January 6, 2015
When: 17-19th January 2015
Where: Bor Sang Village San Kamphaeng district
How to get there: Bor Sang village is on highway 1006. 6km east of Chiang Mai.
Legend has it that a Buddhist monk travelling back from neighbouring Myanmar, introduced the Saa umbrella to the villagers of Bor Sang over 100 years ago, simply as a practical way of protecting the holder from the sun and rain. Over time the villagers have added they own distinctive colours and style, from the use of local silk and cotton weaved in the nearby village of Sankampaeng (hence the festival bears both villages names) and by hand painting the umbrellas with intricate images of gaily coloured local plants and birds.
While the villagers once made these at times spectacular works of art, as a means of supplementing their meager earnings from rice farming, the demand for their skill has grown to a point where they now export the umbrellas, ranging from the giant parasols to the tiny umbrellas you find adorning your cocktail drink, all over the world. Their intricate and elaborate designs have given the villager’s of Bor Sang the nickname of the ‘Umbrella People’
The Bor Sang Umbrella Festival 2015 is held all along the main thoroughfare in the village of Bor Sang for three days, the street, its shops and houses are decorated with hundreds of all manner of colourful silk and Saa umbrellas, making for explosion of colour that is a delight to see. In the early evening the street takes on a new life when it is illuminated by hundreds of Traditional Lanna styled lanterns. These are the same colourful lanterns that are also seen through-out Chaing Mai, during the Yi Peng festival
That’s not all, during the three day festival there will be a a variety of shows by day and night. There is the grand procession of parasols, exhibitions, concerts featuring local bands, cultural performances, a food festival celebrating the local cuisine, all manner of stalls and shops selling a variety of local handcrafts including of course umbrellas. Added to this is the annual fiercely fought competition for the grandest umbrella and a beauty contest along with a traditional Thai fair. If you look hard enough you will see local people at work on making what is commonly said to be the best umbrellas in Thailand if not Asia.
While in the local area do try some of the traditional local food and drink, a few examples are given here.
Khao Soi Curry (Khao Soi, ข้าวซอย)
This traditional Lanna dish is one of the most popular treats for visitors to this part of Northern Thailand, it is a mild coconut based curry served over soft egg noodles and topped with crisp egg noodles to which you add optional additions of lime, onion, chilli and pickled cabbage.
Northern Thai Sausage (Sai Oua, ไส้อั่ว)
Or ‘Chiang Mai Sausage’ as it is often known. This tasty, spiced pork sausage is found through-out the North and is not for the faint hearted, the sausage fuses many of the signature Thai tastes; the sour of lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, the fiery heat of chillies and of course the all-important kick from galangal (ginger). It is normally found in spiral lengths but can be found as a hamburger style patties or meatballs. It is traditionally served with sticky rice and is cooked spiked on wooden skewers which once grilled can be eaten while you are on the go.
Maa Kratoop Rong (ม้ากระทืบโรง)
In truth the drink is a version of Lao Khao http://www.bangkoknightlife.com/bangkok-bar-fly/lao-khao/ (moon shine rice whiskey), with the addition of ‘health enhancing’ plants and herbs which the locals believe enhances power, alertness and most importantly acts as an aphrodisiac. I will leave the final comment on its merits to you.
This festival while not on the scale of Loy Kratong or Yi Peng is still a must see if you are in the neighbourhood, the workmanship in the umbrellas (and not forgetting the Lanna Lanterns) is truly stunning and the sight of so many colourful umbrellas and lanterns will stay in your memory for a long, long, time.