Just around the corner from our Bangkok hotel, was the small museum, “Kamthieng House”:http://www.siam-society.org/heritage/kamthieng.html. The building, formerly a private residence, was built in 1848 on the banks of the Ping River in Chiang Mai province and was relocated in 1966 to its current location. Its exhibits and displays tell how the Lan Na tribe would have lived in the 19th century.
To reach the entrance we walked through lovely green gardens laid out in traditional style. The house had five main areas: ground floor, veranda, kitchen, main living area and granary.
On the ground floor, we began with a 10-minute video showing how the houses were built using columns of wood without using nails.
The building was on stilts and we removed shoes and headed upstairs to the open veranda at the front of the house. Traditional courtship music was played, as this is where young girls spun and wove and the boys paraded past hoping to find a match.
In the kitchen a video told us how to make frog soup as the Lan Na tribe existed on small shrimps, frogs, crabs etc. with meat from large animals being reserved for very special occasions. The room was large but quite sparsely furnished.
The living room had a varied selection of items.
There were samples of five styles of cushion and woven bed linen. Girls learned how to weave from the age of five and to be considered suitable for marriage, needed to produce a set of bed linen, pillows, mosquito net etc. For a man to be eligible for marriage, he merely needed to have his lower body tattooed.
Traditional female outfits were exhibited, with their horizontal stripes, followed by a strip of weaving at the bottom which demonstrated their needlework skills. Simple cotton vests were printed with charts and astronomical designs in line with their belief in spells and witchcraft. Interestingly, it was a matriarchal line, with houses passing on through the mother to the youngest daughter.
We also saw silver jewellery, weapons, pots hanging from the veranda rafters, woven bamboo baskets for catching river crabs and carved wooden lintels which would be placed above the bedroom door.
The Granary was an interesting place both in terms of how important it was for the homeowners lifestyle but also its size and grandeur was a statement of the standing of the family in the community.
Everything was well displayed in English and Thai and had been lovingly preserved. It was a relaxing way to spend an hour in peace and tranquility away from the surrounding hub hub and adjacent tall buildings. It was also very quiet with only a few other visitors. The “Siam Society”:http://www.siam-society.org/ has a building next door.
The entrance fee was 100 Baht (£2.50) each.