as he had been gifted with a wondrous umbrella, he, in turn, gifted the knowledge of umbrella making to his fellow villagers.
Whatever the story, Borsarng is certainly the"Umbrella Making Capital of Thailand. It's recorded in the Guinness Book of Records when the villagers made the world's largest umbrella to honor the Southeast Asian Games of 1999. Every visitor will enjoy an excursion to this lively village especially during the festival days. Take the opportunity, a 20-minute red taxi ride to Borsarng will delight the eye and provide a memorable visit for photographs (and umbrellas!) a plenty.
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