Keen to get out into the countryside we hired motorbikes and set off, the plan being to visit Bo Sang Handicraft Centre and then go in search of waterfalls. My yellow 125cc felt like a step up from the 50cc I drive in Phnom Penh and the surge of power as I took off gave me a thrill every time. The city is much bigger than I'd thought and we wove among busy traffic along roads lined with shop fronts for about an hour before the buildings gave way to an expanse of tree dotted hills.
"Bo Sang is known as the 'Umbrella Village'... And is famed for handmade parasols made from bamboo and rice paper. The village has made umbrellas for generations and the art has been handed down through a small number of families that live here and is said to have originated from a Thai Buddhist monk who learned the practice on a pilgrimage to Burma." (http://www.embracechiangmai.com)
Umbrellas of every size and colour were on display, some painted a single colour, some displaying intricate hand drawn patterns or pictures and some made from recycled paper inlaid with rose petals. Umbrella seems too clunky a term. They are more like parasols, delicate and beautiful. For taking a turn about the garden or displaying as a focal point.
The artisans making the umbrellas were all in different stages of the process-some were splitting bamboo for the spokes, some were assembling the frame, some were dyeing the paper and others were painting birds, flowers or a vignette of rural life onto the umbrella.
After some cheesy photos, an ice cream(too much berry, not enough chocolate in case you were wondering) and finally deciding on purchases (white umbrella with black floral patterns) we set off in search of natural beauty.
Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden was an awesome find and I was giddy with excitement at the beauty of our natural surroundings. I hadn't known what to expect and was blown away by a mountain wonderland. It was another reminder to me that if you approach things with a grateful heart you will almost always be pleasantly surprised at what you find.
Proud Phu Fah, whose mugs proudly bear the logo "Smooch Angel" and I don't know what either of those means but it's awesome. We sat on their verandah drinking hot chocolate, eating complimentary biscuits and reading our books and I couldn't have been happier.