Green Attraction

Ban Dan Kwian

Nakhon Ratchasima

The pottery getaway

      Leaving the bustling town of Korat and its newly opened shopping malls, you will soon find yourself in the middle of Thailand's northeast countryside, where farmers moonlight as pottery makers off rice planting season. Ban ThaSawang provides this rural atmosphere where "Thainess" is not only a marketing word but a realistic description of local communities' unique lifestyle and agricultural related traditions.

 

      The main obstacle to travelling in Isan (and surely a primary cause of its touristic dearth), nevertheless, is the relatively minimal possibility of any foreign language use. In some words: despite the utter warmth of the Northeastern villages, access to them can be particularly difficult,.

 

      Having said that, Ban Dan Kwian pottery villages offer a good introduction to the Northeastern lifestyle, roving around the cultivation and harvesting of rice. Located about 10 km south of NakhonRatchasima on Route 24, this series of villages is particularly interesting for two reasons: its unique pottery heritage, formed of the clay found at the nearby Mun River, and its historic role as a transit point along the trade route between the Isan plateau and Cambodia, where Ayutthaya merchants would rest and load up on ceramics for sale at ancient Khmer cities.

 

Potteries Trading Dates Back to the Angkor Period

      Dan Kwian potteries, very tough and dark brown, were during those ancient times produced on the very same type of wooden potter's wheel you can see still standing in the backyard of local houses. Exchanged against other goods, notably the excellent fish from the Tonle Sap Lake in today’s Cambodia, those potteries, mostly jars to preserve dry fish, were sent down to the magnificent Angkor complex, then capital of the Khmer Empire which, from the 8th to the 12th centuries, included the Thai sanctuaries of Phanom Rung (Buri Ram) and Phimai (near Korat).

 

      Visiting Ban Dan Kwian requires a taste for rustic lifestyle. Old oxcarts greet you at the village entrance. There, locals - very often women, as their husbands, fathers, brothers and sons look after the cattle or sit at a nearby table playing cards - will be pleased to show you their expertise. First, the clay extracted from the riverbanks is kept wet at least for a night under some cover. The next day, the clay mixture is kneaded for 2 hours until it develops a good texture. The well-mixed clay then is formed manually on potter's wheels.

 

      The product is later left to dry under a plastic cover. After that, it is baked in an earthen oven. You may see piles of pottery (as pictured here), in a field outside the village, mixing bowls, and jars for preserved fish (Plara), grinding bowls for local salad (Somtam), and containers for local fermented liquor. 

 

Discover

      Pottery is an art and a lifestyle in the Northeast. Farmers here are working with clay off their rice-planting season. Don’t hesitate to wander around the village and look into houses’ backyards. Nice photographs to be taken.

 

Feel

     Step outside the village along the Mun River, and experience the Isan farming lifestyle when men, at sunset, bring the cows and buffaloes back to their compounds.

 

Share

Not that easy to share views here, due to the lack of locals being able to speak English. If possible, bring along a Thai friend or a good dictionary.

 

How To Get There

      You must first reach NakhonRatchasima (Korat), either by train or bus from Bangkok (4 hours bus ride from Mo Chit bus terminal). Then, Dan Kwian designates a series of pottery villages, starting 14 km south, on route 24 to Chok Chai. Head preferably for the smaller “muban”