Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Baan Krua

I told you I was eager to see Baan Krua. I dragged the kid across the canal today to see the origins of Jim Thompson's Thai Silk Company Limited. If you have no idea who, what, or where I'm talking about, go back one post, and read about it all HERE.

Crossing the khlong to get to Baan Krua.

If you don't want to do that, it's your loss, and I wash my hands of you. But, for the sake of being charitable, I'll give you a brief summary. Baan Krua was an area of Bangkok originally granted to the Cham Muslims who fled from other Southeast Asian countries. They brought their tradition of silk weaving to Thailand, and developed small production workshops in the community. In the late 1940s, Jim Thompson, an American architect/spy, moved to Thailand and co-founded the Thai Silk Company Limited. Relying on established local weavers from Baan Krua, Jim built an international reputation for himself, and for Thai silk. After his disappearance, production for Thai Silk Company Limited was moved to another area of Thailand. The tradition remained in Baan Krua, as did some of the original silk workshops.

Jim Thompson's house from Baan Krua.

I only learned about Baan Krua recently, while trying to find interesting, offbeat things to see in Bangkok. The neighborhood was described by our Lonely Planet book as "old, tightly packed homes threaded by tiny paths barely wide enough for two people to pass." That screamed, "Old, Greek island village!" to me, so of course I had to pay it a visit. Oh boy, did it live up to expectations. 

The main draw of the neighborhood is the silk stuff. We popped inside one of the workshops to see what we could see. I felt a bit guilty, as we caught them on a particularly hot day, right around lunch time. They had to get up and turn things on for us. They were very welcoming, and didn't begrudge the intrusion.

He was fascinated for about a minute, then declared he was, "All done," and had to be held for the duration of our visit.

This woman was hard at work on the loom when we arrived. She paused to take some photos of The Kid, so we took some photos of her.

Given the circumstances, I felt obligated to buy something from their shop. I should be clear that there was absolutely no pressure on their end, and very little resistance on my part. The biggest check on my shopping was that I hadn't thought to bring more cash. They had beautiful scarves, bags, pillows, and bolts of silk. The prices are reasonable, when you consider the cost across the canal. In the end, this was what caught my eye, with wallet approval:

Isn't it gorgeous? I want to frame it and hang it on a wall somewhere.

There's at least one other workshop that we didn't visit this time, because we wandered around in the opposite direction. Baan Krua is a great place to wander. Wandering with a kid was an extra treat. Thais love kids, and he drew all the attention. It was a nice deflection from me, the gawking farang photographing the neighborhood. Nobody seemed put off by either of us being there (certainly not him--they'd have kept him if possible), but it was definitely the village experience, in that there are a lot of people at home looking at you and wondering what you're doing there. I loved it. It brought back good memories of Greece.

This is one of the old houses tucked away in the neighborhood. I couldn't handle the beautiful woodwork, and was audibly exclaiming over it. A woman stopped to ask if I was lost.

This makes gardening look effortless. Maybe it is for other people.

I like this entry.

We had a great trip. Someone in the neighborhood told us to come back again, and I said, "We will!" maybe a bit too forcefully, because it was clear they were primarily talking to The Kid and not me. Whatever. I'll be back, whether they like it or not.

Crossing the khlong to get back to the big city.

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