Green Attraction

Ban ThaSawang

Surin

Isan’s finest silk brocade

 

      This Northeastern village became famous for its silk and for the quality of its weaving when it was commissionned to produce the silk outfits worn by APEC leaders for the final day of their Bangkok summit in 2003. Inspired by the Thai national dress, these ThaSawng made silk brocades were produced by four workers in unison producing barely an inch of cloth each day, as explained by Australian expert Morrison Polkinghome.

 

      Touring the village is a pleasant thing to do alone, or with a companion. Don’t hesitate then to ask to visit the weavers' open-air workshop, by the road side, before heading for the beautiful Thai style house owned by Achan (professor) Wiratham. There, under a canopy of bamboo and tropical trees, you will be able to view ancient fabrics collected by this renowned silk specialist. He will most probably explain to you that, although Surin is known for Khmer-style fabric designs (typically stripes, checks, and small patterned mudmee in uniquely dark hues), the locals here use a technique similar to weaving damasks from a French-style jacquard loom. This is done manually with a process that requires not just four people to operate, but a three-meter high loom. Each loom fits for one design only.

 

      Take time, if you have brought a Thai interpreter along, to talk with the local women, especially the eldest one, who spent their live producing PhraeWa silk. Traditional Isan textiles are still woven by villagers. Weaving fills the spare time between rice plantings and harvests, providing both supplementary income and a pastime. Ask them to bring you to their neighbors raising yellow silk cocoons. It takes 28 days for a cocoon to develop.

 

Enjoying a night at Thasawang homestay

      Then, you may watch in a nearby house the extraction of the silk fibre from those mature cocoons, boiled in hot water. With a bit of luck and time, enjoying a night at ThaSawang homestay, you’ll learn enough to entertain a conversation when you return in Bangkok on these Thai traditional treasures named mudmee, PhraeWa and khit silk.

       Don’t hesitate, when you return to Surin town, to complete your Ban ThaSawang experience with a stop at Surin Museum. Located in a brand new building, its collections of traditional handicrafts tell it all of the Northeastern lifestyle. Luckily, a museum booklet in English is available, therefore, making it possible to wander around without a translator. Another interesting spot, in the outskirts of Surin city, is the Queen Sirikit Sericulture center (Surin). The centre is situated at 380 Mu 4, Ban SaengTawan, and covers around 20 hectares. And the whole chain of silk production is explained there by local experts. 

 

Discover

       Isan women still weave fine silk fabrics to be worn at the temple or for formal and festive ceremonies, such as, weddings. Explanations are available on www.tatnews.org/ given by Australian textile expert Morrison Polkinghome.

 

Feel

       Each fabric is set for a specific occasion. By talking with the weavers, you’ll learn a lot about the Thai traditional way of life. Ask first about the "phakhao ma", the traditional long cloth featuring a chequered pattern inspired by rice fields.

 

Share

       Along with Ban Chonnabot in KhonKaen and Pak Thong Chai in Korat, Ban ThaSawang is an award winning village where you can see looms operated by the locals. Ask to buy the fabrics there. You’ll contribute to the village’s income.

 

How To Get There

       ThaSawang Village is approximately 8 km from Surin. Buses are available from Bangkok. Tourists can go there by crossing the railway, opposite to Surin Plaza, then turn left at the intersection along KoLoiMueang Ling Road.

 

Contact

       For accomodation, ask for Khun Wen or KhunNiramon at Ban ThaSawang Homestay. Per the silk production, ask Prof. Wiratham  Tel : 08 1726 0397