My favorite time in Chiang Mai was not actually spent in Chiang Mai, but in the areas outside the city. Two of the top spots we visited were Bor Sang and the Elephant Poopoopaper Park.
Bor Sang, also sometimes called Bo Sang, is a smaller village located about 30 minutes outside of Chiang Mai. It’s known for one thing, and a pretty amazing thing at that. Umbrellas! The Bor Sang village is dedicated entirely to the art of paper umbrella making.
The umbrellas are made 100% by hand, in a series of painstaking processes (at least they look painstaking) which you can watch for free at the umbrella factory. From carving the wood to making the paper by hand (dying, straining and all), to painting designs (which incidentally are not traditional, they were kept plain until the past 50 or so years), the entire thing process is impressive.
The villages started making umbrellas after a monk discovered the art in China an returned with supplies and instructions. They were initially used as gifts to monks and only used locally, but as they grew in popularity they were produced on a larger scale and distributed more widely. A walk down the main road of the town reveals dozens of cute shops with umbrellas for sale in all colors and sizes.
Elephant PooPoo Paper Park
Yes, that is the real name. And yes, it is really made of elephant poop. The park lived up to its name — it was full of mounds of elephant poopoo, baking, drying, and being transformed into beautiful, colorful paper.
We hopped into the yellow songthaw from the Chiangpuk Bus station for a mere 20baht, zipping down the main road in a truck full of locals. As we approached our stop we panicked; how do we tell the driver to stop? We glimpsed a weird button on the roof, but unsure whether it was a panic button – not sure why a tuk tuk would include a panic button nor why this would even enter my mind – we were reluctant to push it. Luckily a random man saw us looking flustered and quickly hit it for us and we stopped in time, smiling a quick thanks. We then trekked about 1km up the road to get to the park entrance. On our way to the park we passed Tiger Kingdom, a not so friendly place (animal cruelty alert) where they drug the tigers into submission so you can play with them. Our moral compasses pointed in the right direction as we breezed by en route to cruelty-free poo.
The Elephant PooPoo Paper park is quite environmentally friendly and not as gross as it sounds. They basically boil the poop until only the fibers (all the grasses the elephants eat) remain, turn it into a pulp, dye it, spread it on screens into paper, then dry it in the sun. We spent a while wandering and browsing the funny items in the gift shop before heading to the road to flag a songthaw back. While trying to flag our ride I mistakenly flagged a truck full of pineapples. Shortly thereafter, I mistakenly flagged a DHL truck (it was also yellow). Third time’s a charm, though, and we got our transport back!
💲Budget Tip | Take a songthaew (shared – the white or yellow one) from the northern bus station, as described above. It’s only 20 baht per person, and you can flag anyone going back on your way back. If you take the red taxi one, it’ll be at least 150 roundtrip.
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