Saturday, September 13, 2014

Hidden Treasures in Chiang Mai

Some of the most rewarding experiences when you're on the road are the ones you literally stumble across.

I was recently wandering through Chiang Mai, exploring the back sois within the walls of the ancient city. Amongst the beautiful Lanna temples, street markets and 7-11s, I came across Ban Phor Liang Meun's Terracotta Art - a secret garden that sells replica terracotta sculptures and bas reliefs.

This enormous gallery straddles two sides of the street, just off Phrapokklao Rd near the Chiang Mai Gate. One side has a slick showroom in an old teak house, as well as a showcase garden; but on the other side of the road is a rambling yard, filled with banyan tress, mossy, cracked pathways and crumbling terracotta statues, piled up in heaps and themselves gathering moss.

It was like discovering an ancient Khmer ruin such as Ta Phrom, where nature is silently reclaiming civilisation; and while this is all replica material, it's been presented as if it were genuine artefacts from an ancient time.

There are statues, panels and bricks featuring images of Buddha, graceful apsara dancers, Hindu deities, dragons and mythical creatures from folklore; some are broken beyond fixing, but the more damaged, cracked and headless, the more intriguing.

I later learned that the gallery is the brainchild of Mr. Suttiphong Maiwan, who first set up his earthernware production facility in Lumphun Province. He later added this location in Chiang Mai, expanding to over 60 acres of land in total.

As well as purchasing pieces from the gallery, visitors can also learn about the earthernware process and see production in action.

Unfortunately, the minimum purchase for shipping overseas was one cubic metre, which was way beyond my budget and capabilities at the time. Instead, I had to settle for a beautiful, simple brick featuring a mythical horse - around one kilo of extra cabin baggage, but a gorgeous and precious purchase!

My final purchase!

WHERE: Ban Phor Liang Meun's Terracotta Art
36 Prasing Soi 2
Phrapokklao Rd, near Chiang Mai Gate

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