Stumbling upon art in a floating market

Stumbling upon art in a floating market

Stumbling upon art in a floating market
Situated nearly 50 km from Bangkok, Ratchaburi is well known for its Damnoen Saduak Floating Market that not only provides unforgettable glimpses of traditional Thai lifestyle to travellers, but also introduces tourists to the exotic world of Thai art and craft.

During my second visit to Ratchaburi Floating Market, once again I had an opportunity to cruise in a longtail speedboat along the canal that passes through orchards, traditional teak houses of Thai countryside and traders selling their stuff on flat boats. There is a wide array of shops lined up on either side of the canal that exhibits exquisite handcrafted products of Thailand, and it was like going on an art sojourn. There are lots and lots of Thai art and craft items at the floating market and we were spoilt for choice. If you’re an art fiend, then this is the place to be.

After navigating the water, we strolled through the floating market and gazed in admiration at the astounding range of Thai craft items. Scores of wall decor elements like elephants embossed on wall plates crowding the shelves of the shops are a common sight. There are fascinating hats of Thailand crafted from bamboo and palm leaves that have multi-purpose utility and can be used as elegant hand fans.

We glanced at the fascinating, colourful hand-painted Thai umbrellas on fine silk with floral or bird motifs that make for great gift items. These are processed from mulberry bark and come in a variety of soothing colours and sizes. There are unique umbrellas with decorated wooden handles which when folded on the shelves appear like dolls. These umbrellas are a big hit with tourists since they can get a good bargain at the floating market.

One can come across splendid woodcraft and skilled craftsmen at work crafting brilliant pieces of mementoes from teak wood at such souvenir shops. There are pen-holders, photo frames, paperweights, table clocks, musical instruments, flower vases, miniature grinders, intricately crafted jewellery boxes, lamp stands and animal figures. There are amazing woodenwares including bowls and pots of various sizes. Perhaps the most amazing items for us were the finely polished wooden cutlery and crockery items.

We sighted a huge array of Khon masks mostly used by performers of traditional dance-drama of Thailand. There are masks of demons, monkeys, lions and other animals at the gift shops. The most eye-catching items were the numerous handmade wall hangings that come in black background and flaunt an array of elephants (the national animal of Thailand). Other impressive wall hangings included the kaleidoscope of Thai countryside.

The best-known products at the floating market are the handbags and purses crafted from Thai silk with elephant motifs woven with golden threads. These handbags come in all sizes. Most purses and handbags exhibit elephant designs that form the common features of Thai craft. There are cotton handbags that have glitzy appliqué work of elephant designs embroidered on them.

In addition to these, there were pillow covers of Thai silk woven with rich motifs of elephants.Travellers can get to choose from a range of garments made of Thai silk, like scarves, gowns, skirts and casuals. Some of the other attractions include a plethora of funky pieces of jewellery in varied colours brilliantly crafted from stones and beads.

A visit to the floating market is sure to boggle the imagination of even the most sceptic visitor.
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