Bangsai Arts and Crafts Centre

Trip Start Aug 08, 2009
Trip End Jun 01, 2010

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Flag of Thailand  , Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya,
Friday, September 18, 2009

It's a pretty innocent title, you wouldn't really think much of it other than a nice little museum of arts and crafts. It is a nice little museum, but there's more to it than that.

Yesterday, Charlotte, Julie Ann, and I (they're the Project Trust girls) went with a teacher to Bangsai Arts and Crafts Centre by Ayutthaya. It was more like a school where students can learn to do Thai handicraft. It blew any expectations that I might have had. You see baskets, bags, furniture, paintings, plates, vases, figurines, etc. and you really don't give a second thought to how they're made, you just see a little label saying Made in Thailand, or Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, etc. You don't give a thought to who spent painstaking hours of intense concentration to make these beautiful products that we, as tourists/foreigners take for granted. And all that works gets them maybe 10 or 20 baht. That's less than a dollar American. We saw people weaving baskets and hats and purses from these leaves. Including patterns and colors. Think about it. You have to go and find these leaves from plants that grow in the water. Cut and dry them out. Dye certain ones if necessary. Then of course, have the skill and patience to weave these into a basket or little knick-knack that you probably wouldn't give a second glance to at a market for maybe 50 baht.

We saw some incredible paintings. We were shown the essential first step of traditional Thai art. It's a flame-like shape that is actually really complex, despite how simple it seems. It's in everything you see here; the archictecture, art, clothing, handicraft, and more. Artists practice just that shape over and over again Then there's this process of where you go from a sketch, to inking it, to punching a TON of little holes in it, to placing it over a black board sort of thing and powdering it and then there's even more that I couldn't remember. It's so complex, there's months and even years that go into creating just one piece.

There was a sketch that one guy did completely free-hand with no guide or picture, just from his imagination. I'll just say I could never imagine something so beautiful, intricate, interwoven, and stunning. Not just from my head. It's a talent. There was also ceramic painting, which was fascinating. All these people working side by side in silence, working on pieces of art that make your jaw drop, seeing that they actually made them with their own two hands. Or their own two feet. I took a picture of this one guy who was disabled with useless arms and was using his feet to do an oil painting, no joke. And the painting was superb. It's so different to see all of this actually being made, not just sitting in a glass case or hung up on a wall. To understand the work and patience that goes into this and to actually see the faces of the people who can create all these different forms of art. While were all going about our oh so busy and important lives, what with schoolwork, friends, sports, and music, we don't even comprehend that there are people calmly sitting at a workbench just using the tiniest brush to patiently paint the face of a little clay figurine. This is how their days are spent. I'm not a patient person, but I imagine there must be a satisfying feeling to look at a painting or chandelier and knowing that it was you who created it. Maybe that's how parents feel when they look at their kids. But then again, I'm definitely not patient enough to find that out even if I wanted to.

We went to the art museum place nearby, the Bangsai Arts and Crafts Centre. The whole thing was started by Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand to help villagers improve the quality of their products to sell to improve family incomes in places of sub-standard living conditions, which is still just about everywhere. I suppose it must be a lot better than it used to be though. 
We passed more workshops. The bulidings were all lined up next to each other. Just big, open, garage-like buildings. There was a metal-works shop, wood-work, carving, furniture, and so it goes on. I know they definitely wouldn't be called sweatshops. There weren't little kids in there stitching together shoes by hand, but it still gave me a funny feeling. It makes me feel guilty knowing that these people work tirelessly for hours on stuff that we can buy very cheaply and take for granted. And who knows how much they're being paid. 
I managed a spicy dish at lunch and then we fooled around by a Muay Thai statue, I think there's a picture from it.

There was a supermarket where Charlotte and Julie Ann bought lots of food. All of those who went to Washington or Garfield, do you remember the electrophoresis labs we did where you'd use agar as the substance to put they dyes in? Yeah I saw cans of flavoured agar there, to eat. I didn't buy it. We also tried this delicious dessert, candy floss wrapped in green crepe-like food. Awesome. They wanted to buy shredded pork, so Ajarn Somchai led us through a maze of markets to find it. That was an adventure. We went up and down, crossed streets, jumped over puddles. It sort of went underground a bit after we walked through this sketchy-looking place with tarps strung up everywhere. It smelled worse the further we got. There was disgusting street water everywhere that you'd jump over and tiptoe around. I'm not sure what the sewer system is here, I usually just see everyone throw their waste and stuff on the side of the road, where there's really nowhere for anything to drain. Anyways, there were dead chickens hanging with their feet sticking out and raw fish and meat strung out everywhere on either side of you. It's so hot down there, it was rank. I can't imagine how bad the food must be staying down there. The walkways are so narrow too. I'm definitely not a queasy person, but the smell actually made my stomach heave a few times. Getting back up to street level with all the mopeds was actually pretty relieving. We saw some elephants too.

I spent the last two evenings with Charlotte and Julie Ann. They're here with Project Trust, which sends students from the U.K. to different countries to teach English. They're awesome. I'm jealous that they get their own place to live in and chill out, not to mention it's right by the school. It's so nice to hang out with people my age, or 18 I guess. The first night we watched half of Aladdin and Julie Ann made dinner, and then I got them to come jogging and we watched Brokeback Mountain. With Heath Ledger and Jake Gylenhall.. Anyways! I'm inspired to do a gap year now, like they are. Living by yourself and having that independence, not to mention the experience of a new country before college. Although I'm only 15.. definitely a bit before college.

Other happenings. I tried jogging by my house in Tharua and got chased down by a pack of dogs, but luckily I didn't have to kick any of them and risk getting rabies. I made it back home after a pretty epic 3 minute run. Today we went to the hospital in Bangkok to see my host mom and I absolutely completely bit it down the stairs after just meeting all of my host aunt's family. All I could do was laugh, despite the pain. I'm still feeling it. I'm in Bangkok right now staying with my host aunt's family since it's holiday right now. They're really rich here. The neighborhood is gated and looks like something from Desperate Housewives, except that I'm in Thailand. There's even a swimming pool. I can't believe this is the same country. We'll see how many touristy things I get to do this week and I'll take plenty of pictures, as always.

Final note; I bought 5 apples from Washington today :) They're delicious.
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jjmason on

Fair Trade
Hey Girl,
It really is amazing when you come home to remember that people in other countries continue to do the same thing while we are back in seeming luxury compared to what they are doing. They work hard and often for little pay. I love the Fair Trade products that allow more of the profit to go to the communities where things are made and to the people making them. Good for you for realizing this and try to call upon it when you get home next year as well.
You're learning so much and your eyes are being opened more than in any classroom or book. I'm so glad you are taking time to notice these things and be inspired by them. Keep it up! Love you!

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