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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 life.

> 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.

Amphibian living

The house on the slits
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ince 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.

Floating house
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long 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.

Floating market
> 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 weekdays.

Bangli: an amphibian town
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ctually, 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)
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lmost 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.

Net (yor)
> 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.

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ne 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 conquer nature.

Loy kratong
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n 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.

> Probably 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.


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