The Colebanks go to Chiang Mai!

On December 23rd, 2018 my family traveled to Chiang Mai, Thailand. I knew that it would be a great trip, but it turned out to be an experience of a lifetime, full of food, jewelry, elephants and, you guessed it, beads! My two good friends that live in Chiang Mai half the year were amazing tour guides. There is a 15-hour time difference from our home in Seattle, but we powered through and immersed ourselves in activity right away.

On our first day I met our Thai Silver Bead vendor, who we have been doing business with for about 15 years. This was a real treat to get to meet him personally, see his shop and pick out some one of a kind pieces to bring back to our amazing customers! The Thai Silver beads are handmade by artisans of the Karen Hill Tribe using traditional tribal techniques. I could have stayed there all week!  I hope you love what I picked out. Thank you for supporting this family run Thai business. We wanted to do something to give back to the community while we were there. We decided on the Piyawat Orphanage. The orphanage was founded by Mr. Preecha in memory of his youngest son, Piyawat, who passed away in 2008 from cystic fibrosis. My friend Cheron contacted them before our arrival and asked what we could do for them. We were told that the kids REALLY wanted to go ice-skating, so that is what we did! We spent an incredible day with the kids ice-skating, having pizza and finishing with ice-cream. They were all so polite, beautiful and gracious. You can read more about the orphanage here on their website: We spent a lovely day with a family owned business in Chiang Mai that sells their handmade sterling silver Thai charms that they design and make in their shop house. My daughter, Marina, and I picked out a new line of charms. We had so much fun! They were incredibly welcoming, letting us take our time going through all of their amazing samples. They are a very caring family that has created an environment to support hiring some deaf employees. We saw the artisans at work while we were there. You are supporting a great company when you purchase these charms! The elephant is Thailand’s national symbol. You cannot go to Thailand without seeing images of elephants everywhere on fabrics, in jewelry and in art. As a family we decided to visit an ethical elephant sanctuary. After some research, we picked Kanta Elephant Sanctuary. At Kanta the elephants are rescued from logging or the circus and get to live out their lives roaming free. We were able to feed them and brush them as they bathed in the river, which helps protect their skin from the sun and fungal infections. It was amazing to spend half a day with these gentle giants! Fun facts we learned are that elephants sweat through their eyes and love sugar cane. It was an enriching lovely day and I’ve already made jewelry using elephant charms! And then there were the markets! Thai markets are colorful, inspiring, lively and a must do while visiting. We spent an evening at the Chiang Mai night market surrounded by artists and creativity; I went from booth to booth to experience it all. Not surprisingly, the jewelry was my favorite and I was ready to bead, bead, bead back at our Airbnb. The jewelry artists I met were so nice and let me take pictures of their work. I bought plenty of pieces for my collection and have enjoyed wearing them back home. As you can see the detail and beauty of their work is amazing. There’s nothing more I love about travel than getting to see what kind of jewelry is being made in other parts of the world….ask any of my friends who have seen my collection! Thailand was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. I felt inspired and humbled by the experience.

– Mari

2 comments to The Colebanks go to Chiang Mai!

  • Nancy Axthelm

    Interesting to see the leather wrapped bead strips. I have made quite a few.
    Wondering if they are completely made by hand and what price range?


    Hi Nancy, most of these shops are local artisans in area. Some travel for miles to share their goods and wares. Not sure on the pricing, we’ll reach out to Mari! **Update, Mari has shared, most were only a few dollars, but again are only available from those local artisans who do hand make all their pieces.

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