Rustic Thailand

Rustic Thailand

Asian Charm

Rustic Thailand

Far from the usual touristy cities of Bangkok and Pattaya, Lakshmi Sharath gets a rare glimpse of rural Thailand with its breathtaking views of lush green farmlands and humble villagers leading a simple life...

Cruising on a ferry along the Klong Chak Phra, I am seeing a different Bangkok from the one I know. The silence is soothing, and long tailed boats replace the cars snarling down the roads. But it is not just the tourists who are floating along with us. 

The locals who live along the canal are taking the boats to the mainland. I see beautiful mansions and big bungalows with pretty gardens, built along the banks. While some of them are private residences, others are hotels and restaurants.

My boat seems to wander aimlessly, entering narrower canals, and I see a water monitor peeping its head from the foliage. The canals lead to the floating market, Taling Chan, where an array of fresh fish, fruits, vegetables and other dishes are being prepared.

I am charmed by the Bangkok that I see. Musicians are getting ready to perform, while locals throng the narrow canals to savour the colourful dishes served in the boats. The vegetarian dishes are tempting and I bite into some local sweets and try the sticky rice.

“This is just the beginning,” says my guide, introducing herself, “Call me Uma. My name is otherwise rather long and you won’t be able to pronounce it.” I tell her that Uma is very much an Indian name.

Far from the madding crowdAs we take photographs of the variety of dishes prepared on the boats, Uma tells us that we will soon be heading into rustic Thailand and our destination will be Nakhon Nayok. The sky is a pristine blue as we set out in a huge convoy of vehicles with the tourist police at the helm. I have done several road trips and yet this seems special as we are in the company of travel bloggers from all over Asia. 

Our first stop is for shopping. In the middle of nowhere, wrapped in a green carpet is a craft shop, Creation World Wild Wood, where a local sustainable small scale industry thrives.

Mango wood, which was once discarded, is now used to design and create hand-crafted home décor items like furniture, lamps, candle holders, plates, vases and several home décor items. A small workshop located close by shows the men at work who are chipping away at the wood and shaping it. 

It starts drizzling. Suddenly, the landscape transforms into a dream-like moment. Our eyes had got used to infinite stretches of green and yet, as the mist walks in, the scenery turns magical.

A huge expanse of water greets the eye. We are at the Khun Dan Prakarnchon Dam in Ban Tha Dan town, Uma tells us it is the longest reinforced concrete dam in the world. The mountains cling to the waters, while we can see on the other side small hamlets. It seems like an artist has dipped his brush in many shades of green and has painted the landscape here. 

While agriculture thrives here, so does eco tourism as the forests around the town have developed into an adventure zone. So we spend the day rapelling, rafting and driving ATV bikes. I opt for rafting as the water swishes and gushes and tosses us around.

Our tryst with rustic Thailand gets more intriguing. We are told our next stop is a hospital but when we land there, I see a palace. Standing in front of me in shades of mustard yellow and white is a beautiful building, more than 100 years old, that was built as a residence by the local governor for King Rama V when he visited the region, Prachinburi, in the early 20th century.

The style of the building is distinctly colonial with ornate doors and windows and it looks like a little castle surrounded  by statues of roosters, standing for good luck.

The Chaophya Abhaibhubejhr Building is today a part of the hospital, which specialises in Thai medicine. A museum here showcases the ancient therapies and traditional healing methods. Jars containing snakes and scorpions, herbs and potions are said to cure people of various diseases and allergies.

There are also creams and lotions made of flowers and fruits, hibiscus and mangostein in particular. The foundation works with the local farmers in cultivating herbs which are used in their remedies.

We are then treated to a traditional Thai massage. Lying in a room where warm sunshine seeps in and soothing music lulls you to sleep, my eyes shut as the expert fingers nudge and push rhythmically every nerve and muscle in the body.  Humble abode “But the best experience is yet to come,” whispers Uma.

And it is indeed one of the most overwhelming experiences I have ever had. We head to a traditional village, Ban Dong Krathong Yam, and the entire village is waiting for us, dressed in their finery, to meet their international guests. And they had cooked for us. I am completely humbled. I have never seen such hospitality before.

As I gulp down the delicious food, I learn that this village is often referred to as the noodle strainer village as the locals here make the noodle strainers used all over Thailand. However, there is a larger history to it. Home to the ancient Thai Puan people, the village is still steeped in its own culture and customs.

We see homes preserved for years and visit a museum to see some of the local items used by them. There is so much of energy and chatter around. I step out to see a small monastery and some temples where the monks head out. I walk around and see the men walking around in stilts, egging some of us to try.

There is a genuine bonhomie around. I sit by the temple and watch the people tripping and laughing. Life in a village is so simple indeed. Cities are bustling with life, but the soul of a country lies in its villages. And it is moments like these that play in your mind’s eye years after the trip is over.

Fact file

Nakhon Nayok is barely 100 km from Bangkok and can be reached by car or bus. It takes about a couple of hours by road. Buses leave Bangkok every 30 minutes.

There are plenty of tours and local transport that can take you to various sights in and around the town. Buses leave to neighbouring provinces like Prachinburi, while tuk tuks take you around to local sights.

The local tourism office is located in the Town Hall in Nakhon Nayok and can help you plan your trip.