Ok, if you are a local from Chiang Mai, Thailand, this is not so much a secret. For everyone else, you probably haven’t heard of Baan Tawai, which is basically the source of woodcarving sculptures around the world. If you want to buy or even just see, woodcarvings like this, please do yourself a favor and visit Baan Tawai Village next time you are in Thailand.
It is pretty clear that there is some serious value in this village, as there are no photo signs up everywhere. Each shop has extremely exquisite sculptures and some even sell for millions of Thai baht (>$30,000 USD) and take years of perfectly chiseling around at teak wood to create.
Unfortunately, we were not able to take pictures of the VIP galleries holding these expensive woodcarvings, as there were security guards escorting us throughout the tour protecting their intellectural property. It would be extremely difficult to capture anyways, but why take the chance. Nevertheless, the creativity expressed in these sculptures cannot be captured in a photo. This kind of art needs to be seen in person.
Teak Wood & Woodcarving Materials
While each woodcarving shop will use different types of wood for different parts of their sculptures, the main type of wood used is Thai teak wood. The teak tree grows in the northern part of Thailand near Chiang Mai, so it is understandable why most of Thailand’s wood and furniture exports come from there. Teak wood is known as the king of timber because it is extremely durable and resistant to termites. In Thailand, teak wood is often used to build homes, also known as Thai spirit homes made of teak wood. For now, we can just stare and drool at some model homes and minitures.
For the average person, you probably won’t be able to afford one of these million dollar wood carvings or home. Yes, believe it or not, teak wood homes are very very expensive and each one unique. What you can settle on are cool buddhist style ornaments that can be displayed in your home. While they are not as grand as some of these crazy sculptures, they also don’t come with the hefty price tag. If you do the right amount of bargaining, you can take some of the works of art home for under $1000 USD.
The Top 10 Handmade Products in Baan Tawai Woodcarving Village
The Baan Tawai Village is not just limited to expensive woodcarvings that most people can’t afford. They also have a wide array of Thai handmade products from potttery, to art, baskets, boxes, instruments, and small carvings. We have made a short list of what we liked the most.
1. Thai Rice Box
Thai rice boxes were traditionally used to store rice and sticky rice after it is cooked. They are entirely handmade from scratch with bamboo and handpainted with meticulous care. These days, Thai rice boxes are used for decoration around the house and to store almost anything. They also come in a variety of sizes and colors. The most important thing is, they just look really cool and are a nice cheap way to decorate a room. If you are looking for rice boxes, we actually sell them here.
2. Thai Spirit House Teak Wood
These are actually just replicates of the real teak wood spirit houses in Thailand, but even the copies are exquisite and worth displaying around your home. The Thai Teak Wood Spirit Homes are all handmade and show extreme attention to detail. Also, each house will be slightly different from another as they are all unique.
3. Teak Wood Engravings & Carvings
We really like these teak wood carvings that you can hang on your wall in your home and just have them on display somewhere. They are all unique and each one tells a story. They are fairly inexpensive and usually have a Thai figure attached to them such as buddha or an elephant.
4. Woodcarved Cats
For all of you cat lovers out there, this is the one for you. These cats are all extremely adorable and cure. They are all handcarved from teak wood trees and each one has its own style and character. These woodcarved cats work great as any kind of decoration aroudn the house and are a great gift or souvenir from Thailand.
5. Thai Wood Latterns
Another idea to add to the shopping list are these cool Thai wood latterns. They are handmade and can be attached to a light bulb and a socket. We just really like the way they look, as it gives off a old traditional Thai vibe. Uses these to spice up any room in your house.
6. Thai Candle Holders
These little mini Thai candles and holders are a great little gift for just about anybody. They come in a variety of colors and can be found in many vendors in Baan Tawai.
7. Woodcarved Elephants
Pictures don’t really do these elephants justice. You really have to hold and feel them to understand the excellent craftsmanship and design. When you hold it, you can definitely feel the individual etchings and bumps. These are definitely not machine made and mass produced!
8. Elephant Head Statue
In case you really like elephants, why not just get one that hangs on your wall? These all just look plain cool and a great way to give your room an exotic vibe. Also, depending on the size, they can be fairly affordable.
9. Thai Art
Thai art remains one of the least known products in the art world. They are often hidden and definitely don’t show up in galleries at the MET or in Soho New York. Nevertheless, they look quite cool and would be nice to have in your home.
10. Buddha Hand Statues
For some, these look really creepy, but for us they look pretty cool. Buddha hand statues can be found in select vendors in Baan Tawai and are typically hung on a wall in your home. It can be used to ward of evil spirits or just to give off an exotic and bizzare feel to your room.