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Buying Hill Tribe silver and semiprecious stones

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Hello fellow Fodorites - My husband and I are planning a trip to Thailand/Cambodia for Feb 2007. Basically, we are doing 2-4 nights each in Bangkok, Siem Reap, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai (actually, Anantara there), and returning to Bangkok. I have a hobby/small business designing semiprecious stone jewelry, and am interested in buying sterling silver Hill Tribe pieces to incorporate into my work, as well as strings of semiprecious stones. (It's almost as addicting a hobby as travel planning...)

Can anyone recommend a specific store, village, etc. to purchase these items in any of the areas we plan to visit, as well as the best way to do this (i.e., whether using a driver or guide and driver)?

Also, anyone recently stayed at D2 in Chiang Mai? We're likely going to stay at Baan Orapin, but D2 looks intriguing. Posts here from its post-renovation days don't sound impressive, but Tripadvisor reviews are very positive. Given our desire to purchase sterling components, are we better off staying in the old town to purchase in Chiang Mai, or waiting til Chiang Rai to buy there, or trying to find villages outside CM? If the latter, I think Baan Orapin wins.

Thanks for your thoughts! Claire

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