The charming handicrafts of Northern Thailand

For many visitors to Chiang Mai, the culture of Northern Thailand is best represented by the beautiful temples and endless trekking in the mountains. There is however more to this area than colourful hill tribes and elephant rides. Many people have now discovered the fantastic shopping including the Baan Tawai craft centre, which can be found just to the south of the city. Among the many bargains here are a huge selection of handicrafts and cultural souvenirs.

Chiang Mai has a famous Night Bazaar which is a popular destination for visitors looking for interesting items to take home. Most people leave having purchased far more than they intended to, and the local shipping companies do a roaring business. The choice of goods on display is bewildering, and everything from antiques to silk products can be found. You may be surprised to know Baan Tawai has many of the same products for sale as the Night Bazaar and more, and at much cheaper prices.

The area has been established as an artisan centre for a considerable time, but the growing number of tourists over the last five years has led to an expansion. A new wing has been added in addition to the existing arcades of small shops and stalls. A number of large shops that deal in antiques, furniture and outdoor ceramics can also be found on the road leading to the centre. Many overseas handicraft dealers make regular visits to Baan Tawai to make bulk purchases for their outlets abroad.

You may only be looking for a few souvenirs to take back home, but it is worthwhile spending half a day here browsing the many stalls. The items on display are among the cheapest you will find anywhere in Thailand and include bamboo products, wall hangings, vases, frames, oil and soap gift packs, lamps, ornaments, antique reproductions, silk, incense, candles and much more.

You may see these products at other tourist centres in Phuket, Bangkok and Samui, but the choice will be far less and the prices up to 200 per cent more expensive. Most of the handicrafts at Baan Tawai are made from natural materials and are uniquely Thai.

Even if you do not intend to make any purchases in Chiang Mai, it’s fun wandering around and seeing the artisans at work. Most of the craftsmen and women are extremely experienced and gifted, and you will get to see them applying delicate lacquer work, carving busts, painting, weaving rattan and colouring figurines.

You should also look out for the beautiful tropical gardens that so many of the traders have created in front of their shops. This is fairly typical of the area as the locals take pride in building water features, displays and small ponds. You will also see these displays in shops, restaurants and hotel lobbies throughout Chiang Mai.

Wood is one of the most popular materials used by the artisans and you will find some excellent Buddhist art pieces, carved figurines, d├ęcor items and wall hangings. The range has increased significantly over the years according to demand, and recent introductions include contemporary designs and modern pieces. Several shops make teak furniture on a made-to-order basis. Don’t be put off by the size and weight as local shipping companies can quickly arrange for large items to be transported to any country.

Some of the finest Asian antiques in the world can be found here at Baan Tawai in Chiang Mai. Apart from the many valuable pieces, you can also purchase some extremely good reproductions. For the price of just one original 18th century Buddha head, you could furnish your entire house with equally impressive looking copies.

The market for good reproductions is growing in size as the antiques business is notoriously difficult, and most people are content with something that just looks old. In fact, some of the best customers include the country’s top hotels in Phuket and Bangkok. The production of these items includes burying new pieces soaked in acid to shorten the aging process.

The handicrafts that are manufactured in Chiang Mai, Thailand can now be found in many cities around the world. The quality products and distinctive styles represent excellent value for money, and are common in decor shops and flea markets from New York to Sydney. Don’t be surprised if you come here intending to look around and then find yourself rushing off to luggage stall for something to carry all your purchases home in!

Real Estate In Thailand

Thailand

Like so many countries situated in the Asia area, Thailand is steeped in history and tradition, which has only recently been opened up to the western world. The country covers an area of some 500,000 square kilometres offering one of the most diverse of climates and landscapes. Thailand offers an array of high mountainous regions in the north, with hundreds of smaller islands in the south, and vast areas of beautiful beaches, active nightlife, and laid back atmosphere in between.

Thailand was known as Siam until 1939, and seemed to come to life as a major economy in the later part of the 20th century. While economic growth has continued, the country has managed to retain that mystical feel with beautiful architecture, and reminders of the great tradition at every turn. Steeped in history, yet showing an appreciation of western values, the country covers both ends of the spectrum, which is a major plus point for tourists. A can do rather than cannot do attitude has seen the respect for the Thai workforce increase throughout Europe, with many Western companies investing in the region.

Contrary to popular belief Thailand is one of the safest countries in the world, although the image of the Asia region tends to be dominated by some of the more volatile countries. The people are renowned for their friendly nature and good mannered approach to visitors from a far. As the popularity of the country grows, everyone seems to have realised the massive potential of the growing tourist market, which can be central to many of the more rural economies.

Property Market

While many countries would have faltered after facing one of the worst Tsunamis of modern times, the Thai authorities have used this as a positive, rebuilding the devastated areas in double quick time, and using the “fresh start” to restructure the landscape and facilities. This has resulted in a massive influx of overseas investment which has seen the price of Thailand property recover, with particular interest from Europe and powerful neighbour, China. The recovery is still ongoing, however the country now has one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

The price of property in Thailand is benefiting from this new found interest from foreign investors, which is opening vast areas of the country which until recently were relatively undiscovered by western visitors. The major increase in the economy of recent years has been fuelled predominately by the massive increase in tourist activity, with Thailand now on the radar of all major travel companies. This untapped region is commonly known as the “Spain of Asia” by observers of the international tourist market.

The increase in tourist numbers has opened up a new buy to let market which in turn has opened many eyes to the potential for long term property price appreciation in this ever expanding, ever popular area of Asia. Current property value appreciation of between 10% and 15% per annum is less than some of the more volatile “tiger” economies, however the Thai economy is no where near as volatile, and offers a greater degree of transparency in property transactions than most countries in the area. Even the Tsunami did not dent the property market, and deals were still being closed the day after the disaster, although obviously areas effected by the Tsunami had to start again.

Areas of specific interest in the Thai property market take in cities such as Phuket, Bangkok, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Krabbi and Pang Nang. Overseas employers have been showing particular interest in Thailand properties, as they look to house there growing workforces.

While there are restrictions on foreign land ownership (although not over onerous) the creation of a simple Thailand Trading Company will simplify the situation, and open up the possibility of local partnerships for a closer “feel” of the local property market characteristics.

Why Invest in Thailand

Thailand has always been seen by many in the west as one of the hubs of the Asian economic scene, showing a great ability to adapt and reinvest in order to attract quality overseas investment. The liberal tax laws and lack of capital gains tax payments are a great incentive for overseas investment. Indeed the recent event of the tragic Tsunami demonstrated amply, the ability of the authorities to act in a swift, well thought out manner, which was the main reason for the country remaining so economically strong.

Thailand is also awash with areas of great natural beauty, with the mountainous areas contrasting against the western style beach resorts which are proving ever more popular. An ability and willingness to continually invest in the nations infrastructure has again paid great dividends, and opened up many of the more rural areas to potential economic improvement. Against this western attitude to business and investment, the authorities still hold a great appreciation of the origins of the country, the culture and the people.

For the older generation looking for an overseas retirement opportunity, visas are available to people over 50 year of age with very few questions asked. As the quality properties for sale in Thailand are quickly snapped up, this band of investors could be a major influence in the future.