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Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Mahasarakham cultural visit

At Mahasarakham University there are programs for people who want to spend a week or two (or perhaps longer) studying Thai language and culture. A group of ten Japanese university students come for a visit last week. On Sunday we took them for a tour of some interesting parts of the district. There are also Chinese students at the university. A couple joined the trip. With them, me, the Japanese and the Thais we had four different nationalities represented on the bus.

First we went to Bahn Nong Khuen Chang, a village where they still weave silk and other fabrics by hand to traditional patterns. They gave them a weaving demonstration and the students who wanted to could then sit at a loom and have a go. There is a shop in the village where they stock a huge range of hand-made goods that are typically Thai—lots of cloths and clothes and a few other things too. The Japanese students enjoyed browsing and bought a few souvenirs.

We took a long drive then to Bahn Pang where we stopped for lunch on the edge of a dam. All local food. I was enjoying talking to the Japanese because some of them spoke little or no English and we each got to practise our Thai. Sticky rice is a popular local variety. One guy was taking his time tasting a little bit. I asked him if they had 'khao neeow' in Japan. They do but he said it is different. A girl was cautiously trying out some dessert. I like this Thai dessert. It's like a thick green jelly (don't know what it's called) served with shredded fresh coconut. I asked the girl if she liked it. 'A little bit,' she answered.

At Bahn Pang they dry, dye and weave a particular kind of grass. They mostly make it into mats that people sit on on the floor to eat their meals and some still use them to sleep on. They had some foam backed ones that would, I guess, make it a little more comfortable than the plain ones. I have slept on the plain ones, once or twice, back when I was in Cambodia. They have developed a range of products made from this grass: place mats, coasters, hats that I can think of. Almost the whole village is devoted to making these products. As you wander around you can observe people under their houses weaving or sewing or working in some other way with the grass. You also see grass spread out on the edge of the road to dry.

Later we went to the home of a university staff member who has a small acreage. He is a music teacher so has a little museum of traditional Thai instruments. They were pumping water from one dam to another. They keep fish in the dams and for some reason were emptying one out. They had a guy down in the mud catching the last fish as the water got lower. A few of the students joined him. They seemed to enjoy being up to their knees in mud. We had the fish bar-b-qued for our dinner.

It was a delightful day. This is not a touristy area but it's a pity, if you go to the tourist areas you see lots of bars and overpriced hotels. I think this is the real Thailand but don't tell anyone. I don't want it to get too crowded.

I took a lot of photos during the day. I'll upload the best of them to my flickr page over the next few days (or weeks). See the link on the sidebar.

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