|CITY OF WATER - The Venice of the East
> Bangkok once was called
the "Venice of the East", one of the water-based cities in Thailand, literally
means the city of many islands. 'Siam', the name of Thailand until this century, means
'people of the river'. No wonder that water is the most important feature for people's
> No other
region in the world possesses as many water symbols as East and south-East Asia.
Particularly in Thailand, whether it is in ritual, literature, dancing, folk art,
painting, sculpture, architecture, or town planning, a host of aquatic attributes
underlies them all.
The house on the slits
> Since the best place for
a settlement is around a river basin in order to get flooding for
agriculture. In the past, flooding was not seen as a catastrophic event, rather it was the
pleasant season when the land would be fertile. Many songs and poems, folk literatures
present flooding as a matter of course. Living with seasonal flooding was acceptable, Thai
traditional house is developed upon this condition. The house is built on high slits
regarding. Actually the house on splits is widely found in Asia. Since the traditional
Thai house mainly is based on prefabrication system, it was common to dismantle a house,
put the parts into a boat and migrant to a better place.
> Along the Chao Phrya
Basin, the floating houses were formerly side by side of the river. In the middle of the
nineteenth century, almost of the population were living on the water, on the
floating houses. It is very similar to a normal traditional Thai house, but instead of on
slits a house is built on bamboo rafts or pontoons and moored in the rivers and canals.
This kind of house gives flexibility and mobility with a high degree of efficient but
minimal planning. So it was a very common for a family to move from one floating community
and tie up with another one. Besides the floating house, a floating garden for some small
plantation was always along with the house.
> One of
the most famous tourist spots in Thailand nowadays is a floating market. The floating
market offers a different phenomenon of a market on a small canal, instead of a local
market in our image in a small square of a city. While the sellers and the buyers both can
be on the boat or on the land, every single activity has to be adapted to be amphibian.
Besides the market, it is also very common in the water way of life to have many floating
activities as you could think of on a boat; a monk on a small boat in a very early morning
being offered foods from Buddhists, a grocery boat selling every possible things, a coffee
boat, a noodle boat, a barber boat, etc. Even nowadays, in Bangkok Noi water community,
there exists a floating bank giving people a banking service from 9:00 am to 3:00pm on the
Bangli: an amphibian town
> Actually, another
interesting phenomenon for all the flooded cities in Thailand is that, whenever it is
flooding, instead of cars on the street, we can find many boats floating
all around as if it was a river.
> There was a town called Bangli in Supanburi, central plane of
Thailand. The whole town was built in the way that during summer and winter they lives
were based on the street, cars and all the land vehicles. When the flooding season
arrived, the whole town turned to be a water town, since the water level was high enough
to allow them to live on the second floor of the houses, the streets turned to be a canal,
boats were taken out.
Pier (ta nam)
> Almost every single
house by water in Thailand has a pier, Ta-Nam, which a place where life has a contacts
with the water; waiting for a grocery boat, offering food for a monk in the morning, etc.
It is as if an organ of building to touch on the water.
> Fishing in the river used to be
the most common activity in Thai life, when the rivers were not so polluted yet. One of
the most interesting fishing equipment is "Yor", which is a kind of net
suspended on the fixed frame with wheel to be put down in and up from the water. This kind
of fishing instrument could be found all over the central plane of Thailand.
> One of the most trendy
construction for Thailand some years ago was a gigantic dam blocking the huge flows of
millions cubic meters of water in order to get an electric power and to reserve
some amount of water for agriculture. The result was that, almost every single big river
was block by a big dam; Chao Phraya Dam, Phumipol Dam, Sirikit Dam, etc. Not to mention
that, some area over the dams became a huge lake, some old cities were sunk under the
water, some forests and some to-be-distinct animals as well. Thai people do not seem to
learn from the past, many dam proposals are still going on in the country for the rest of
the rivers. However, their physicals are very strong statement of how human being wants to
> On the full moon of
December towards the end of the monsoon season in November, it is an important
festival called 'Loy Kratong'. On this occasion, the entire population turns out in the
evening to find the nearest flooded ground, river, canal, or pond to launch miniature
floats containing flowers, joy sticks, and candles. Everywhere, millions of little lights
flicker wherever there is water. This festival is to worship and apologize to the sacred
mother water, the vain of their life. Since "Mae Nam", river in Thai, literally
means mother water.
|The vehicles: the boat
> There are several kinds
of water vehicles along the river, from the smallest one like the 'needle' boat for a
monk, or a very luxury one like the 'Anantanakaraj' Royal boat.
one of the most interesting type is the long-tailed boat, which is the original local
know-how. It can be found all over Bangkok and the near by city. Recently the long-tailed
boat becomes another option to commute for Bangkok people who avoid the unbearable traffic
condition on the street.
> One the
big barge is the taw krachang boat, it is the principle work horse for the
lower Chao Phrya cargo fleet. Measuring 10-18 meters long, and 5.5 meters wide,
constructed of single planks of second or third grade teak. The curvy roof is made of
screwpine leafs or bamboo woven into a mat or recently the galvanized iron is preferred.
It is not only used to transport sand, rice and other goods through the rivers, but also
to be a moving house for its owners. Usually many of them are tied up together and pulled
by a small but powerful boat, they become a temporary community moving along the water.