When we think about the south of Thailand, do we normally think of beaches and islands? The South also has beautiful mountains and forests to explore too. I did not know that either until I discovered Kiriwong(คีรีวง), a small village tucked away in forests and surrounded by a ring of mountains in Nakhon Si Thammarat province (นครศรีธรรมราช). It is known for delicious fruits from forest orchards, natural art and crafts and cool waterfall with fish palace
It’s not that far from Bangkok as I thought. We took the night sleeping train from Bangkok on Friday night and planned to take the night train back on Sunday evening. If you have an extra budget, you can, of course, fly back.
Before taking the train, I am a little excited, as it will be the very first time in the past 10 years! When I was little, I remember I took this train every year during the school break to visit my grandpa in Trang province, and the bogie was filled with all the excitement of summertime.
The train looks the same as it was 10 years ago. I think we can call it vintage! During the day, you can sit comfortably, read and have lunch with your friends. Woot woot! And don't you worry about stocking up food before you board the train. At every single stop, there will be food vendors walking up and down the bogie to sell all kind of food and drinks (unfortunately no alcohol). There is also a food cabin on the train, which closes at 10 pm. Sleeping can not be more comfortable. After the dark and the moon comes up, a friendly train officer will come around and turn these seats into beds for you. How convenient!
In the early morning, we finally arrived Klong Jan Dee train station(คลองจันดี).
P'Guitar (P' is Thai way of addressing someone who is older), the coordinator of the community picked us up. Let's the journey begin!
First, P' Guitar showed us the morning market where you can buy local veggies and fruits, freshly caught fish, traditional desserts…you name it.
Arg..wakie wakie sleepy head, this is way too early for me! Luckily, on the same strip of the market, there is a vintage coffee shop called "Jan-Dee-O-Cha" (จันดีโอชา) which is running by the fourth generation of the family.
My stomach started to be cranky so P' Guitar brought us to this famous homemade noodle and wonton shop called "Mhee Keaw Jan Dee" (หมี่เกี๊ยวจันดี). They make their own noodles and wontons fresh every day, and you will be able to tell as the texture of noodles are so soft that they will melt in your mount. You can choose to add char-grilled and roasted red pork to your dish. Delicious!
We then took the van into Kiriwong village. Most of the people living here grow and sell fruits. People say that the fruits here taste the best because the orchards are in the forest with great soil and waterfalls. Kiriwong has both the King (durian)and Queen (mangosteen) of tropical fruits. Three typical fruits you can see everywhere here are mangosteen, durians and rambutan. The price per kilo here is so cheap if you compare to the price in Bangkok. The big size of mangosteen in the picture cost 20-40 baht/ kilo here and it can go up to 700 baht/kilo in Siam Paragon Shopping Mall in Bangkok.
In the village, you will always see someone climbing trees, picking fruits, weighing fruits, transporting fruits and selling fruits!
I did try fruit picking and delivering, but it is not easy! People here can climb ridiculously high trees without any tool, carry these two baskets(60 kg) and walk downhill for 20 minutes. They do not need CrossFit out here for sure! Me? I managed to carry 30 kg and walked for 2 minutes...boo.
If you walked pass local people here and started chatting, I bet they will offer you free fruits they just picked (100% positive!). This happened to us all the time when we were walking around i.e. this uncle drove motorcycle pass by and stopped just to gave us his freshly picked durians for free! Never ever happen in Bangkok.
After a little rest, we are ready to explore many activities and workshops available here!
Tie – Dye with P' Urai and P' Ari
P' Urai is a person with a free spirit. When she started doing this, she simply tested and tried, marked her experiments down and tried again. She explained us the basic way on how to make the patterns from simple circles to cute little stars and then let us use our own imagination. "Don’t be afraid girls, it will come out fine and, if not, we can learn from it for the next one."
I made this bag traditionally use by people in Kiriwong. It is a versatile bag that you can use to pick some fruits, cover dirty ground before you sit in the forest or just to go do some groceries shopping at the market. I met this granny on her way to the mountain using the bag in the same way P' Urai demonstrated to us. It is interesting how she incorporates fashion into a traditional lifestyle.
As for another tie dye workshop, P' Ari founded the group 20 years ago. Her method is similar, but she has a different style - very detailed, accurate and neat.
DIY Accessories and Dream Catcher with P' Roj
Up next we went to meet P' Roj to learn how to make a dreamcatcher and a bracelet made from inedible fruits of trees. As he grew up picking fruits, he saw these interesting pebbles fell from the trees and thought of how he could make use of them. He then came up with an idea to turn them into these beautiful accessories.
Batik Class with P' Tukkae
Not only P' Tukkae is an artist, but he is also a poet who described the art of Batik to us in a poem. The colour he uses for his batik is also extracted from 100% natural plants.
Mangosteen Soap Making with Mr. Mungkut
Sonthaya or known as "Mr. Mungkut" (Mr. Mangosteen)is the first person in Thailand who utilised the skin of mangosteen to make herbal soap under the brand ‘Mr. Mungkut’. We learnt from him that mangosteen skin contains many health benefits in healing the inflammation, rejuvenate skin, overcoming diarrhoea and much more. His mini production is impressive, and his soaps are being exported to Japan, China, Malaysia, Singapore and Dubai!
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Apart from these workshops, we also explored beautiful forests, waterfalls and had AMAZING food. Time is however too short. The train arrived so we had no choice except saying goodbye to P’ Guitar and boarding on the train. We are now on the way back to hustling Bangkok but, this time, with new artsy skills, great memories and new friends!
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Story by: Mint, Chayanich: Co-founder of HiveSters
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