Jewelry of the World #2 Thailand
Hill Tribe Silver
Perhaps the most famous of all Thai jewelry is Hill Tribe Silver. You may have spotted it online, or even own a few pieces yourself! Characterized by beautiful tribal and nature motifs, this jewelry has been crafted for generations by the country’s hill tribes. Hill tribes refer to the ethnic groups who reside in the Northern and Western regions of Thailand. The largest of these groups is the Karen hill tribe, semi-nomads hailing from South China who live around Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and the Myanmar border.
Initially, jewelry making was reserved for the tribes’ own use, as jewelry was a symbol of affluence and social status. It didn’t become a major trade until the mid to late 20th century. Originally, hill tribes earned their living as farmers, practicing slash-and-burn agriculture. Part of the infamous Golden Triangle, their major cash crop was opium.
Unsurprisingly, this posed a huge problem for the Thai government. In 1969, Thai ruler King Bhumipol Adulyadej initiated a rehabilitation project whose goal was to replace the illicit export with more legal forms of revenue. Known as the Royal Project, it trained the Karen tribe to grow rotational food crops instead of opium. Though silver-making was already a tradition, many farmers took up silversmithing to generate additional income.
What we like most about Bangkok Jewelry is the large fancy necklaces. There are wholesalers who have many to select from.
We bought thousands of dollars worth when we visited a few years ago.
We sometimes can find comparable ones locally when the Jewelry Shows are around, but nothing like the selection there.
We loved Bangkok when we visited there. We also saw many factories and watched the jewelry being hand-strung and made.
One bright point if you ever actually visit, well, actually two or three.
1. Starbucks is there...
2. There is a restaurant you MUST go to if you are ever there called "The Banyan Tree" it features indoor AND outdoor dining with a twist. The outdoor restaurant is on the rooftop. And that rooftop is like 30 or more stories up!! Fear of heights? you might want to pass. Otherwise, it was the most unique and awesome dining experience I ever had.
3. Visit the Chao Praya River. It flows right through Bangkok and there are many riverboat tours. There you will see both the upside of Bangkok as well as the downside. There are hundreds of tributaries with houses built right to the water. And in the water are these huge monitor lizards.
4. The churches are awesome but the King's Palace is the best. You should check that out, we spent a whole day roaming around that area of town.