Koh Sarn Chao: Island of Elegant Crafts

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The first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the community name Koh Sarn Chao  might be some island, but it’s actually NOT! Though it’s an island village in outskirt of Bangkok like Koh Kret, the shady green atmosphere and its highlights are pretty much unique and worth-visiting green getaway!

Local lives include the paddling boats that every house still use to commute along the canal.

This place is known by some tourists from a Klong Lat Mayom Floating Market’s boat trip, yet there is charming local way of living hidden here. Located in Taling Chan district, this slow-paced community derived its name (which literally means Island of Shrine) from its unique landscape as it is situated in the middle between two canals (Ban Sai Canal and Bang Ramat Canal) which make the area looks like an island. Chao Pho Jui Shrine is a sacred place of the community in the middle of the community. While ‘Jui’ means Water in Chinese dialects, this also reflects the local bond to the canals. Every year, the community will host a festival to celebrate and worship the shrine and god of water.

Chao Pho Jui Shrine
Performance at the annual festival celebrating and worshipping Chao Pho Jui

Before entering the communities after parking your car at Champa Temple,you might start thinking of similarities of Thai temple including this temple. However, Champa Temple which was built since Ayutthaya has its own unique architecture. You can notice the porcelain art on the gable of the temple.

Its unique porcelain decoration on the temple’s gable.

Community of Craftsmen

Walking into the vast area of green space throughout the community will make you feel invigorated. Here, you can find delicate crafts from nature namely Pang Puang and Tang Yuak and also organic food from their own garden. The descendants of craftsmen has been resided in this area from generations to generations calling themselves ‘Champa Temple Artisans (กลุ่มช่างวัดจำปา)’.

The view of two crossing canals

The beautiful Thai traditional house called Wang Chan House is owned by Mr. Thaweesak ‘Dui’ Wangchan, the community activist and leader. His family has a long history with arts and crafts since grandfather and father who learned the art of banana trunk carving from royal artisan.

According to his professional career as an architect, the house was designed and built by himself for his two daughters which later became the nickname of the house ‘House of Two Daughters’ or Baan Song Butree (บ้านสองบุตรี). It normally opens for public during the weekend and hosts visitors with advanced booking with set of local dishes like Mee Kati (หมี่กะทิ), Kanom Buang Yuan (ขนมเบื้องญวณ),  Lon Kung (หลนกุ้ง), etc.

Entrance to Wang Chan House
Beautiful traditional Thai house
Local dishes prepared at Wang Chan house

Khun Dui is also the latest descent of the local artisan who still preserves the disappearing art of banana trunk carving or Tang Yuak (แทงหยวก). It originates from Mon artisans who fled to this area after the second fall of Ayutthaya in 1767. Carved banana trunk is used for religious ceremonies like ordination ceremony, funeral, etc. Each carved trunk will be installed together. The reason that they used this craftwork for funeral is the belief that banana trunk can control the fire burnt and also reduce the smell of the burning corpse.

P’Dui demonstrated his banana trunk craftswork
Decorated with flower-shaped carved banana blossom

Leaving Wang Chan house, you’ll pass Chao Pho Jui Shrine and the small bridge crossing the canals. Walking along the small pathway will lead you to the Vintage Perfumery House (Baan Kueang Hom; บ้านเครื่องหอม) owned by Ms. Pakdee or P’ Dee who is P’Dui’s younger sister. The scent inside the house is mixed of herbs and incenses used in the powdered craftwork called Pang Puang (แป้งพวง).

Baan Kreung Hom or Vintage Perfumery House

P’Dee learned this skill from the royal artisan to succeed this disappearing traditional craft of Pang Puang made of perfumery powder. This kind of craft has been established since Ayutthaya era in various form including wreath, hairpin, and garland while which each form has different way of usage. A perfumed-powdered hairpin was used to decorate women’s hair in the past and also to make their smell good, similar to dry shampoo in present day while wreath and garland are normally used as the fresh flower one to worship the Buddha or the elders.

Incenses to make a perfumed craftwork
Made of stone powder and incense for overnight.
After leaving it to dry, tied up all strings (can be 10 or more strings).

Hairpin – Learn how to make it here

If you wanna stay here a bit longer,a cozy wooden homestay of Wang Chan family called ‘Sawang Chan Homestay’ which already hosted many Thai stars for television programs welcomes all visitors to stay overnight here.

Nice place for staycation.

Before the 2011 Bangkok’s flood, it used to be many gardens here. Locals would grow their own fruits and vegetables in their own garden, yet now there are few left such as at Baan Suan Rim Klong and Dr. Toi’s Garden House. Dr. Toi and his wife sell organic herbal drinks like butterfly peas (อัญชัญ), torch ginger (ดาหลา), Chrysanthemum (เก๊กฮวย) and fruits from their own garden during the weekend.

Green Neighborhood

At Baan Suan Rim Klong, it is a pier for tourists from Klong Lat Mayom Floating Market. There are many foods and drinks from locals selling on the weekend. One of the highlights is the juice and local products from baby jackfruits or gac (ฟักข้าว in Thai) which were grown at their house.

Baby Jackfruits or Gacs
The inside pulp used to make juice.
P’ Sumphao who owns juice recipe

If you would like to learn to be a local, P’ Ja is willing to teach how to paddle the wooden boat like a local pro along the canal! See our fun experience here – Click!

P’ Ja, a younger sister of P’Sumphao

The last stop is at Grandma Berm’s house where they use organic fruits from their own garden to make desserts like banana cake (Khanom Kluay; ขนมกล้วย) and banana in sticky rice (Kao Tom Mud; ข้าวต้มมัด). Dessert workshop is also available upon request.

Grandma Berm’s making banana cake
Organic banana cakes

Since these local ways of living are slowly disappearing from Bangkok, let’s support them by visiting or sharing about them!

When to visit: Most visitors are welcomed to visit during weekend. Want to have this similar experience book with HiveSters! (https://hivesters.com/activity/trip/craft-from-nature-in-koh-sarn-chao)

How to get there:

  • Bus no. 124
  • Red opened-air van (Song Thaew; สองแถว) from Siriraj Hospital
  • Tourist Boat from Klong Lad Mayom Floating Market
  • via Phutthamonthon Sai 1 Rd., Borommaratchonnani Rd. or Ratchaphruek Rd. (Champa Temple, Taling Chan)

See Koh Sarn Chao Video –here!

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