Don't Overlook This Thai Town's Gorgeous Indigo Craftsmanship

An 18th-century-old indigo craftsmanship shows the ingenuity of creating beautiful designs from nature
Indigo-dyed clothes for sale
Indigo-dyed clothes for saleCPM PHOTO/Shutterstock

Thailand is home to beautiful Buddhist monasteries, sandy beaches, delicious cuisine, friendly people and a rich cultural heritage. But did you know it is also a hub for the production of indigo textiles?

Welcome to the town of Ban Thung Hong in Phrae province, where residents are reviving the mo hom (หม้อห้อม), a traditional Thai fabric soaked in the trunk and leaves of the indigo plant. In the northern Thai language, “mo” means “pot” and “hom” is the name of the plant.

Men in Chiang Mai wearing mo hom shirts
Men in Chiang Mai wearing mo hom shirtsAmnat Phuthamrong/Shutterstock

Mo hom clothes are ubiquitous in northern Thailand but are predominantly worn as workwear. They come in a variety of cuts from dresses, blouses and shirts to skirts and trousers. The Phrae Craft festival is an annual event where small, independent artisans showcase their wares in markets and displays. Tie-dye workshops abound so visitors can create their own mo hom with the guidance of experts, and the streets are home to numerous businesses selling mo hom clothes.

The industry began with the emigration of Phuan artisans from Laos in the 18th century who brought their indigo techniques with them. A decline in the teak industry after the Second World War renewed interest in indigo craftsmanship.

Dyeing garments in indigo
Dyeing garments in indigoPichit Tongma/Shutterstock

Making the indigo dye is a laborious process and requires a three to four day investment of harvesting, soaking, fermenting, oxidising, filtering, collecting the indigo sludge, preparing the vat and finally, dyeing. Unfortunately, the modern reliance on synthetic indigo has had negative repercussions on the planet as the waste byproducts end up polluting waterways and damaging local ecosystems and public health. This makes it all the more necessary that consumers and tourists purchase products that are ethically-made by local craftspeople to keep their livelihoods alive.

Make sure to add Ban Thung Hong to your itinerary the next time you visit “the Land of Smiles.”

A mo hom shirt
A mo hom shirt19thronin/Wikimedia Commons

Getting There

Take a flight to Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX) from Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) in Bangkok. Hire a taxi, bus or car to Phrae province and onwards to Ban Thung Hong. The journey will take three hours.

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