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OTOP Souveniers from Thailand
Thai handicrafts from the 'One Tambon - One Product' program


From: Thailand: Traits and Treasures, National Identity Board, ©2005 by Office of The Permanent Secretary, The Prime Minister’s Office, ISBN 974-9771-52-4


One Tambon One Product [OTOP] development strategy at subdistrict level has been launched by the Royal Thai Government, as of the year 2004.

The spectrum of products that may serve as souvenirs is very broad. It reflects the great variety of local raw materials, the splendour of traditional crafts, the resourcefulness and skills of local people, and the appreciation of the Thai public themselves, first and foremost, and of more and more visitors to the kingdom.

Examples featured are those promoted through the OTOP strategy as characteristic of the country’s regions and provinces therein. As signalled through the name of the OTOP strategy, any such product is manufactured in a particular subdistrict, called tambon in Thai.

The products introduced hereunder form a broad selection. Hence, travellers would be well advised to further explore treasures of this kind while visiting whichever locations.

From among the costume accessories, products such as lady hats and handbags manufactured using natural fibres by the farmers’ cooperative in Cha-am District, Phetchaburi Province, Central Thailand, are highlighted. Using the bamboo groves in their surroundings, villagers have, since long, made tools and utensils such as farmers’ hats shaped like an inverted basin, called ngop, fans, and fish traps. In Bang Pla Ma District of Suphan Buri Province, Central Thailand, villagers have added the manufacturing of handbags, purses and hats. Villagers’ ingenuity has led to the manufacturing of objects using the fibres of the water hyacinth, which clogs rivers and lakes. Notably in Mukdahan Province, Northeastern Thailand, people harvest the plants, dry them in the sun, extract the fibres and twirl them into objects such as handbags and generalpurpose boxes.

Brassware includes examples from four locations. At Ban Bu in the District of Bangkok Noi, Bangkok, bowls engraved with traditional ornamental patterns are manufactured. At Ban Tha Krayang of Lop Buri Province, Central Thailand, a centre of creating Buddha images, skilled craftspeople also produce charming figurines. Objects otherwise plaited from bamboo are made of brass at Ban Khlong Khut Mai of Mueang Chachoengsao District, Central Thailand. Yet another type, known as nielloware, consisting mostly of bowls, coasters and lids, comes from Nakhon Si Thammarat Province, Southern Thailand.

From the rich diversity of ceramics, six examples illustrate the regional variation. Lifelike child and animal figurines are manufactured in the district of San Sai in Chiang Mai Province, Northern Thailand. The district of Prakhon Chai in Buri Ram Province, Northeastern Thailand, has a fine reputation for replicas of artefacts of the ancient Khmer culture. In the deep south of Thailand, there in the town of Satun in the province of the same name, decanters and fruit bowls are manufactured. Loei Province in Northeastern Thailand, especially its district of Dan Sai, is well-known for its scary phi ta khon masks and dolls. Apart from these ceramic products, those images are also imprinted on fabric. At the three locations of Ban Chiang, Ban Kham O and Ban Pulu in Udon Thani Province, Northeastern Thailand, replicas are manufactured of such characteristic, famous archaeological finds as pots, bowls, vessels and vases with the ornamental decoration of the ancient Ban Chiang civilization. The finishing of the unique Bencharong porcelain is an artistic distinction of Samut
Songkhram Province, Central Thailand.

Confections are virtually innumerable, given their great variety countrywide. Two specialties are described here. A variety of bananas is processed into two kinds of preserves, a confection similar to dried quince jelly called kluai kuan and fried, glazed banana slices called kluai chap. These sweets are prepared by the households of Ban Lan Dok Mai in Klom Phi of Kamphaeng Phet Province, Northern Thailand. In the same region, throughout the province of Nakhon Sawan, a confection known as khanom mocha _ tiny, round cakes filled with bean paste, fruit preserve, or salted egg _ are prepared.

The range of decorative artefacts is introduced by featuring select items. From the banks of the Moei River in Tak Province, Northwestern Thailand, come artefacts made from jade such as ornate trees suitable for table-setting. The wetlands in the district of Ban Sang, Prachin Buri Province, Eastern Thailand, are the source of rushes that are harvested and processed by local craftspeople to weave mats and, using them as base material, manufacture as well such objects as dinner plate sets and tissue boxes. On Lanta Island in Krabi Province, Southern Thailand,
craftspeople collect the leaves of a native pandan tree, known as toey panan. The dried and dyed fibres of its leaves are plaited into material with geometrical design and, then, worked into decorative objects such as pillow covers. People of Phangnga Province, Southern Thailand,
occupied with the cultivation of rubber trees and their tapping use the leaves as well, which they rub to loosen the membranes, making them translucent and colour them by dyeing to create beautiful, artificial blossoms. The manufacturing of prestigious artifacts such as ceremonial
weapons, especially in the shape of the Malay dagger called kris, is a specialty of Yala Province, Southern Thailand. Reputedly all village households of Ban Si Than in Pa Tiu District, Yasothon Province, Northeastern Thailand, are engaged in the weaving of fabric that they use to produce triangular pillows, the socalled mon khit. The manufacturing of the popular suspended mobile, rooted in traditional skills, is upheld by people of Ban Hua Laem in Wasukri Sub-district and in Ban Ratana Chai of Pratu Chai District within the perimetre of the old city of Ayutthaya, Central Thailand. Inspired by the splendid boats built by local craftsmen and used by fishermen, households of Ban Pase Yawo in Pattani Province, Southern Thailand, manufacture lifelike miniature kolae boats.

Perhaps the most varied local product is fabric woven in marvelous designs, mostly using home-spun yarns and locally produced dyes. The nine select examples are but dots on the country’s rich tapestry. Silk fabric of the elaborate mud mee variety, product of a weaving technique internationally known as ikat, a word borrowed from the Malay language, has earned the Phu Thai villagers of Ban Phon in Kalasin Province, Northeastern Thailand, a fine reputation. In the same region, the craftspeople of Chonnabot District in Khon Kaen Province are renown for their mud mee silk fabric. Using cotton yarn, villagers of Ban Thap Khlai, Ban Thap Luang and Ban Na Ta Pho in Ban Rai District, Uthai Thani Province, Central Thailand, weave fabric in the stunning traditional patterns known as lai nak, lai khosue and lai manoi. Handwoven as well is the fabric from the district of Ko Yo in Songkhla Province, Southern Thailand. Its superb design is known as lai rachawat. The pattern called lai nam lai, alluding to the flow of water, is characteristic of the Thai Lue, an ethnic group in Chiang Kham District of Phayao Province, Northern Thailand. In the same region, there at Ban Pa Sang and elsewhere in Lamphun Province, cotton dyed using natural substances is woven into fabric for the production of such household ware as table cloths, curtains and dinner plate sets. Handwoven fabric using cotton or silk, dyed by using natural substances extracted from tree barks, known as pha khit and pha hom, comes from the villages of Ban Wa Yai and Ban Don Daeng in Akat Amnuay District of Sakon Nakhon Province, Northeastern Thailand. Batik cloth is created by highly skilled craftspeople in Narathiwat Province, Southern Thailand. Surin Province, Northeastern Thailand, is famous for the silk fabric of traditional designs and colour schemes that is woven by members of ethnic groups living in the sub-districts of Sam Kho and Hat Thokam Khawao Sinarin, Khawao Sinarin District, indicating some Khmer cultural heritage.

Beyond the many regional and local facets of the Thai cuisine, there are certain food items deemed highly special, three of which are included hereunder. Salted duck eggs from Chiya District in Surat Thani Province are praised for their reddish yolk, deemed superior to duck eggs from anywhere else. They are produced in Chaiya District of Surat Thani Province, Southern Thailand. Throughout the province of Chiang Rai, Northern Thailand, the locally grown tea leaves of the Mae Salong provenance are available, and a cup of fragrant tea brewed to order is served locally. Livestock products such as fresh milk and sun-dried beef as well as snacks have earned the area extending from Kaeng Khoi to Muak Lek in Sara Buri Province, Central Thailand nationwide recognition.

Given the abundance of fruits native to Thailand or successfully adopted, preservation and processing are common activities. Following are four exemplary fruit preserves. Sun-dried bananas from the area of Ban Krathum in Phitsanulok Province, Northern Thailand, are praised for their soft texture, natural sweetness and aromatic flavour. In the same region, there in the neighbouring province of Phetchabun, the sweet variety of tamarind called makham wan is processed to make juice, sun-dried fruit and a spiced preserve. In yet another neighbouring province, Phichit, households of the Pho Prathap Chang and Mueang districts developed a technique to process the peel of almost ripe pomelo into a sweet-and-sour preserve shaped into toffees. ‘Lady-finger bananas’, either fresh or oven-dried, are specialties of two districts in Chumphon Province, Southern Thailand, namely, Tha Sae and Lang Suan.

Throughout the kingdom, locally woven fabric is used to produce garments. The one example introduced here is the variety of distinctive garments made by members of the numerous ethnic hill tribe groups in Mae Hong Son Province, Northern Thailand. Singled out for their wider popularity are garments produced by the Karen in Mae Sariang District.

To fittingly present souvenirs such as those featured here, gift boxes complete with ribbons and rosettes come handy. Households in Pran Buri District of Prachuap Khiri Khan Province, Central Thailand, have developed techniques and skills to make cardboard and paper from pineapple fibre and to manufacture wrapping materials as well.

In presenting examples of jewellery, two centres of local industries are featured. One is the country’s biggest concentration of precious as well as semi-precious stone deposits in Chanthaburi Province, Eastern Thailand, where also the trading and gem cutting enterprises are centred. Unique gold ornaments designed in the traditional style and enamelled in red, green and blue are created by the goldsmiths in the Si Satchanalai District
of Sukhothai Province, Northern Thailand.

Puppets have traditionally been a salient feature of the performing arts. The celebrated small marionettes known as hun krabok chiu, used in the theatrical staging of episodes from classical Thai literature, consist of ceramic heads and elaborate textile costumes. Such splendid puppets are created by craftspeople in the area of Chong Non Si in the Yannawa District, Bangkok. Using wood to craft puppets and building on traditional skills, manufacturers in Mueang District of Nakhon Pathom Province, Central Thailand, have ventured into contemporary designs such as fighting Thai boxers frozen in motion.

Fine specimens of timeless silverware in the traditional style are created by a group of silversmiths, using techniques ascribed to the Laos, at Ban Pa Klang of Pua District, Nan Province, Northern Thailand, and in the provincial town proper.

The country’s lush vegetation has given rise to the use of all sorts of plant material for the making of wickerwork. Using strings of a strong vine called thao wan, households at Kut Wai in the town of Si Sa Ket, Northeastern Thailand, work baskets for flower arrangements and fruit baskets. Well-known as a centre of assorted wickerwork that is useful, not to say indispensable for good housekeeping, is the district of Phanat Nikhom in Chon Buri Province, Eastern Thailand, whose products are displayed in markets throughout the area.

Unusual objects carved from wood or bamboo, different from the ubiquitous products, are represented by two examples. The chosen sample of wood-carvings is made using the wood of a pine tree called thep tharo, traditionally carved to create Buddha images or animal figurines. Craftspeople of Huai Yot District in Trang Province, Southern Thailand, have added objects such as attractively shaped and embellished vases. The corresponding sample of carved bamboo comes from Nakhon Nayok Province, Central Thailand. There, some craftspeople use bamboo root sections, left over after cutting poles, to carve the likeness of human heads complete with facial features, or images of hermits, or else bird figures such as peacocks. These are displayed for sale along the routes leading to local waterfalls.

Taken from: Thailand: Traits and Treasures. The National Identity Board, Royal Thai Government 2005.


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