The moment you walk into Raya Heritage’s Him Gong craft shop, you won’t be able to decide whether to exhale in pure satisfaction at the spectacular array of items to peruse or inhale a quick breath of excitement at discoveries to come.
The bright and airy shop which sits in front of Raya Heritage resort features a bewildering array of exquisite items from décor to accessories, fashion to jewellery, all complementing one another in a soothing sea of natural earth tones and colours – indigo, brown, black and white.
One of a kind natural-dyed silk scarves from local designers and weavers are featured on a stand next to a century old camel leather pot from India; an 80 year old Japanese hibachi foot warmer lurks amidst a display of intricately woven boxes made by Karen women living on the border with Myanmar.
“The idea for this shop came naturally,” said Raya Heritage General Manager Naphat Nutsati. “When we were building this hotel we sought out local crafts people, sourcing rare and unique products often made by local cooperatives which adhere to traditional methods, to showcase. Our rooms here are all designed in natural earth tones using natural indigo-dye materials, raw cotton, hemp, lacquerware, traditionally woven baskets or handmade local ceramics as accents. Over the course of sourcing and commissioning these products we got to know many of the craftspeople, learning their stories and hearing of their struggles. There is one aunt from Mae Chaem district, for instance, Auntie Somsri, who weaves beautiful textiles. Her textiles have now been elevated and had great value added to them by being turned into modern and fashionable handbags. Another young potter we discovered is also making very artistic pieces of ceramics using centuries-old methods, he now has the chance of catching the attention of some very interested buyers.”
The eye behind the award winning hotel, and what surely will become an award winning shop, is Vichada Sitakalin, Director of Design and graduate of the Rhode Island School of Art and Design. Vichada brings her formidable talent to Raya Heritage, drawing inspiration from the riverside life of which the riverside hotel has now become. This homage to the life of centuries of people living along the banks of the Ping River and scattered across the north of Thailand oozes across the boutique hotel.
Hours can be whiled away in Him Gong. Pick up a pair of tiny adorable little baskets turned earrings or try on a pair of sandals made from water hyacinth. Select from a handful of Kachama’s highly refined textile pieces; her artistically woven textiles turned into comfortable chairs or fashionable handbags. It is this juxtaposition of acclaimed artists such as Kachama Perez whose works can be found in museums from Lyon to Taipei, alongside locally made hand-crafted products using techniques passed down through generations – mixed in with a some well curated pieces from other parts of the world – that makes Him Gong so exciting.
You can find aromatic organic soy wax candles sitting next to high-fashion raffia grass handbags. Stands of gigantic shell necklaces sourced from some exotic far flung island paradise vie for attention next to tribal art, wooden sculptures and millefiori venetian beads. Sophisticated and delicate silver bracelets face off with chunkier but authentic antique silver bracelets.
Everything invites your touch, whether it’s the smooth service of a black and white vase, a roughly carved antique wooden tray, a jaunty rough hemp cap, fluffy pillowcases bursting with fabric and design, intricately carved antique wooden cabinets or the fascinating handmade textures used for the many dresses, shirts and items of clothing standing in the display window.
If you are in the mood to shop, if you have to buy a friend a birthday present, if you are looking for a special something to give someone for a special occasion or if you just really enjoy seeing and feeling some lovely designed (mostly) locally crafted products, then you must visit this unique and lovely shop.