You might have heard of a lot of Mon communities settling in Thailand and around Bangkok area like Koh Kret, Prapadaeng, etc. yet there are not really in Bangkok. There is one Mon community, one of the six communities of our APPEAR Project. Proclaimed as biggest Mon neighborhood in Bangkok area as it’s located in Bang Khun Thien area, Bang Kradi has its own charming culture and belief. Entering into the community makes you feel like you are traveling to another country.
Hongsa , a mythological swan is a symbol of Mon community
Mons and Their Origin
While many people still misunderstood about Mon and Burmese. Yet, they are totally different nationalities. Originally, Mon hails near the lower part of Irrawaddy river while Burmese people came from the North of the river. In the past, Mon Kingdom was sacked and conquered by Burma, so many Mons fled including many communities in Thailand. Bang Kradi is different from other Mon communities in Thailand as the locals in the community migrated from other Mon communities in Thailand, not directly from Myanmar as the policy of the King during that time as to keep Mon communities separately in different part of Thailand, restricting them not to turn against Thais.
Religion and Belief
Mons are strict dedicated and strict buddhist practitioners, yet they still believe in ancestral spirits. You can also see seamless integration between Mon culture with religious events and temples. They would wear their colorful traditional clothes on religious days and festivals. As they believe that pregnant women are not allowed to sleep at other people’s house, they have to sleep with the ones who have the same family name only. And they’re forbidden to lean or stand against the house pillar because Mon people believe that their ancestral spirits which protect the people in the house and eradicate all the evil away will get angry. Lovers cannot touch each other until they’re married. After marriage, women cannot live in the same house as her parents anymore. She has to build a new house for her own family. If anyone don’t follow these beliefs, they have to do Mon spiritual dance ceremony (พิธีกรรมรำผีมอญ) to purify themselves again.
Mons are devout Buddhists.
Here Mon locals still dress up in their traditional costume during the religious ceremonies and festivals.
Even though Mon language has similar script to Burmese language, yet they have different pronunciation
At the end of Bangkradi Road which linked to Rama II Road, you will notice the buddhist temple with the unique architecture named after the community name ‘Bang Kradi Temple’ which was built in 1877 during the reign of the King Rama V. Decorated with Mon art and a statue of wooden-carved standing Buddha, the temple has become the center of the community. On every Buddhist holy day and festival, Mons in Bang Kradi who are devout buddhists will dress in Mon costumes, practice religious precepts and make merit. Similar types of curry or soup that each family cooks for offering at the temple will be mixed together and recooked for everyone to eat together (Gang Ruam).
Bang Kradi Temple with its unique Mon architecture
During festivals or religious ceremonies, ladies in the community will gather up and cook at the temple’s kitchen
Sets of local Mon meal
Mon desserts are on sweet tooth’s to-buy list. You shouldn't miss visiting ‘Baan Kanom Mon’ or Aunt’s Piak Dessert House located just right behind the temple. Aunt Piak shop is known among the locals as best-selling dessert house as she been making desserts for more than 50 years, yet just opened her own shop around 8 years ago. She inherited the art of dessert making from her ancestors. Here, you can select your favorite desserts from various highlight egg yolk-based desserts such as Sweet Egg Yolk Cup (Thong Yib), Sweet Egg Yolk Drops (Thong Yod), Sweet Threaded Egg Yolk (Foy Thong), the must-try giant Thai Mung Bean Paste (Med Kanoon) and festival Mon sweets such as Mon-style caramel (Kalamare) and Mon-style peanut bar (Krayasat).
Aunt Piak, the shop owner and the master of dessert making
Med Khanoon or Mung Bean Paste here is very unique size different from other shops.
Strolling through the small path into the community, you will find the two neighboring houses worth visiting. Those are Tayaemon Music House (Baan Tayaemon) and Tassel House (Baan Sae)
Entering the community
Traditional Mon houses along the street
Bang Kradi also maintains a rich Mon musical culture and is one of the last places where the traditional Mon band of Tayaemon still exists. Tayaemon House is home to authentic Mon folk music and a band called ‘Hong Fah Raman’, the only Mon band in Bangkok and the last of Thailand. Since ‘Tayae’ means singing in Mon, Tayaemon refers to the traditional Mon band which performs improvisational music characterized by song and dance routines. They mostly play at festivals and funeral events.
The band is led by Uncle Kanlaya who makes his own Mon instruments such as the crocodile-shaped Cha-keh and Soh, a wooden violin-shaped three-stringed fiddle.
Hong Fah Raman Band performing at Bang Kradi Temple on Mon National Day 2016
As ‘Tayae’ mean singing, Tayaemon music involves musical singing during the performance.
Next to Tayaemon House, you can meet Uncle Rod, the owner of Tassel House or Baan Sae that reflects the sustainable living and local wisdom in Bang Kradi. Uncle Rod makes this organic tassel from inner fiber of Nipa palm stalk which you can find around the community. The tassel is perfect for shooing away mosquitoes, insects and dusting. It is for sale only at Bang Kradi community.
Organic tassel from Nipa Palm stalk
Uncle Rod and his self-made tassels
Collecting Nipa Palm Stalks by himself
Saying goodbye to Uncle Rod and visit the next destination, Mon Art and Cultural Center or Mon Museum was founded in 1995 by Mr. Tawatpong Monda. He is a community activist that preserves Mon culture. The museum displays Mon antique collectibles through exhibitions of traditions and ceremonies of Mon culture from birth until death. One of the invaluable items includes a 150-years-old crocodile-shaped musical instrument Cha-keh. It was brought to Thailand from Mawlamyaing, a Mon state in Myanmar. Along the canal side is another section of the museum that you can find a showcase of musical instruments and other ancient items. The museum welcomes visitor daily from 8am-5pm. We recommend to contact in advance before visiting.
In front of the Mon Art and Cultural Center
A 150-years-old crocodile-shaped musical instrument Cha-keh
Display of Mon rituals and ceremonies at the museum.
Across the museum, there is a shelter nearby the canal where Aunt Plu, the owner of the museum and the community leader’s mother, often arranges local lunch for visitors and also has a workshop of Mon paper crafts/flags.
Aunt Plu, the owner of Mon Art and Cultural Center
Mon local lunch by Aunt Plu
Workshop of Mon Paper Crafts (Puang Mahod) is available upon request.
Having fun dressing in Mon costume :D
Amazon of Bangkok
As Mon communities are mostly located nearby water either rivers or canals, Bang Kradi is not an exception. Along with its strong Mon culture, you can also find the perfect view of Nipa palm forest while cruising along the canals called Sanam Chai canal, Bangkradi Noi canal and Ling canal.
Local boat to cruise along the canal
Green atmosphere in Bangkok
Nipa Palm trees along the canal
Nipa palm leaves are weaved among local families to make roofing materials.
A traditional dessert made of flour, coconut, and sugar ‘Khanom Chak’ is wrapped in nipa palm leaves.
Mon culture lies hidden in Bang Kradi community and is still waiting for you to visit and spread the words about them! Let’s make the local culture appear brightly again by visiting them!
When to visit: You can visit here daily. We also recommend visiting during the religious day or festival like Songkran day to learn more about Mon culture. Booking in advance is also recommended in order to prepare Mon meals and make sure that you will meet with uncle and auntie! Book with us at https://hivesters.com/activity/trip/lost-in-mons-world.
How to get there:
Bus no. 68, 76, 105, 140, 141, 529