The Unseen Lanna Expo stationed at the Chiang Mai International Exhibition and Convention Center, runs from September 15th through the 24th with hundreds of booths and vendors from all over northern Thailand. The main focus of the exposition was to showcase different OTOP (One Tambon One Product) projects and the peoples impacted by these programs.
Essentially, this project encouraged specific sub districts, or “tambons”, to heavily produce and market one exportable product of high quality in that region. The goal was to produce both higher caliber products, and increase incomes due to diminished competition. With the support and promotion from the founder group and government agencies such as the Interior Ministry’s Department of Community Development, this program has taken off and provided many regions with a reliable income source. Examples of certain products sponsored by OTOP and available at Unseen Lanna are textiles, woodworking, silverware, ceramics, weaving, and fruits.
Another aim of the expo was to exhibit the model economy sufficiency villages promoted by His Majesty the King. These model economy villages, which so far number over 7,000, are based off of principles of maximizing utility, community goals, and sustainability efforts. The main purpose of these projects are to help villages become self sufficient, boost incomes, decrease unemployment, and enhance overall quality of life while utilizing renewable energy and focusing on conservation efforts. We were able to see some of the villagers firsthand at the expo, many of whom had thriving enterprises.
Alongside OTOP and model economy village booths, many local vendors featured fresh produce, handmade coffee, regional foods, and small business products at the exposition. The section of the expo dedicated to different coffee makers was expansive, and impressively revealed the prominence of coffee in this region.
All fruits and food imaginable were being sold, all with generous portions for affordable prices. Huge vats of soup, crepes made in front of you, and rows upon rows of handmade stuffed steam buns were just a few of the mouthwatering foods there for purchase. The food and produce was all outdoors, but it was well ventilated and had plenty of seating open for attendees. The expo itself was busy while not crowded, and many people spent their time respectfully reviewing and introspecting on all of the information, as it was a lot to digest.
Unseen Lanna was an amazing opportunity for both locals and expats to gain a better understanding of many of the initiatives happening in villages countrywide. Seeing the people firsthand with their products brought the scope of the projects into perspective. Many parts of the expo had references to or pictures which paid homage to His Majesty the King; seeing the breadth of his involvement and the success of these projects he initiated was truly astounding.
It was an amazing exhibit that was able to combine history with modernity, and struggle with success in a way that inspired all those who attended.
Author: Grace Van Kirk