If you’re interested in Thailand’s traditional arts and crafts and want to see the huge effort and skill that goes into making some of the kingdom’s famously intricate artworks, it’s worth paying a visit to the Bang Sai Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Centre in Ayutthaya.
The centre is not far from the UNESCO-listed Ayutthaya Historical Park and is part of the Promotion of Supplementary Occupations and Related Techniques (SUPPORT), an organisation established back in 1976 under Royal Patronage. The SUPPORT Foundation is to preserve Thailand’s arts and crafts skills which, have helped adorn the nation’s glittering temples, beautify homes and villages and to make Thailand a centre of trade and commerce for centuries.
The centre is easily reached if you’re on a day trip to Ayutthaya or the Bang Pa-In Palace and it gives you the chance to see first-hand how the kingdom’s arts are being kept alive and taken in a new, more modern direction by the talented craftspeople training and teaching here.
The centerpiece and showroom of the Centre is a village made up of traditional Thai houses built around a fish-filled lake. This is a living village, with houses grouped in regional styles – Northern, Southern, Central and North-eastern. You can chat to the “locals” as they carry out everyday tasks, such as, glassmaking, pottery, and weaving. It’s charming rather than contrived and gives you the chance to peep into the interior of the wooden buildings to see how generations of Thais have lived.
The Bang Sai village is most lively at the weekend and during holidays when there are displays of Thai classical dance and folk entertainment from the different regions of Thailand.
The village also acts as a venue for Thai weddings complete with ceremony, Thai music and decorations. So if you and your partner want to start your lives together with a touch of Thainess, this is the place to come.
The actual arts and craftwork teaching takes place in the warehouse-sized buildings next to the village. These are places of work with intensive training going on daily. But the instructors and students are used to people dropping by to watch them work or to admire the finished pieces and they are happy to talk or let you take pictures.
Explore the buildings themselves and you can see everything from people using wooden looms to create beautiful pieces of silk, and sculptors working on lifelike statues of anything from a Thai giant to that giant of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley. Most fascinating are the glass sculptors, bending and shaping hot glass into exquisite shapes and sculptures or making colourful stained glass.
To buy artwork, or simply to learn more about the project, then visit the Sala Phra Ming Khwan, which you can’t miss: it’s a massive and stately example of modern Thai architecture that sits at the centre of Bang Sai.
The building is dedicated to the Thai arts and culture. On the second and third floors, some of the masterpieces made by Bang Sai’s craftsmen are on display.
Looking around the project can be fascinating. But it’s not all handicrafts and there are natural wonders to enjoy to. So on the way out, stop by the Bird garden, which is operated by the Wildlife Fund Thailand under the Royal Patronage. Many of the birds here are free to roam around in the natural forest area and some are being reared with the aim of them being released back into the wild. So if you like the idea of getting up close to an ostrich or a hornbill, stop by and support the cause.
Bang Sai Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Center should be incorporated into a trip if you’re visiting this historic area of Thailand. You will gain a deeper understanding of the Thai arts and culture and learn another reason why the work of the late King and the Royal family are so esteemed at all levels of society.
Bang Sai Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Center is open from 8.30-16.30 Hrs. during the week and to 18.00 Hrs. on weekends and national holidays. On busy days there is a train that goes around the centre.
Take Highway No.9 (The Western Ring Road), from Highway No. 345 intersection (Amphoe Bang Bua Thong), which can be accessed from Suphan Buri – Taling Chan, or Pathum Thani via the Sam Khok elevated intersection – across the Chao Phraya River – turn left at Bo Sa Intersection – straight on to the Centre.
Take a bus no.838 (Rangsit-Bang Sai Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Center in Ayutthaya) from the Future Park Rangsit Bus Stop on Phahonyothin Road to Bang Sai starting 06.00-21.00 Hrs. or take a bus from the Northern Bus Terminal on Kamphaeng Phet Road to Bang Pa-in.
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