Author Topic: Land of silk  (Read 1695 times)

Offline thaiga

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Land of silk
« on: June 03, 2016, 11:29:52 AM »
Land of silk

A visit to the northeastern province that serves as home to the luxury fabric

Villagers prepare yarns for weaving.

Chapo is a not a familiar word. It's the name of a silk village in Pak Thongchai, Nakhon Ratchasima.

The name comes from the sound coconut shells make when cracked open, said village headman Wiruth Singhavisai, whose nickname is Ma Noi ("little dog").

"We had a lot of coconut trees in the village in the past, and people always cracked coconuts for cooking food and making desserts. It made the 'cha-po' sound, so their village was known by that word," he said.

Although the village name has already been changed to Ban Thong Chai, locals prefer to call it by the old name.

Wiruth, 49, said the ancestors of his villagers were Lao Vieng, who migrated from Vientiane to Thailand about two centuries ago. Among the evidence remaining is the shrine of Chaopho Suriwong -- also called Chao Pu, or the village guardian. Locals believed the shrine was built when the village was established.

"Chao Pu led our ancestors to settle safely in this place, so we built a shrine for his spirit to help protect our village. Even now, we visit the shrine and ask for his blessing," he said. Every year on May 18, there's a ceremony at which those who've ask for his blessing and got what they want will visit the shrine with boiled pig heads or boiled chickens. Those who join the festival will perform a traditional Lao dance called barsalope, to show happiness to the guardian, he said.

Visitors are also asked to pay homage to the guardian with flowers before exploring the village.

Ban Chapo has been promoted as a tourism village since 2012. At the time, the Nakhon Ratchasima governor wanted to help increase the villagers' incomes. Ban Chapo was selected because it preserves the traditional way of life by weaving silk cloth.

"Silk-weaving is our cultural heritage, and has been passed on from generation to generation since the time of early settlement. At present, about 30% of 708 families still weave silk cloth for living," he said.

To give a guideline for visitors, direction signs are erected. Unfortunately, there is no paper or digital map available. We walked from the village's old shrine to a house with a wooden loom for weaving cloth.

At the house, we learned that silk cloth in the village is made of 2,000 yarns woven together into a fine and firm silk cloth.

"If you slide your nails on the fabric, you will feel its tightness the same way you feel when you slide your nails on a piece of paper. It will create the gag-gag sound," said the village headman.

He demonstrated how to tell if the fabric is made of real silk by burning a yarn. It turned out to be soft ashes. He said if the remains were glued together, the silk yarn was mixed with nylon. The material can make prices of silk cloth cheaper and more shiny.

"Our silk clothes are made of 100% silk yarns to ensure high quality. Although we don't raise silkworms for producing yarns, we buy the material from Chul Thai Silk [which has produced silk yarns for more than 40 years] in Phetchabun," he said.

The village also has a learning centre to show visitors how to create patterns, especially tie-dyed mudmee. The villagers still keep their traditional patterns, called krajab (trap or water chestnut), and hang krarok (a tail of squirrel), imitating patterns of nature.

There is also a silk-cloth museum located in the house of Sompong Ngernbunkong. She had a collection of century-old silk clothes worn by her grandmother.

"I didn't realise those old clothes would be valuable until we opened the village for visitors," she said.

Many people wanted to see old woven silk fabrics, so her family decided to build a museum at one corner of her front yard. Inside, it displays silk yarns, weaving tools and a wooden loom used by her ancestor, as well as a number of century-old silk fabrics that were woven and worn by her grandmother. There is another house, called Khuang Sokan, meaning "meeting place". The house has one corner for showing collections of old items used in daily life during the past 50 years, such as old irons, stereos, home decorations, weaving equipment and pictures of the villagers.

The last stop is a silk showroom at which silk fabrics are not only for sale but which also serves as a workplace for housewives who weave silk fabrics for a living.

To further promote Ban Chapo, Wiruth plans to build a floating market with a 15 million baht investment.

"I want to have a market where we can offer local products to visitors. We have a canal, it can be developed as a floating market.

"Although it's an ambitious plan, I will make it happen soon," he noted.

Chapo silk cloth is made of 2,000 yarns.

Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.