December 14, 2014
Ngan Mueang U – Khao, U- Nam (City of Rice and Water Bowl Fair) and Annual Red Cross Fair
When: After the harvesting period in late December and the beginning of January every year,
Where: In front of Ang Thong City Hall. Ang Thong Province
The Ang Thong Fair is one of the little known annual festivals of the Kingdom even if it is one of the largest single events in the province. In addition to the traditional Thai merit-making and charitable activities in temples , there will be a vast variety of stalls selling local cuisine and handicrafts including those described below.
The event also hosts a number of shows and exhibitions featuring the ethnic culture of the region. As with most agricultural events in Thailand the fair will also have its own beauty contest (Mueang U-Khao U-Nam), agricultural product contest, and farmers’ sports competitions.
A real must see if you want to share with the Thai people, what really makes this country tick especially, if you combine it with visiting a few of the cottage industries that seem to be everywhere in the province.
A Little about the Province
Blink and you may miss the province of Ang Thong, (The name literally means “golden bowl”) this sleepy ‘Central’ back water province is one of the smallest in Thailand being the 71st out of a total of 76 provinces that make up the Kingdom. (It is also 67th in population size) The old adage “It’s not the size that matters it’s what you do with it” sums up this quiet yet industrious region.
While once a noted frontier outpost of the Ayutthaya Kingdom and formed part of the vital defenses against the Burmese. It is now thankfully better known for its agricultural and Aquaculture Products, but that’s not the whole story, in line with its stance that small is beautiful, it has a well-earned reputation in the quality of the products, that come from its many traditional cottage industries. (Do note the province is at times confused with the Islands in the south of Thailand of the same name)
Listed below are just a few of the Cottage Industries that can be found in Ang Thong.
From the northern most Amphoe’s (districts) of Pho Thong and Sawaeng Ha, you will find local villagers producing a myriad of colourful artificial flowers, made from the remnants of silk and cotton, they can also include silkworm cocoons, coconut fiber, seeds, and Sa paper. Staying in Pho Thong, you will also find the ‘Wickerwork Village’ at ‘Ban Bang Chao Cha’, where the locals grow Sisuk bamboo, to use in this ancient handicraft and produce the very popular and delicate li pao vine ladies’ handbag. The products from the area are well known for their intricate detail and beauty
Travelling south to the southernmost Amphoe of Pa Mok, is where you will find the traditional skill of ‘Drum Making’, centred on the Village of Ban Phae. The drums here are traditionally made after the local harvest, when most of the work in the fields has finished. The raw materials used are cowhide and rain tree wood. It is here you will also find the largest drum in the world (or so it is said by the locals) measuring 3692 cm wide and 7.6 meters long.
Not too far away in the same Amphoe of Pa Mok you will you will come across the ‘Ban Bang Sadet Court Doll Centre’ located just behind the Temple of Wat ThaSutthawat in the Tambon of Ban Bang Sadet, It is here you can marvel at the workmanship that goes into making these traditional “chao wang” dolls or “palace” dolls, sometimes called ‘Thai Court Dolls’. The ornate clay figures depict the rich history of the Kingdom and include such characters as Thai musicians and children playing.
If the above two attractions are not enough for you to do in one day, then why not add a visit the Thai-Style House and Toddy Palm Furniture workshops. Located near the Wat Pa Mok Worawihan Temple, again in the same Amphoe of Pa Mok. it is here you will find local craftsmen working in the traditional way of their forefathers, in producing hand crafted household furniture, full size ‘Prefabricated Thai Houses’, models of Thai house and model furniture all made of several types of Toddy palm, the wood of which is renowned for both, its durability and its beautiful natural grain.
The prefabricated houses range from simple houses (ruen krueng pook) to large mansions (ruen krueng sab). In the countries distant past, land was plentiful and the population was small and so people often moved, especially when couples married or when the political circumstances necessitated it or indeed the system of slavery warranted it? See more.
Thai house construction takes these historical facts into consideration, by being completely modular. The prefabricated parts of a traditional Thai house can be taken apart and reassembled with relative ease, hence the Thai people ‘literally packed their houses and moved with them’.
There are other cottage industries in the province more can be found from the Tourism Authority Thailand
If you get the opportunity to visit any of the locations mentioned here, do spend time watching the local crafts men and women, hand make these traditional Thai products and immerse yourself in the Thai way of life, that has changed little in hundreds of years.
As with most things growing in Thailand the Toddy Palm does not simply provide one single natural resource that of excellent wood, the very tall Toddy Palms also provide the Ang Thong people with:
Palm Sugar & Palm Juice
Villagers climb the coconut palms to harvest the coconut nectar which has been collected in containers made from cut-bamboo sections that were hung from the coconut palms. (The process is similar to tapping rubber trees). The collected sap is boiled in a large pan until it turns to a brown coloured syrup, which can then sold as it is, or it can be allowed to crystallize into various shapes and sizes and dried. In Thai cuisine, palm sugar is mainly used in sweets and desserts, but it is also found in Thai curries and sauces.
The young soft fruit from the palm, is used to make a delightfully sweet cool drink sometimes called ‘Toddy Juice’. The fruit can also be eaten raw and are rich in vitamins A and C, they taste similar to lychees but milder and with no pit.
An interesting brew to say the least. The tapped sap from the tree can also be used to make fermented Palm Wine. Palm sap begins fermenting immediately after collection and within two hours, the natural fermentation process yields an aromatic sweet wine with a modest 4% alcohol level. If the wine is allowed to ferment longer, the wine becomes sour and acidic in taste. If left long enough the same brew turns into the best vinegar.
Thai Dessert: Khanom Tan (Toddy Palm Cake)
Although thought originally to come from the Kingdom of Lanna a in the north of Thailand this sweet sponge like cake is a favourite of the local people. It is made from the ripe Toddy palm fruit and the gluey yellow sap extracted from sugar palms themselves, to which is added rice flour, yeast, palm sugar and coconut milk, once mixed together the batter is poured into cups, steamed and topped with grated coconut, to produce a light but sweet tasting ‘Thai Cup Cake’.
The province can also boast in the fact that it has over 200 or so temples (including a number of monasteries), from the intricately carved and lavish, to the more modest and humble, some of which date back to the early Ayutthaya period (from 1351 to 1767)
“And there you have it, while not anywhere near the largest of provinces in the Kingdom of Thailand, Ang Thong can stand tall against its bigger counter-parts in the ‘Land of Smiles’ and still show that small is indeed beautiful”.
For more on the other festivals in December 2016 click here
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