Where to go, What to see and What to buy
In the booming Thai silk industry of northeast Thailand, you will most certainly be able to observe and study all there is to know about silk worms, silk weaving and how silk handicrafts are generated. Producing raw silk from silkworms for the production of silk fabrics seen in the shops around Thailand has for many years been one of only a few industries cultivated in this area.
The delicate art of Thai silk weaving on simple hand-operated bamboo looms has also been a tradition handed down from one generation to another and still very much active today.
Silkworms are cultivated mainly on the Khorat Plateau in northeast Thailand after which they are then sent to places like Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand for production purposes.
If you want to purchase genuine silk from Thailand and you are going up to the north and not the northeast, then the Sankampaeng factory district in Chiang Mai is probably the best place to make your purchases.
The reason being is that in Chiang Mai you will have the opportunity to view the whole process from the cocoon growing stage right through to the finished products.
Once the spinning cycle of the cocoons is completed, they are placed into vats of boiling water which separates the silk threads. The silk threads of one cocoon can be up to 500 meters in length and are a natural golden colour which is unique only to Thailand.
Because a single thread of silk is so incredibly thin, multiple threads are combined together until there is enough durable fibre to begin weaving.
Once the weaving process is finished, the silk fabric is then soaked in hot water, thereafter it is bleached before being dyed into various colours. And wallah! You now have your finished product… Well, not quite. The next step is to convert the fabric into workable silk items found in shops and stores all around Thailand.
Thai Silk – The Genuine Article
To validate a genuine article from a fake, the Thai government has implemented a system to authenticate pure silk. This is visible in the form of a Peacock emblem used on all genuine garments. It also and serves as its guarantee of authenticity and quality.
These emblems have four different colours indicating their various grades. They include gold, silver, blue and red with gold being the most superior of the group. This will greatly help you with your selection, but more than anything, go out there and have some fun while you shop.
And don’t forget to take a tour of the house museum in Bangkok built by Thailand’s most famous American foreigner who was also responsible for reigniting the silk trade in Thailand. His name was Jim Thompson and he had come to Thailand after the second world war in 1947 because he, like myself, had fallen in love with this beautiful country and its lively people.
A leisurely tour of Jim’s house museum should be high on your priority to do list and a visit here will not be disappointing.