Who would have thought following piles of manure around on a steamy afternoon could be such fun! Now there is an opening gambit I never thought I would write. But this is not just any old dung, it is elephant dung.
We are just outside Chiang Mai in northern Thailand visiting the wonderful Poopoopaper. The name says it all really, here they make paper out of dung. Mostly elephant dung but they do mix other animal manures into their brew. The whole paper-making and dyeing process is on display. You follow the piles of dung around the complex from step to step of the paper making process. It is very well explained on signs and if you want to try your hand at any of the steps you are most welcome, the staff are only to happy to help.
James was very taken with Poopoopaper and suggested I might like to start a little sideline, making paper out of our cow’s manure. I think he thought our B&B guests would enjoy a little craft paper making class using the byproducts of our cattle. I think not James!
Keeping with the handicraft theme we next visit the Chiang Mai Umbrella Making Centre. This is a gorgeous shopper’s paradise of a place, full of wonderfully inexpensive, yet unique gifts for friends at home. They sell all shapes and sizes of fans and parasols all beautifully hand painted along with lots of other goodies.
At the back of the shop you can go into the work area and watch the artists painting. Here they will happily paint on your bag, phone case or even your arm for the equivalent of a Aussie $1. James couldn’t resist getting two elephants painted on his backpack and I gave in and had a peacock painted on my handbag.
If you are into painting yourself and would like to flex your brush skills, I have just the place for you. Back in Chiang Mai there is shop called Elephant Parade. It was founded by father and son Marc and Mike Spits in 2006 after Marc met a baby elephant named Mosha, who had lost her leg after stepping on a landmine. Mosha inspired Marc and Mike to create Elephant Parade. 20% of Elephant Parade’s net profits go to elephant welfare and conservation projects worldwide. They pledge to donate a minimum of € 50,000 per year.
At the back of Elephant Parade there is a workroom and you can paint your own elephant statue. There are lots of different shapes and poses to choose from or you can, like us buy one of their gorgeous elephant inspired artworks and know some of your tourist $ is going to elephant welfare projects.
For getting around within the city of Chiang Mai, a tuk tuk is the fun cheap way to travel. But if you want to go further afield such as Poopoopaper a Red Truck is the way to go. These are like shared Taxis but in our experience we never had to share one, we always had one for our sole use. With both these means of transport, agree a price before you set out, and pay them at the end of the trip.