One of the best tourist attractions in Chiang Mai, Thailand is the Umbrella Factory. It’s popular with tourists and with tour groups from all over the world and one of Chiang Mai’s most visited places, but why?
The Umbrella Factory in Chiang Mai is a place where you can go to see paper umbrellas and handmade paper being made. It’s interesting as you can see every stage of the process it takes to make a paper umbrella. They start off by making handmade paper from mulberries. The mulberry leaves are soaked and mixed with a long wooden spatula until they become pulp paper. Then they are put onto a wire rack and spread out until they are in the shape of paper. Through various processes the paper is raked and pressed until it is the thinness of a typical sheet of handmade Thai paper. Then it is left to dry for several days.
The handmade paper that results is beautiful and world-famous. It’s not just plain paper, but has a lovely natural rough texture to it and you can see the dark purple mulberry flowers and leaves that are also pressed into the paper. The paper is also used at the Umbrella Factory in Chiang Mai to make paper umbrellas, handmade paper greeting cards, handmade gift wrap, handmade gift bags, photograph albums, bookmarks and much more.
The Umbrella Factory also has an enormous gift shop where you can buy all of the products that are made there. As every item is about 50% of the price of the same products at the Thai markets or shops, it’s a wonderful place to buy gifts. They also sell hand-carved wooden statues, wood frogs that make a croaking sound when stroked with a stick, and lots of hand-made traditional Thai children’s toys.
The best thing about the Umbrella Factory though is that you can get any design you want hand-painted on a piece of clothing, bag, purse, umbrella, camera bag, t shirt or anything else you bring with you, while you wait. Every time my parents’ go to the Umbrella Factory in Chiang Mai, they take something with them to be hand-painted. My mother now has a camera bag hand-painted with a beautiful butterfly, a purse painted with flowers, and my father has a hunting vest with a hand-painted cobra on the back of it. Each hand-painted item takes less than 15 minutes and the cost is around 40 baht ($1.25).
You can get to the Umbrella Factory by joining one of the factory tours that you can book at any travel agent or hotel. They normally cost around $10 and will take you to the Umbrella Factory, the Teak Wood Carving Factory, the Silk Factory and the Jade Factory. Or, you can hire a taxi for around $15 to $20 for a morning, and he will take you to any of the factories you want to visit, and wait for you outside. Both are good options as, on the tour you meet other tourists, but with a taxi driver it’s more private and usually faster.
The Umbrella Factory in Chiang Mai is a marvelous place to visit for the whole family. Dad will love getting his jacket painted with something unique no-one back home will have, and mum and the kids will enjoy the gifts and toys in the gift shop as well as the enormous hand-painted umbrellas.