The unofficial second city of Thailand, charming Chiang Mai makes it easier than any other city in the country for a chilled-out gateway. Travelers come here to admire Wat Phra That Doi Suthep which dominates the sky, eat Khao Soi noodle dishes with northern intense curry broth, wander the night bazaar with ample opportunities for shopping, and enjoy amazingly wonderful Thai massages at a cheap price that can shock everyone.
However, digging deeper into the city of Chiang Mai, visitors see another hidden beauty that, with natural wonders, creates unique characteristics to the region once known as the Lanna Kingdom: the Lanna crafts. For centuries, artisans from mountain hill-tribe groups have contributed their creativity and talent, making Chiang Mai the most well-known craft center in the country.
Follow us today to unfold the 200 years of wisdom of Baan Muang Kung, the peaceful pottery village in Chiang Mai.
Looking back into the long history of Baan Muang Kung you’ll learn that the first residents of the village were the Tai people who escaped from the invasion of Burmese soldiers in Shan State, Burma. They fled to Muang Kung for over 200 years and worked as farmers in the rice fields for their living. They did pottery during the two crops for household use, to offer for Buddhist monks, and to sell so they could have extra income as most of their crops went to the ruler of Chiang Mai at that time.
A stroll on the clean, quiet paths of the village still gives you a glimpse of how this craft village looked like in the past. Traditional dark brown wooden stilt houses scattered here and there evoke feelings of a northern village; gatehouses are decorated with ceramic figurines wearing happy smiles; vases and pots in different sizes and types displaying on the brick fence tell history from the bygone era while pottery products lined drying in the courtyards showcase the everyday work of the local artisans.
Pat, our local guide, took us to visit some active potteries and watch the workers perform their magic. Each of the families produces different types of products such as flower vases, decorative ceramics, planter pots, and jars. We saw an ancient kiln and learned about the pottery-making process, from kneading to carving, that villagers pass from generation to generation.
In Baan Muang Kung, everyone, no matter what age and gender, joins the work. Elders actively help with painting and forming small vases on traditional spinning tables. Look at their hands with bulging veins and wrinkles, covered in clay, can you tell how many pottery products they have made in their lifetime?
The Muangkung Pottery Village is located on the corner intersection of Hang Dong Highway and Highway 121, about 10 kilometers out of Chiang Mai's Old City. The road isn’t busy and easy to drive. Once you finish visiting the village, you can try your hand at making your own pottery.
Sadly, the number of pottery-making households is declining significantly as potters age and few young generations take up the trade as they find pottery-making is not economically viable. We just hope the government can help to preserve and develop the village’s craft so our visitors can enjoy and treasure the beautiful creations.