Thailand and Laos – day nineteen (Chiang Mai, Monday) part oneJanuary 24, 2017 / bythornberry / Categories : Feeds
So many photos taken on Monday! I’ve decided to split this blog post into two parts or else it will never load.
These artist’s impressions of Stella and Clare were done at the night market. They are both postcard size, and it was delightful watching the artist at work with pen and ink then watercolour.
This piece of handweaving is folded in half – what shall I make from it? I love the bold colours and the graphic pattern. It’s very different from many of the others I’d seen.
Adisak, the owner of Baanbooloo, and Dan in his local market clothes.
Clare in her new market clothes – shorts, sandals and necklace! The top was made by me.
Mr Veera was taking us out in the car again for the day. We’d decided it was time to see some more craft manufacturers, and to visit the local hot springs. Yes, hot springs – in Thailand. One of the last places that could ever need them.
We headed to the San Kamphaeng district along wide busy highways through built up areas, then turned off and a couple more turns down narrow roads in a small village arrived at Baan Jang Nak, the Elephant Carving Museum. And it’s pretty much what the name says – full of woodcarvings of elephants, along with larger statues of elephants made from other materials.
The artist Pech Viriya founded his woodcarving business and museum around forty years ago. The museum part of the compound was absolutely full of elephants in all shapes, sizes and poses. We sometimes kept the kids busy counting how many there were in each display.
Once we wandered outside we could see the craftsmen at work. They were sitting in a beautiful quiet area, busily working away with a variety of hand woodworking tools. There were a few machines around for sanding and similar, but it was quickly obvious that the carvings were all primarily done by hand without any machinery at all.
Good old Wikipedia tells me that the elephant has been an important figure in Thai society and a significant symbol for many centuries. It has a considerable amount of influences and impact on the Thai cultural system and the whole nation, and the Thai elephant (Thai: ช้างไทย, Chang Thai) is an official national symbol of Thailand. The type of elephant that can be found in Thailand are the Indian elephant (Elephas maximus indicus), a subspecies of the Asian elephant.
The carvings were all beautifully proportioned with an incredible amount of detail. The timber was very yellow when carved; it appears that the final product have an oil or stain applied to make them darker in colour. The timber is from the cassod tree, a hardwood from a plant more often used for cooking.
Baan Jang Nak is renowned around Thailand (and further away) for the quality and detail of its sculptures. They take an extremely long time to make. The larger pieces are generally commissions by major Thai companies and are extremely expensive. Baan Jang Nak has a fancy website – but it’s all in Thai. Even the small elephant carvings, small enough to easily hold in your hands, were around 6000 baht (approx $225).
The larger sculptures had a wire frame made, then something like fabric or plaster strips put over that (there weren’t any in that stage of progress so I am making assumptions) then some type of cement or concrete over that. We could see a couple of large sculptures being worked on having concrete added and smoothed, but then in other parts have skin texture added.
We were the only people visiting while we were there. There is very little signage in English, so we were able to enjoy wandering around the museum and watching the carvers without my usual imperative of “read all the information and learn all the things”. It was a very calm environment, with buffalo grazing in the fields across the road.
Our next stop was Sankampaeng Hot Springs. This is a natural hot spring, with water coming out at 105 degrees celcius. Yes, boiling water – hot enough to boil an egg!
The springs are set in a lovely garden area, established in 1984. There are options for swimming in a mineral pool, taking private spas, having massages, or just sitting and dunking your feet in the watercourse.
As it turned out, the top end of the watercourse, closest to the water source, was very hot! It was actually too hot for me to even put my feet in, although there were others who seemed quite comfortable. A the watercourse winds down, the water cools. You just need to find the right location for your preferred temperature.
A fun element of the park is the ability to boil eggs in the water! There are little baskets of eggs for sale, these pretty little speckled eggs or regular chook eggs.
Just buy your basket, then leave it on a hook in the hot water for the required period of time. There is some sulphurous smell in the springs around these larger pools, but overall it’s a pretty pleasant environment.
See those metal rails that the girls are leaning on in the below photo? Dan realised why they were there when he stepped into the watercourse not holding on to anything and promptly slipped on the bottom and fell right in full clothed (and with camera). There were lots of laughs from the people nearby.
The girls enjoyed a swim in the mineral pool while our driver Mr Veera was getting a foot massage.
We eventually departed and went to a restaurant for lunch that also involved water – this time on platforms over a lake, with water running off the sides of the platform roof providing very effective evaporative air conditioning. They were setting up the restaurant for a university graduation ceremony that evening. Flowers were being brought in, and balloon archways set up. Every now and then a balloon would pop in the warm air, making me jump with fright!
So, that’s half of Monday! Back soon with more hopefully.
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