Friday, January 11, 2008

Where the silk comes from

Where the silk comes from

Drop by Jim Thompson Farm in Nakhon Ratchasima over the holidays to see a classic Korat-style house that's 200 years old

Published on December 22, 2007

Every winter since 2001, Jim Thompson Farm in Nakhon Ratchasima's Pak Thong Chai district has been showing folks how all those beautiful silk garments come to be. It's a fascinating tour among gorgeous arrays of flowers and market stalls teeming with fresh organic vegetables.

This year - tomorrow through January 6 - there's an extra attraction: a two-century-old traditional house that's been moved to the farm's "Isaan Village". It will be shown off amid displays of local arts and culture.

The village occupies 10 of the farm's 600 rai. Along with the impressive wooden Korat-style house, there are homes typical of the Phutai and Yao ethnic groups and an extended house and toilets designed by architect Phahonchai Premjai.

"It's our way of helping to preserve the culture of the Northeast, by showing how fascinating Isaan culture is," says Thongchai Popaiboon, who manages the Thai Silk Company's Farm 2 and silk products.

"The 200-year-old Korat house was built by Phutai craftsmen from Buri Ram, and it's the only one left today."

"The Phuthai House itself," adds Phahonchai, who runs the Phohonchai Office in Design, "reflects the wisdom of the Phutai way of life through its architecture and its kitchen tools."

The Ruen Yao is a semi-permanent residence that hosts a display of phi ta khon masks - the unique ghost masks used in Buddhist ceremonies in Loei province.

Every weekend and from December 29 to January 1 there'll be demonstrations of how silk is made, with the silkworms and local weavers in starring roles.

All kinds of Isaan food - somtam, khao jee, you name it - will be cooked up, and it's up to you how much spiciness you can handle.

Near the quaint houses of Isaan Village will be a huge variety of flowering plants, vegetables and fruits, much of it for sale.

And you can sign up for a day-long farm tour that promises to be full of surprises, such as outdoor sports and some darn good dining and shopping. Count on the folks at Chokchai Farm and Thongsuk Farm.

Unlike those better-known spreads, Jim Thompson Farm has found its niche market in promoting Northeastern culture. Established by Thai Silk Co in 1988, it handles both the manufacture and distribution of Jim Thomson products.

The majority of its land is used to cultivate the mulberry trees on whose leaves the silkworms feed before laying their eggs. Elsewhere on the farm are orchards of fruit trees and the facilities where the silk is woven.

You can be driven around the farm, though the interiors of the factories are off limits.

Phatarawadee Phataranawik

The Nation

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