Today I am sharing my experience in Thailand away from the mass tourism. I went to ISAN and today I am sharing the things to do in Surin, Thailand, famous for the not so much known Thailand Silk. province of Surin and Burinam that are famous for it’s Thailand silk, Surin elephant village and khmer architecture.
The purpose of my trip was to take part in the Thailand Academy 3 that reunited fashion designers, design students, journalists and bloggers from several countries in order to discover Thai textiles.
We not only discovered Thai textiles, we also discovered a culture and a region. We had several groups and each group went to a different part of Thailand. My group went to the province of Surin, that is close to the border of Cambodia in order to discover the history behind the Thailand Silk, which is the specialty of this area.
Thailand silk – Sericulture process
We first went to the Queen Sirikit Sericulture center in Surin to see how silk is produced. From the silk worms that comes from the eggs of a silk moth to it’s transformation into a cocoon to finally the extract of a silk thread. (See process in the pictures below).
Containers to keep the larva cocoons
Silk woven on a traditional hand operated loom
At the Queen Sirikit Sericulture center we also experienced how they do the Thailand silk fabrics. With the process of silk dying, I created my own tie-dye scarf with natural colors, which means, the dying is made out of all natural products.
*You can see my creation below. I am not so talented but I think I could still use it as a headband this summer.
Things to do in Surin – Ban Tha Sawang weaving village
Later that afternoon we visited the Ban Tha Sawang village that creates golden brocade aka clothes made out of silk for the royal court and where we could learn more about dying. For example how natural is made of, blue, or indigo is made of indigo leafs, red is made from insect nests, and green from tree bark, and other vivid colors all from natural sources. But we also had a look at how the villagers work on silk.
At Ban Tha Sawang village I also had a look at how designs were made and this was very impressive. For one design there are 3 women working on a hand operated loom. The process is very long, they can produce only a few CM each days and the price of those designs is very expensive (around 1 500 Euros per meter).
We finally were introduced to traditional Thai clothes and how to wear them. See below I am wearing a traditional Thai pants.
Silk woven on a traditional hand operated loom
Golden brocade for the royal court
Trying on a traditional Thai pants
On the second day, we got to see what is real Thailand tradition, we visited a traditional village of Surin where most of the population is also producing silk. This was probably my favorite part of the experience, because besides seeing them creating silk they welcomed us into their village. The people from this village are Kui (it is an ethnic group) who have been living there for hundreds of years and still live in the traditional way. I could have a look at their houses, see them work and pray.
Larva cocoons in wooden containers on the terrace of the thai house
Creation of a natural dye color
Woman creating a spool of silk
Ceremony of praying for rain fall
After all those impressions and after learning about the thai silk it was time for the students and fashion designers to create new designs to help modernize the clothes made in some of the remote areas of Thailand and help so that it would sell better.
Students and designers working on their design
Headband made of silk created by Bryde Gordon
Dress made of thai silk created by Romuald Bertrand
During this trip, we not only learned more about Thai Silk, we also learned about Thailand heritage. Surin, in the north of Thailand is also very famous for it’s elephants and it’s elephant festival.
Surin elephant village – Baan Tha Klang village
Indeed, a very long time ago, elephants roamed freely in the forests around Thailand and then were captured by the people of the region and then trained by a mahout (person who rides an elephant) to be a working animal. Hunting elephants is not allowed anymore but some elephants that were captured (or those born from captured elephants) are still living with their mahout. Elephants may not have the best life (The Bemused backpacker wrote an interesting articles about why you shouldn’t go on an elephant trek in Thailand) so this is why the Baan Tha Klang village was created, to help both the elephant and their mahout.. The mahout get a salary to support their family in exchange for joining the project and respecting their elephant.
Really interesting at the Baan Tha Klang village is also the creation of paper made from elephant dung.
Find all information to visit the Baan Klang Village here or find out more about the Elephant Festival that is held each year in November here. Also here you will find useful informations on other ethical elephant camps!
Elephant bathing with it’s mahout
Production of elephant dung paper
Drawing made on elephant dung’paper
Buriram khmer architecture – Phanom Rung Historical Park and Prasat Muang Tam
Finally, before going back to Bangkok, we went to the province of Buriram and visited Phanom Rung Historical Park that is and the Prasat Muang Tam. They both are strong examples of the Khmer architecture and they are on one of the direct lines from Angkor in Cambodia to the North.
This was a little dream to come true for me as this has been on my bucket list to visit Angkor Wat. These two temples gave me a very nice foretaste.
Impressions of the Phanom Rung Historical Park
Impressions of the Prasat Muang Tam temple
Thailand Academy 3 was my second trip to Thailand. I have been to Bangkok only while on my way to another country but I liked the city a lot already. I though the people were friendly and the city was really energizing. I was planning to return soon to see more of Thailand but I would have never thought I would return so soon and I probably would have not chosen to visit Surin, simply because I was not well informed of what to see there. Surin and Buriram are very remote provinces in Thailand were tourists are rare. If visiting a foreign country interests you. to experiment it’s culture then I would say Surin and Buriram in the ISAN region are worth a visit and a change of Thailand’s more touristic attractions.
For more informations about Thailand, read my article about my tips for Koh Phi Phi island and about my stay at the luxurious Six Senses Koh Yao Noi.