In northern Thailand, Bo Sang is all set to celebrate the Umbrella Festival, one of the world's most colourful festivals, which celebrates the skills of local artisans and the beauty of their crafts in a magical display of indescribable delicacy
Located just nine kilometres from Chiang Mai, the dynamic northern Thai city, where tradition and modernity live side-by-side, Bo Sang may not be the most famous place in the world, but it is the home of one of the most picturesque festivals anywhere.
For two centuries, this small town has been home to artists and craftsmen who produce exquisite parasols, flowers, fans, lanterns and other handicrafts made of hand-painted mulberry-bark paper, silk and cotton. Each year, these dazzling creations, light and bright as giant butterflies, are the heart and focus of the annual Bo Sang Umbrella Festival.
Part of the ancient Lanna kingdom, Bo Sang, boasts beautiful temples, fertile paddy fields and traditional wooden houses; the locals maintain a simple lifestyle but have built an international reputation on the delicate art of hand-painted handicrafts. Craft shops line the main street, decorating their facades with vivid, floral-painted silk and paper, and during the festival the village is transformed into a rainbow scene in traditional Thai style. There are contests, exhibitions, theatre, music, and a variety of shows and parades, including the annual beauty pageant, that fill the streets with magic and colour.
The local craftsmen make a range of articles, but it is the umbrellas that are the most famous. Made out of coloured silk, cotton and saa paper (produced from mulbery bark), and hand-painted with delicate floral motifs and exotic birds, these exquisite parasols are designed to protect from the tropical sun. But although they look fragie, they are extremely practical as they are treated with a special oil which makes them resistant to water so they can double as umbrellas, too.