One minute you are enjoying your stay in Thailand and next minute you are told you need a massive coronary bypass. Scary news indeed so far from home. Numerous private hospitals have told you there is nothing wrong and you pay loads of money hoping to get better but that does not happen. One day unexpectedly you are in need of critical medical help but you do not want to go back to the same hospitals that have been telling you that nothing was wrong and your life depended on the decision you make, what would your medical options as a foreigner be?
Fortunately for me, I have heard that the government hospitals are quite good especially the ones belonging to the armed forces so I was brought to Phramongkutklao Thai Army Hospital very near to Victory Monument in Bangkok City. I was immediately sent to ER. Even though they had no record of my condition or any prior visits, their many team of doctors lead by senior teaching doctors got down to my case immediately and evaluated my problems. However, they wanted to do more tests as they suspected that something was not right and ordered a coronary angiogram to be done as soon as my condition stabilized.
I was scheduled for an angiogram not long after and the strapping young Dr Teepakorn (the angiogram vascular surgeon and cardiologist) did a thorough check of my heart and discovered I had several serious arterial blockages which were very complicated. He recommended a bypass and I was not permitted to fly in my condition. I was off course devastated and scared upon hearing the news but he assured me that it would be the best for my condition while I was still young. Down with depression and fear, with anger brewing inside as to why this was not told to me earlier at the other hospitals meant that I now had life-changing goals to make, if any at all not to mention doing a heart bypass in Thailand.
Phramongkutklao Hospital has one of the finest angiogram and cardio surgical teams and rooms but the super plus factor is that they handle so many cases a day that they are highly-skilled individuals who work cohesively as a team in their specific field of expertise. It also means that they are more experienced as they have done uncountable cases. The team in the angiogram operating theater works like clockwork throughout the whole procedure which was to me very remarkable and professional. This is similar of teams much like that of the team with Dr Theepakorn’s assistants. One thing I was very pleased with was that Dr Theepakorn was very careful with the use of the dye for angiogram so as not to damage my kidney too much in the process.
Dr.Theepakorn then told me he will confer with the team of cardiac surgeons and kidney specialist to see the best course of action for a bypass and which team should undertake this complicated surgery. A week later I was given an appointment to see the cardio surgeon, Dr Jeerasak. After an evaluation of my condition, he assured me that he is capable of performing this complicated surgery. (Dr Jeerasak happens to be from an elite team of cardiac surgeons who specialize in complicated cases).
I had my bypass on the 21st of February 2019. The bedside mannerism of the doctors, surgeons and Operation Theater staff is not only impeccable but they are also very assuring and understanding. These are the little things that make a big difference to your mindset when you go for major surgery. I came out after 8 hours in the operation and was moved to the ICU section.
The ICU team of Khun Tukata Ka and many more took great care of me. My biggest fear was not only the removal of the breathing tube but also all the other tubes extending out from deep in the chest cavity and leg where the vein was harvested. During my three days in ICU I had to endure painful fluid suction from my collapsed lungs, the pain of position rotation, and the extraction of tubes from my leg and chest which is just some of the pain of post-surgery. Removal of the breathing tube was fearful because your lungs are not quite inflated (which is why you had to practice breathing through an apparatus which had three balls in it to strengthen your lungs). The doctors and staff were very careful to ensure that you are ready to breathe on your own before removing the breathing tube but listen closely to their instructions while it is done.
Last practice before the operation - YouTube
Breathing exercise before the operation - YouTube
Light exercises 3 days after the operation - YouTube
On the third day I was removed to a roomy private ward. The rule of these private wards are that you must have someone to stay in with you at all times. The nurses are quick to make sure of that. The ward has a great view of the city, well-equipped with a refrigerator, sofa bed and dining table much like healing in your own room except for the constant visits of your surgeons, rehab doctors and nurses. I was in the normal ward for another three days before I was pronounced fit to go home.
This would be followed by a barrage of post-op follow-up visits to the surgical doctors, cardiologists, rehab center and whatever else that needed to be fixed! I was well on the road to recovery within two weeks after a major heart operation and now feel stronger with each passing day.
So if you are are faced with a very sudden emergency condition in Thailand, a clear advise it to always head for the ER department of a hospital. In my own opinion, after many hospitals, I believe that the military run hospitals are one of the best and Phramongkutklao Hospital is one of them with their team of dedicated nurses, doctors and surgeons.
In the days of old in Thailand, if you have watched the stories of the ghostly Mae Nak or any other old Thai stories, you would have noticed that the men and women in those days had red blackened teeth. This was as a result of chewing Betel nut leaves which was an old tradition and mostly lost now among the young generation who in some countries prefer to chew tobacco.
Seldom even in Thailand can you see this old Thai custom unless you happen to know someone who still likes this traditional habit. It is actually quite an art form when you notice the way it is prepared. There are special utensils used for making this Betel nut paste. Some people prefer to chew the nut and leaves together as a whole with the nuts cut into small pieces while other prefer to make it into a paste. The art of Betel nut chewing has been around for more than a thousand years and no one really knows its origins.
I was fortunate enough to get a chance to watch my friend’s elderly mother making some for her past time pleasure in the small village of Surin. It started with her going out into the little plot of garden to pluck some fresh Betel leaves which grows in abundance and has a nice lingering spice smell but a bittersweet peppery taste that has to be acquired. The Betel plant is actually a creeper plant which grow wild in the tropics and aside from being used in Betel nut chewing it is also used for cooking. Some Thai and Malaysian curry dishes use the Betel leaves in their cooking for example to use it as a holder for other ingredients in Thai Miang Kam or as a layering with banana leaves in the Malaysian Peranakan dish called otak-otak.
People sometimes mistake the word “Betel Nut” as a whole where the Betel leaf and Betel nut are used. Actually it is a combination of a few totally different items which are the Betel leaf, Areca nut (which is similar to a palm tree that grows mostly in Asian countries and grows in large clumps of nuts on the tree), lime paste and some people also use bits of cut lime with the rind. This method used by my friend’s mother is a little different. In her basket is an assortment of utensils and a collection of shelled Areca nuts, freshly plucked Betel leaves and some lime paste.
Also in her little basket is a small metal pestle and mortar that she will use to crush the items into a paste to make it easier for her to chew. She takes one large sized leaf, spreads a little white lime paste and cuts several pieces of nuts into smaller pieces before wrapping it all in the Betel leaf.
She then places the small leaf parcel into the pestle and using the mortar slowly pounds on the items. She turns the items around in the pestle and continues pounding until she has a nice red mixture. She then uses a small spoon to scoop out the mixture and start chewing.
The Betel nut mixture when chewed produces a lot of saliva which is the reason why Betel nut chewers tend to spit out the excess saliva while chewing. Chewing on the Betel nut leaves also give a euphoric sensation and tends to numb the mouth while chewing. Nowadays there are fewer Betel nut chewers and it is a tradition of the older generation. When this generation is gone, so will most of the Betel nut chewers.
If you have a chance to see this, you are most fortunate to be able to observe and remember this age old tradition!
Most often many of the places we visit or stay while on holiday are commercialized and to some extent sterile. Few places exude a comfortable feeling of home where not only are the people and staff friendly or helpful but the owners open their doors to a personalized experience. One such resort is in the beautiful district of Pak Chong in Nakhon Ratchasima. Well known for the Khao Yai region of vineyards and national park it is the perfect location for time away from home for couples, families, groups or even a team building experience.
Watermill Resort sits on approximately a 2.5 acre of lush green gardens with about a little more than a dozen chalets ranging in different sizes but each with a beautiful view and large rooms complete with all amenities like comfortable King sized beds, window view seating, hot water showers, well arranged clothing cabinets to tuck all your travel things away, a refrigerator and off course air conditioning. Some of the chalet units can accommodate a family of up to eight or more complete with a complete morning breakfast which includes a main choice of either an American breakfast, congee or egg in the pan along with other items such as salads, sandwiches and more for each person and thus making it an economical option for those traveling with groups of family or friends.
Watermill Resort home away from home holidays in Khao Yai - YouTube
While most of us live in the busy smog laden cities, Watermill Resort in Pak Chong is a wonderful place to take that much needed break and where guest and families can come and experience the best of nature, explore the Khaoyai region and sample interesting food and entertainment of this particular province.
The resort is within easy reach of Bangkok city and only a comfortable two hour ride from the city center. If you are not driving, transportation can be arranged from Bangkok to the resort with options to engage a vehicle rental service with or without driver to further explore the vineyards and many wonderful attractions in the area. The resort also provides a tuk-tuk service to the main road for a small fee where you can buy provisions at the well-stocked 7-11 or have meals at several popular eateries just next to the 7-11 and getting back to the resort is just a phone call away by the restaurant staff for the tuk-tuk to come and pick you up.
This beautiful and serene Watermill Resort gets its name from a refurbished traditional watermill used by farmers of old to carry water from streams to their fields. These wheels are no longer in use with farmers preferring the modern pump and pipes making these lovely works of human engineering obsolete. A beautiful clean stream with fish jumping in the cool waters run right by the resort and power this antique watermill. The calm sound of the churning of the wheel and water flowing along the stream is a wonderfully therapeutic experience for the senses. The cool stream is also a wonderful place for a dip or to play in with tire floats, as well as canoes to paddle around in. The adventurous can swing and launch themselves from the tire swing hooked to a tree or just chill out on the floating net raft.
The Watermill Resort also has a beautiful swimming pool where guests including children could spend hours playing or just enjoying a cool drink on a warm day. With ample garden space for walking around to enjoy the landscaped gardens that feature some very whimsical characters hung on trees or the streamside gazebos with piped music, it is one of those few places where you get a feel of nature and the sound of birds chirping to welcome you.
The proximity to the Khao Yai National Park means that the air is cleaner with an abundance of greenery and some very exotic plants, the sound of nature like wild birds and insects and do not forget the residential geese that waddle to the stream to play and swim with the fish.
Guests traveling with families will be happy to know that the children are well entertained with the many wonderful wooden swings placed all over the garden, a small children’s playground and bicycle rides, playing by the pool or at the stream with adult supervision (after all how often do we get to play in a cool clean stream nowadays?), romp and play or rent tents to try sleeping outdoors in a safe environment watching the stars at night. All healthy outdoor activities rather than encouraging them to face computers and electronic games all day.
Family tours and activates that can be enjoyed by all include trips to the national park which is only half an hour away for a chance to see wild elephants, explore the wildlife museum or to go on easy jungle hikes and if you are lucky to see wild hornbills, and learn about the flora and fauna of the national park. Also not too far from the Watermill Resort is the family fun Life Park where there are balloon rides, water parks, dry parks and activities or for those who enjoy a bout of picture taking and shopping, check out the Palio Khao Yai Village of the Primo Khao Yai where you can see real life Alpacas.
Those who love the cowboy life can visit the ChokChai Farm where the history of the Thai cowboy is well depicted and also the place for fresh beef steaks and dairy products. Wine lovers can visit the PB Valley Winery and GranMonte Winery for a Thai vineyard tour and wine sampling experience or visit the local evening market. Choices for attractions and activities are in abundance and all within easy reach of the Watermill Resort.
At the end of the day, you come home to a quiet comfortable private chalet where you can chill and sit on the veranda before calling it a night. The Watermill Resort comes as a highly recommended hotel in Khao Yai and Pak Chong region for a blissful personalized experience that you can savor and a place that you would come back again and again just to get away from the rat race and busy life of living in a city with a true back to nature feel. This is a popular resort among locals and foreign tourists who make their way here to enjoy the ambiance of peacefulness and a more laid back holiday style.
Those interested to book a holiday here can visit the Watermill Resort website or contact them at the information listed below:
Surin, is a province in North Eastern Thailand and one of the four Isaan provinces. Approximately a 6 hour drive from Bangkok city and the nearest airport being in the neighboring province of Buriram, it may seem difficult getting there. However, when you do get there, it is one of the most rewarding places to go and discover. When you get into Surin town, the icons of Surin city are the clock tower and the roundabout with a statue of the patron of the city surrounded by elephant statues near the old railway station.
Surin is very much a “farmer’s land” where it is hot much of the year but gets a lot cooler in the months of November till January. While one might think Surin is a small town, it is because many of the attractions are wide spread interspersed with vast acreage of rice fields. Surin is also “Rice Land” where much of the fragrant and aromatic jasmine white and black rice comes from. In the cooler months, one of the interesting sights is to see rows of blue tarp covered with freshly harvested and unhusked rice occupying half the side of main roads and raked out to dry. This is still very much the old-fashioned way of drying newly harvested rice.
There are new organic agriculture and home stay places coming up which offers beautiful views of the green rice fields and the serenity of the countryside for those looking to spend time in quiet retreats among the locals. These home stays are self-sufficient and here you also get a glimpse of the late King Bhumipol’s Self-sufficiency projects. Enjoy a nice cup of coffee or tea on the verandas listening to the sound of nature and watching the breeze waft through the rice stalks is one of the most therapeutic sensations when one gets back to being with nature.
Surin, the land of Elephants is also the site of the annual Light and Sound show as well as the famed elephant round-up event which takes place in the third week of November. Elephants are significant to Surin as it is the historical place where the elephants which were meant for conscription into the cavalry in days of old were trained by army mahouts and sent to Ayutthaya.
However, nowadays in Ban Ta Klang which is the Royal Thai Elephant Training School and Sanctuary which covers close to several thousand rai of land is where the elephants are trained for Royal Ceremonies. There is also an elephant graveyard inside for the old and dying elephants plus a museum which shows the history of these elephants over time in the Siamese Empire. The skeletal remains of an elephant with many sizes of jaw bones indicates that when the elephant changes its last set of lower mandibles, that means that it is near the end of its life cycle.
Watch this remarkable video of the Surin Thai Silk weavers at work and the beauty of Surin Thai silk
Silk is one of the most prized handicrafts of Surin and silk weaving is very much a livelihood for the womenfolk during the more quiet part of the rice season after the rice has been planted and waiting for it to grow. In the spare time, most womenfolk can be found weaving beautiful pieces of silk for sale at the weekend silk market. Some silk are more expensive than others depending on the designs, how fine the weave is and if gold threads are used like the Royal Silks which are woven by highly skilled weavers in double-terraced looms which are rarely seen in other provinces. These Royal Silks are made only by special household of weavers. At these special silk weaving places, you can see how silk threads are colored using natural dyes derived from flowers and barks.
Surin is also full of surprises. Their weekend floating market is held in one of the most beautiful locations with a nice river, beautiful park with paved walkways that have artistically painted murals, lovely little spa and massage place, well designed natural wooded cabins that serve as little coffee shops and even a beautiful play area for kids! One really must visit this weekend floating market which has a great variety of food, activities, souvenirs and even a cute mobile barber shop!
Your discovery of Surin is never complete without a visit to the weekend Silk market where you can find some of the beautiful silks for sale alongside rows of fresh produce and a variety of food. These silks are all individually handwoven and one can find pieces of silk for sarongs, making tailored suits, scarves or as gifts. There are also silver beads and bangles which is another item that Surin is famous for that you can buy alongside these silk pieces.
One also has to try the local dishes here and one such dish is the Khanom Jeen, Isaan style where you have a..
The wonderful show of Thai classical puppets is now back in Bangkok with the reopening of the famous Joe Louis Traditional Thai Puppet Theater right here in the city on their own stage!
After a long absence from the theater circuit when their performance stage was destroyed in a fire at the Suan Lum Night Bazaar more than 8 years ago and was closed down in 2010, the Joe Louis Puppet Troupe has finally found their way home. It has been a difficult time for this very talented group of family puppeteers to find a stage suitable enough for their beautiful performances. Lack of funds and sponsors made it a daunting task to raise enough funds for them to build their own theater at their present location in Asiatique at the River Front in their restaurant called the Joe Louis The Art of Thai Cuisine and Thai Puppet Theater . Read about the origins of the Joe Louis Puppet Theater here!
For many years, this family struggled to keep their performances going while managing their restaurant and catering services which also makes some really great old traditional Thai cuisine. Finally, they now have their own little theater and a sizable stage with adequate seating for about 75 persons so you will need to make sure that you make early bookings, same as when you want a seat at their restaurant. The theater is newly opened, about three months now as from the time of this article and there is one performance a night at 7.00pm so you would have to be on time. The performance lasts about an hour.
The theater is located above the restaurant and there is a short flight of stairs up. As you reach the theater, there is a long wall to your right where it shows a mural of the wonderful puppets such as Hanuman and a few other characters. At the end of the wall, there is a little corner which pays tribute to the late master of the puppets, Joe Louis.
His dedication and love of these puppets have earned the family many accolades and international awards for exquisite and fantastic puppeteer skills not to mention the creative arts of making these puppets. One of the members of the troupe in the nephew of Joe Louis, Khun Nattajak Youngkeiosod, who has been leading the present troupe of puppeteers in their new performance.
The show opens with a tribute to the late King Bhumibol and a short story about the puppets and Khun Joe. The story in the performance is based on tales from the Ramakien or as sometimes popularly known as the epic Indian mythical Ramayana. Each puppet is also made according to these characters in the Ramakien and the story for the performance is changed once every six months.
At the start, the puppeteers will show you some of the moves that they make in order to manipulate these puppets. The movements, music and style of the puppets are also based on a type of Thai classical dance called Khon, which you can sometimes see in traditional Thai performances. Each puppeteer has had many years of training in classical Thai dance and are some of the best Thai dancers.
In the performance, each puppet is manipulated by about three persons, as the puppets are all intricately jointed and capable of moving their hands, legs, head and even fingers. Bear in mind that it takes more than a year to make a really intricate puppet and more than three months for each puppeteer to master the moves. The puppets come to live in the hands of the puppeteers and the heart of each puppet is in the performance of the puppeteers.
If you look at the way each puppet is manipulated and to see how each puppeteer has an expression on his face that reflects that of the puppet is a truly amazing fusion of human and puppet together that makes it whole. The puppets are manipulated by boys and girls where the boys play the stronger characters of puppets such as Hanuman and demons but the girls manipulate the deities and other softer characters during the performance.
The most popular and recognizable puppet is the mischievously smart Monkey King and warrior, Hanuman followed by the elephant God, Ganesha or also known as Papikanae as well as the princess Sida and many more. Watching the puppets on stage is one of the most remarkable and unique experiences in Thai classics that you could ever experience. These puppets are also a lost art as there are not many practitioners of the art. It is a once in a lifetime performance that you must go and see when you visit Thailand and I myself visit them as often as I can just to see the puppets at play!
Watch this video in a snippet of the performance and take the time to go and see the real show at the puppet theater in Asiatique at the River Front!
Click here or the link below to watch the video!
I do, especially if it is Mickey Mouse. This year, Mickey Mouse and Friends celebrate their 90th Anniversary at the King Power Building in Rangnam, Bangkok. Open on the ground floor of the building from the 2nd November 2018 to the 27th January 2019.
Walt Disney fans will have a great time checking out some of the very limited edition merchandise, some of the interesting games, photo opportunities with Disney characters without having to go to Disney World far abroad and especially for November babies born until the year 2008 will have a chance to celebrate their birthdays with Mickey and Friends on the 18th of November at a very special birthday bash just for them!
Kids would love visiting this event as there are numerous interesting games and art sessions for them to play at plus a huge outdoor playground that they could run around in. Little fun hide and seek games with the Mickey and Minnie Mouse logos around the playground (there are 9 of the stickers that you would have to look for. You can see which stickers these are from the back of the booklet that you will receive when you register at the entrance) and some of them are very well hidden but you have to be very observant. NO, I am not going to tell you where they are, as that would spoil the fun!
Registration to the Mickey Mouse 90th Anniversary exhibition and games is free. At the registration counter outside, you will receive a booklet with directions showing you the layout of the park and the various games and places plus the types of stickers you have to look for and a wrist band to indicate you have registered.
There are many huge Mickey Mouse and Friends statues that you can get some really cool pictures with while you are there and last but not least, make your way to the top of the foyer in the building via the long escalator next to Star Bucks Café. At the top of that floor you can see some really nice artworks of painted Mickeys done by visitors to the event.
All in, one would spend about two hours in this place but you might take longer if you are browsing the merchandise outlets of which there are three areas (two in the building which are small and a larger one outside in the event park). Marvel comic and Star Wars fans, you will also have something there for you to browse through!
If you are driving, you can park in the multi-level car park within the building or you could easily get a taxi to take you there from anywhere in the city. While we are celebrating this wonderful 90th Anniversary, let us also pay our respects to the late Khun Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, owner of King Power who was killed in a tragic accident at the King Power Stadium in UK recently.
Discovering the “One Night Stay with Locals Program” by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (Trang Province)
While we are familiar with the southern provinces such as Phang Nga and Chumphon, there is plenty to discover in the remote northern provinces of Lampang, Nan and many more. In total, 13 destinations have been carefully chosen by the Tourism Authority of Thailand as part of this newly-launched “One Night Stay with Locals” project to enable travelers to have more unique local travel experiences and adventures seldom seen in mainstream tourism. Not only are these villages very remote (meaning you will beat the crowds even in high season), there is also a huge variety of community-focused activities available, such as getting your hands dirty picking fruit in orchards with the locals, taking tractor rides through the jungle to waterfalls or heading out on fishermen’s boats to find the catch of the day!
Discovering the province of Lampang
Spanning across the provinces of Lampang, Chiang Rai and Nan, there are four different communities to visit in the north of Thailand as part of this One Night Stay with Locals program – each one as fascinating as the next. Tucked away in the mountains of Lampang, there is the chance to go miang leaf (a betel nut leaf) picking with the locals at Baan Pa Miang, as well as learning how to make (and eat) the popular miang kam dish using this produce.
Pang Ha Home Stay in Chiang Rai with the Tai Lue craftsmanship and Isaan/Lanna culture
Baan Tha Khan Tong in the province of Chiang Rai
Neighboring Chiang Rai province has two destinations to choose from, which is the laid-back Pangha Homestay near the border with Myanmar where you can learn all about the Tai Lue people and their age-old craftsmanship, or to the Baan Tha Khan Tong, a thriving community next to the Mae Kong River that combines elements of Isaan and Lanna culture.
Sila Petch village in the province of Nan
To truly get away from it all, Nan province’s Sila Petch village feels like it is in the middle of nowhere, yet there are still plenty of friendly locals to show you around the area and guide you through the forests to a waterfall.
Exploring Baan Khiri Wong Kot in the province of Udon Thani
In addition, Baan Khiri Wong Kot in the northeast of the country at Udon Thani, lets you experience a true taste of Isaan especially in the deliciously spicy food, rural countryside and famously friendly Isaan hospitality from the locals.
Discover Baan Sam Chong Nuea community in the province of Phang Nga
Tourists also flock to Thailand’s southern provinces for the beaches, boat rides and adventure activities. At our handpicked southern communities, you can still experience all of this and more with none of the crowds. For example, at Phang Nga’s hidden Baan Sam Chong Nuea community there’s a chance to explore swamps and mangrove forests with a local fisherman while helping to afforest the area.
Pa Tew community in the province of Chumphon
At Pa Tew (Bang Son) in Chumphon, most of your time will also be spent on the water while eating as much seafood as you can, rafting and spotting fireflies in the evening.
Tamod Community in the province of Phatthalung
Other local communities waiting to be discovered are located in the less-frequently visited provinces of Phatthalung and Yala. These include the stunning Tamod Community where you can join in with a range of sufficiency economy educational activities, as well as kayaking and taking in the sunset over the reservoir, while Yala’s Chulaporn Pattana 9 Tourism Community boasts a gorgeous combination of forests, mountains and rivers.
Chulaporn Pattana 9 Tourism Community in the province of Yala
Other choices of local communities that you can visit includes Bo Hin Farm Stay in Trang, Phrom Lok in Nakorn Si Thammarat, Laem Pak Bia in Petchaburi and Laem Klat in Trat.
Laem Klat in the province of Trat
Phrom Lok in the province of Nakhon Si Thammarat
Laem Pak Bia in the province of Petchaburi
To learn more about “One Night Stay with Locals” in Thailand or to book a trip for up to 10 people at a special price, please visit 1nightstaywithlocals.com.
One thing about Thailand is that there is a museum for almost every kind of historical or even non-historical moment. It is no different in Ratchaburi, however this particular museum in Ratchaburi which is dedicated to the Thai Yuan community is a little different from the others. You can actually see and walk through a distinct timeline of exhibits that are not only interesting but also borders a little on the bizarre and eerie aspects from the realistic depiction and figurines of those still living and the deceased.
The Ban Khu Bua Museum in Ratchaburi, a province that is about an hour drive out of western Bangkok is one of the five top must visit places in the province aside from the famous Dragon Jar factories and largest Fancy Fish Market in ASEAN. This two storey, 10 roomed museum situated in the grounds of the Wat Khlong Suwankhiri in the sub-district of Khu Bua tells the story of the migration of a large group of the Thai Yuan ethnic community which used to reside in Chiang Saen district in Chiang Mai during the reign of King Rama 1 of the Lanna Kingdom in 1804.
The museum tells the story of the culture and traditions of the Thai Yuan community as well as their way of life and about the specialty of their skill at the woven patterns and textiles which is comprised of very intricate and fine patterns unique to the community. Some of these patterns and ancient woven textiles are now preserved and maintained at the first floor of the museum.
The museum was initiated by Dr Udom Somporn, who is a son of the Thai Yuan community and is the Director of the Khu Bua Museum. Painstaking collections and reconstruction of replicas, gathering of old historical textile patterns and various other items has made this museum one of the must see places when you visit Ratchaburi. You can observe historical moments as well as how it was like to live during those times as you visit each room in the museum which has a different theme. According to Dr Udom, this museum was created so that the generations would remember their heritage and other people can learn from the wisdom and culture of the Thai Yuan community from the past.
The reception hall on the first floor has an interesting exhibit of wax figures seated at a table which depicts what the elderly used to do for recreation in those days. These life-like wax figures were created in exact likeness of the once living people in the community enjoying a game similar to the Chinese Mahjong in the modern days over cups of tea. This is exactly what you would have seen if you visited a Thai Yuan house in those days during their leisure!
The entrance way to the room where the weaving works are displayed is greeted by a very lifelike lady dressed in the clothes from materials woven by the community. This form of dressing shows the intricate weaving patterns and the uses for the various types of material. The coiffured hair and demure looks were the exact image of the living person from which this figure was created in the olden days.
In the weaving room are numerous displays of paraphernalia normally used in the weaving process such as silk threads, weaving machine parts and more smaller items displayed in showcases. However, the highlight of this room is in the very real looking wax figures of the people who used to operate these weaving machines which were the elderly women folk of the Thai Yuan community over the years. You get a really good idea of how the weaving process was done from these models and displays.
The staircase leading to the ground floor displays some interesting shadow puppet craft. These shadow puppets were normally crafted from buffalo skin depicting the characters from the Ramayana or local folklore. In the olden days, shadow puppet plays were a form of entertainment and stories were derived from the myths and folklore. A light was placed at the back of a cloth screen where the puppeteer sits and the light throws an image or silhouette of the puppet onto the screen.
On the lower floor, you are greeted by one of the wax personalities of an elder that used to live here. In his hand is a sheet of paper with the lottery results draw. Playing the lottery was another favorite pastime much as it still is today.
Another elderly gentleman is seated on a tricycle which was a mode of transport those days in the small town. He is dressed in the period between the late 50s and early 70s. Along the walls are displays of tools used in the farming and agriculture works as well as all manner of handmade bamboo baskets used for catching fish, keeping livestock like chickens and also for storage.
The much respected community elder who had the task of administration over the Thai Yuan community shown here at his work desk and awards of position. Each of these waxworks were created in the true image of the living person and is a record in history for the Thai Yuan community here in the Ban Khu Bua district in Ratchaburi.
The record of a historic moment in the history of the community when a gathering of the community leaders and elder is required to settle a major decision m-making moment in the presence of the monks and other community personalities. Some of the images of these wax figures are from the community elders and leaders who are still very much living today.
Close up of some of the village leaders during the signing ceremony in the main hallway of the lower floor in the museum house. Out of curiosity, did you know that each wax figure cost THB30,000 to make and can you spot the real people from the wax works?
The kitchen area has a little room where the women..
The essence of Thai cuisine comes from the care taken to produce the natural ingredients and Thai food is notable for its five balances of taste in sweet, sour, spicy, bitter and salty. One important ingredient is sugar, and the best sugar for Thai dishes is not processed white or brown sugar but coconut palm sugar.
Ban Bang Phlap in the province of Samut Songkram is just a mere few minutes drive from Ratchaburi and about an hour and a half from Bangkok city. Agriculture is the mainstay income of the people here and they have thrived as a community that has emulated the “self-sufficiency” philosophy of the late HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej. It is a simple way of life here and the villagers are engaged in mostly organic farming for crops such as fruit trees and coconut. Under the guidance of Khun Somsong Saengtawan, a local wise man, the community center is now an educational place for bio-fertilizer production, chemical free fruit and vegetable farming as well as agricultural production such as the famous palm sugar.
A trip to the Ban Bang Phlap Community Center is more than just a trip to watch sugar production. It is a chance to learn about the diversity of the Thai people in adapting to changes for best practices but also for the skill and dedication in their daily life to strive and be better. The coconut palm sugar produced at this center is of high grade quality and one of the best coconut palm sugars in the many provinces.
The center offers an insight into how young coconut plants are first cultivated from the original old brown coconuts. They are grown in natural chemical free plots before being transferred to bags as young saplings. When the saplings are matured enough, they are distributed to the various farms for planting and the pollination of the coconut flowers are dependent on the services of the breed of spiders and bees which are indigenous to the area.
A short walk to the coconut farm reveals a large plot of land grown with an assortment of young coconut trees and other fruit plants such as mangoes. The use of bees and insects to pollinate the flowers ensures that the products are free of harmful chemicals. The coconut plants that are ready for tapping of the sugar sap are approximately about 9 feet in height and most do not bear fruit.
The sugar sap is tapped from the flower stalks which are specially cut and a plastic bottle is attached to the flower stem to gather the sap. The sap is then collected daily and brought to the center for processing.
Older coconut trees are allowed to bear fruit producing the familiar green coconut that we often see used for drinks. These young coconuts are harvested, processed by cutting most of the tops off and sold as whole fruits to wholesale vendors as coconut for juice and meat. The older coconuts are left to brown and used as future young plants.
The opportunity to be out in a natural environment yields many sights not just about agriculture but also about the local flora and fauna most city folks will not get to see. Coming across a fairly large millipede is a rare sight indeed as these creatures are shy and can only thrive in a well-balanced natural environment.
Back at the center, a homemade concrete stove which can hold two large woks filled with raw palm sugar are being cooked over a roaring fire. Everything about the center is self-sufficient from the fuel used in the burning is derived from trimmed leaves and barks of the coconut plant and husks so nothing is gone to waste. The ashes are later recycled as natural fertilizer and mixed with soil to be reused. The boiling palm sugar must be constantly stirred for approximately 4 hours until it thickens.
The thickened palm sugar has the consistency of molasses and when it is semi-cooled, the liquid is poured into small molds which are lined with cotton muslin. The mixture is then left to cool completely before being removed from the molds and packed into containers. Another two varieties of the palm sugar is a large block that is left to cool and then crumbled into small pieces much like raw sugar while another is a semi-liquid molasses which is mostly used in the making of “somtum” – a young papaya salad and other delicious Thai salads.
A diversity of unique Thai heritage and culture can be experienced just a short distance away from the bustling city of Bangkok in the provinces of Ratchaburi and Samut Songkram. Just a mere one hour drive to the west of the city will bring you to Ratchaburi province and an even shorter distance away, to Samut Songkram province. Both provinces are situated along the Mae Klong River which flows out to the Gulf of Thailand, therefore offering a unique perspective not just for tourism but also agriculture and industries that have shaped the way of life for the people of these provinces.
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The objective of the PRD of Thailand(Public Relations Department) was to offer an insight into the diversity of Thai culture and heritage while developing a smart and sustainable community for the provinces through the promotion of creative, cultural and high-value services. This would involve secondary tourism destinations and the concepts of go-local by linking tourist attractions and activities in major cities with those in provincial communities. This would empower community tourism and provide a unique travel experience for visitors who are keen to experience more of the Thai culture and way of life.
Sustainable tourism builds a stronger community while preserving the natural environment and enabling a better rate of employment and sustainable income for grassroots levels of the community. The province of Ratchaburi is rich in the Thai Chinese heritage and is fondly known as the “City of Water Jars”. This came about from the popularity of the water jars as a vessel to not only contain water but also to preserve food and eventually becoming a decorative item in the household. Techniques of making these water jars were introduced by Chinese traders looking for trade and markets in the east while eventually settling down in many parts of Thailand. They brought with them many new innovations and skills which were eventually assimilated into the Thai way of life over the generations.
The proximity to Myanmar made it rich in a diversity of various ethnic groups which is reflected in the cuisine and the handicrafts including the production of silk weaving and resulting in a historical collection of intricate pattern making and materials. Some of these collections can be seen at the Ban Khu Bua Museum which is a heritage of the Thai Yuan minority and famous for its woven pha sin tin chok skirts.
Agriculture also plays a big part in the eco-tourism sector and some of the highlights of Ratchaburi and Samut Songkram includes interesting visits to one of the largest village fish farms where you can experience netting fish in the ponds and learning about the breeding and production of the largest fancy fish market in ASEAN.
Learn about the beauty of the stingless bee which is a native of the two provinces and how they are breed in special farms for the use of agricultural techniques in pollinating fruit trees in the area, thus ensuring a pesticide and chemical free farming method.
Visit the coconut plantations to see how the popular coconut sugar which is used in most Thai cooking, is made and learn the benefits of coconut oil for health as well as the many products that can be made from the coconut fruit.