|The Student Ethnography Project #2|
“My family came from China and stayed in the Lopburi province at first. My grandparents moved to Ayutthaya, since their home was located in a military zone and Chinese refugees could not stay there for a long time. They picked Ayutthaya because it was the provincial center of trade, communication, and education. Our first home was a wooden row house in the Hua Ror area. My grandparents lost this home due to a fire, so grandpa sold pork skewers to support seven sons and one daughter. Afterward, we moved to a new home on Chakkrapat Road by the Pasak River. This property, around Wat Prasat, was divided into rental plots. The land was still owned by the temple, but residents could build houses of their own on the soil. In the past, Wat Prasat was full of trees and had a funeral pyre. A graveyard was nearby, so the people who built houses had to dig up and cremate some of the remains”.
“My street was once called Pa Maprow Road, since it had many coconut trees. Our community once used the Mahachai Canal for consumption; but now it is narrow, dry, and polluted. The Mahachai and Makhamreang canals had both been connected at one time, so they were often used for transportation before being covered by roads. Wat Khunsan also had a gully of water, but it was covered during the King Rama V period to make way for U-Thong Road. My village has many temples and a former palace. The old prison was close to the former palace. People still call the old prison’s chedi, Wang Karong (Palace of Crow Voices), because crows would screech whenever a prisoner died. Some mornings the sky was black from all the crows flying around. There were also vultures in this area at one time, but they moved away once people moved in. Muslims from Pakistan live to the west. They came during the reign of King Naresuan to trade and subdue the Burmese. Now, they feed cows and take care of livestock”.
“My family once lived next to Noi River in the Sena district. They used this river for bathing, fishing, and transportation. Traders used the Noi River for transportation to a Buddhist temple, where they sold there goods. Every morning, monks traveled by boat to receive offerings. Twenty years ago, the soil around our house began to erode until our home tumbled in. Now, we live near a road 1 km from the river. In my village, homes are built on stilts since flooding is common. Many houses grow bamboo (Look Buab), which they can use for ports. My grandparents told me that they didn’t have anything like radios, televisions, electricity, or telephones. They used charcoal for cooking and oil lamps for light. Their agricultural equipment included spades, saws, and fishing gear. They only had a pot and a frying pan for their kitchen. They used to drink rain water, which was caught in ceramic tanks, but we can’t do that anymore”.
“My grandparents told me that my village is named, Thang-Chang, since it was the location where elephants passed through on route from Suphanburi to the royal palace in Ayutthaya – where they were given to the kings. In the past, this area was a forest and there were many animals. My village has porcupines, snakes, squirrels, cha-mod (?), and cat fish. There were a lot of birds such as gah-wow, sung-saow, and nok-khao. But now many of these animals are extinct in the area, including porcupines and cha-mod. People sold them and also build roads. These animals no longer had a dwelling place. Six months ago, my father saw a catfish. He was surprised, because he thought they were extinct in the area. He told me that I must help protect the animals in my village”.
“My grand father lived in Nakhon Luang by the Pasak River with a big family. Every morning he would fish while my grandmother washed dishes and clothing. My father and his brothers would play and swim on the Pasak. Sometimes they took boats to temples or the school. People also used the river for agriculture and transportation. Vendors sold bananas and other vegetable by boat, and monks paddled boats along the river to accept food offerings. Around are house was nothing but land and trees. Once high technology became part of Nakhon Luang everything disappeared. Cement factories have been built, and barges carry sand on this route. The water level is lower than before. The people who live by the river have to walk to temples, since they can’t go by boat anymore. My second house was near the Chao Phraya River. My dad grew mangoes and bananas. We had a pier in the back of our house by the river. My third house was near a police station. I didn’t like it because it was so small. The front of the house was near a busy street, but our back yard had a banana forest. I used to play with farmer’s goats in the evening. It was fun. In 1993, we moved to my present house in Hua Ror. We lived off the island in an area that was full of fields. Bhramins from India used to live here a long time ago. We built a spirit house, called Phra Phoom, to protect us. There are still many trees: banana, papaya, coconut, and mango. Farmers raise animals such as oxen, cows, horses, goats, ducks, and cat fish. In 1995, Ayutthaya flooded. Water damaged the fields, trees, and buildings around my home. Water came into my house. My family had to live in a hotel for a few weeks”.
“My family moved around many provinces, but I was born in the Autumporn village of Ayutthaya. This place was located at the entrance of an old palace, by a large gate called Nopprarat, but the Burmese destroyed it all by burning it down in 1767. My family sold fish and frogs at the market, but after my father died my mother sold pickled vegetables instead because killing animals is a sin. My village is famous for three products: Arunyik knives, roti saimai (a kind of sweet desert), and ta-pean (an artistic fish made from braided palm leaves). The latter is used as a mobile for babies, because their arms get stronger when they play with it. Autumporn village has the Somjit market. We have many animals such as pets, fish, cobras, and some elephants. There is a farm next to my home that likes to show elephants and snakes. I want to see this show, but I am afraid of cobras.
The dirt road by my home was once very old and rough. In the past, everything was cheaper and the canals were clean. The canal behind my home is named Khlong Kramung. When my father was alive he trained my older brothers to swim in this canal. My house was made of wood. The second floor was where we live and the ground floor was a garden area. My mother planted orchids, roses, and jasmine. But all this is now gone because it was destroyed. My mother replaced it with a cement and brick building. There is only one floor and no garden. I like my old home better. As a boy I used to see many fireflies at night. We had a sports field nearby and everybody played games, but now there is only an expensive tennis court to play on. The canal is no longer clean and many factories have moved in. Everyone uses cars for transportation. I think that it makes the weather hotter”.
“My house is located near the Praya Banlue canal in Sena. It is a Christian village that was founded by Vietnamese refugees. We have a small orchard and can harvest water vegetables such as dok-sa-no. It has a yellow flower that you can eat. Most people around here can fish. This canal has many kinds of seafood. My family once owned some chicken coops that were built over a pond. The fish could eat chicken droppings, so the house didn’t have a bad smell. Our property has many weaver birds, called nok-kra-jab, which make beautiful nests. Since my family doesn’t harm them, they nest in trees by my home. In the past, my dad pumped water into our house directly from the canal, because we didn’t have any tap water. My grandfather built our house with his own hands, which took a long time. He was very poor, so he found wood from the forest and some old coffins. Our family held a ceremony when this house was finished. At the time there were no Thai priests in our village, so we had a Christian missionary from Portugal provide the service. Now, our house is made from cement, I drive motorcycles by road, and we drink tap water. My grandmother still prefers to travel by boat, since it is comfortable and doesn’t waste fuel. However, I don’t know how to paddle a boat myself. The government wants to keep this area clean and green, so we won’t have any factories built here.
“My village is named called Klong Takian. It is located south of the main island. There were once many Takian trees by the canal and one very large one that stood in the middle. That is how my village earned its name. Most of the community is Muslim. There are three mosques and one Buddhist temple. There are also three schools. One of them is very famous among Muslims who come from all over Thailand to study there. Although people have different religions they still live happily together. This village produces ring nets, fishing equipment, and Thai desserts. The animals are mostly domestic: cows, chicken, ducks, and goats. My grandmother told me that King Rama V visited our village by boat and named one of our mosques, Kudi-Chao-Far, since it was shaped like Thai architecture. The lifestyle along Khlong Takian is very casual. It is not like a city. People are self-sufficient and non-competitive”.
“I live in the Sampaolom area of Ayutthaya, which has a population of about 6,000. According to local legend, a prince of Ayutthaya fell in love with the daughter of a Chinese governor. This union was encouraged, since Ayutthaya had a strong trading relationship with Chinese merchants. However, one day the Chinese princess felt abandoned by the Thai prince and became angry, so she leapt into the Chao Phraya River and drowned. The soldiers could not rescue her, since they weren’t allowed to touch royalty. Afterward, all the soldiers on the ship drilled a hole in the boat and also drowned. One day, the current pushed the boat to the other side of the river and that is how we were named. My grandmother moved here from Khlong Takian since her former living space was too narrow. People in Sampaolom drank water from the Chao Phraya River and used it for washing and transportation. They fished, raised livestock, and conducted trade. But nowadays, people work in factories, government offices, agriculture, and minor trade. Modern Sampaolom products include ship construction, perfume, and incense. My home is located on German street. My cousins named this street after living in that country for a while. There are nine homes on this street and all of them belong to my relatives. Muslims, Buddhists, and Christians live in the surrounding area.
“My family lives in Ban Roon (south of the main island, near Khlong Takian). In the past my home had a bamboo forest and many snakes. The river was the center of the economy. Most of my family had to live by the river. They bathed, did laundry, and even drank from the Chao Phraya. Everybody stored water in large earthen jars, since there wasn’t any tap water. Whenever it rained they would try to fill these jars for future consumption. There was no electricity, so people used a tallow candle. There wasn’t refrigeration and the educational level was low. My grandmother only studied until grade three in a class of five students. In the past, the cost of living was cheaper. A family could live on 100 baht per month. They could fish for food, gather vegetables near their home, and grow their own rice. Most of the people were farmers. The main animal in the area were buffalo for plowing fields. My grandmother remembers that our village was once called Ban Mon, since it was were the Burmese expatriates made bricks. My grandmother made bricks as a little girl, but as an adult she weaved baskets and other handcrafts. There are many stories about ghosts and black magic. Near my home there are bamboo stakes to trap “grasue” as they fly by. My grandmother claims that many of them lived here in the past. Nowadays, it is only the older people who believe in this magic and ghosts”.
“I live in the Wang Noi district, 25 km from the main island. We have a big industrial area, called Factory Land Wang Noi, and a hydraulic power plant. Travel is easy because buses go to Northeast Thailand all night and highways lead to Ayutthaya. My great grandmother was the first to move here. They were rural people who fished, farmed, and raised animals (chickens, pigs, and cows). People often traded by bartering. Our village was in the middle of a flat range and the river overflowed all the time. People used this river for a main transportation route, as well as for washing and bathing. But now we can’t use the water since it is polluted and gives off a bad smell. Many people are not aware of the river’s value. They are careless and greedy. Now everything is different. We have modern consumer goods and conveniences. There are many roads for cars, but many accidents. When people used boats for transportation there weren’t as many wreaks.
“My family’s first house was near Wat Kian. Most people sold beef, including my own home. My grandfather came here with others from Pakistan. They built the Sapuyan Mosque. In 1993, a fire destroyed the mosque and my family’s home. We moved to the Hua Ror district next. There are many farms near my second house. They feed cows, buffalo, goats, and lambs. The closest canal is Khlong Muang. My brother always fishes and swims in it. Many Thais celebrate and apologize to the river during the Loi Krathong festival, but that isn’t practiced much in my neighborhood because we are Muslim. There are ten people living in my house. We have a small farm that sells oxen. I worry about my family not making enough money from this farm”.
“I have lived in two houses: the first was near the Hua Ror market, the second is near Wat Vong Khong. At my old house people lived near the river. They washed clothes and dishes, took baths, and threw garbage into the water. They used these waters for fishing and making fish-based products. Many of them were farmers or peasants, but the Chinese in the area sold gold, jewelry, and clothing. Most families spoke two languages: Thai and Chinese. My father could also speak languages from India. At Hua Ror market farmers sold fruit, vegetables, rice, and eggs. Houses were built on stilts because it flooded easily during rainfall. People moved upstairs when the river overflowed and downstairs was for storage. Nowadays, few houses are built in the Thai style, because teak wood is very expensive. However, I think we should keep these houses because it is the traditional style of our ancestors. My new house is located near Khlong Muang. There are many animals such as dogs, fish, and birds. I liked my new house at first because it was really quiet, but now it isn’t because many more people have moved here.
“I was born in Nakhon Nayok. My mother and father were also born here. My house is near Khlong Banna. This is the main river in my district, so people used this canal for everything. One main product in my village is brooms, because Banna has a lot of low-classed people that can make them. Knives are also made to cut meat and trees. My house is 25 years old. My father built it himself. It has a roof made from corrugated tin and dirt floor at ground level. This is different from newer buildings, which are constructed from cement in the farang style. There are many mango trees around my home, because my father planted them when my sister was born. My grandmother said that only 4-5 houses existed in this area before, because it was located in a forest that was far from the market”.
“I come from the Tonglang district of Nakhon Nayok. My father lived in Saraburi and moved here to become a teacher. My mother’s large family was born here. In the past, my grandparents used this water for everything but drinking. This area was natural and had no factories. People did agriculture, gardened, and breed animals for a career. People labored by hand or used buffalo to plough fields. Families barely had enough to survive, but we helped each other to make a living. Families would contribute their labor to each other’s fields. The main product in my village was rice. Tonglang is the name of a tree. My village has this name because there once were many Tonglang forests around. I have seen this tree before as a child, but now there are few because people cut them down. There isn’t much use for Tonglang trees. They don’t have edible fruit or flowers. Although my area is a rural lowland, we don’t have wild animals. There are only fish, birds, insects, and small mammals. There are mostly pets around. My grandmother told me that in the past agriculturists helped each other. When my grandparents sewed the rice their friend came out to assist them. My grandparents never wore shoes. Everybody walked around barefoot. In the evening all the villagers came to my home to watch television, since my family was the only one that had one. Families cooked and ate by themselves, but joined together at night for entertainment. In the past, there were many small canals in my area, but now there is only one.
“My village is named Romyen in the Kukot district. It is part of Lumluka, Pathumtani – near Rangsit Future park. My grandparents had no electricity or tap water. They used underground wells instead. My family moved here from Sena because the economy wasn’t good. Although there are already a lot of markets my family sells fruit everyday. My village isn’t located by a river, so we don’t use it much. They animals are mostly pets and stray dogs. The majority of my village now produces artificial flowers as part of the OTOP program. In the nearby area they also manufacture boots”.
“I live in Bangban, Ayutthaya. My grandparents moved here a long time ago. We live in an old Thai-style home. People used river water to bathe, wash dishes, and water trees. The main village products are bricks, Thai instruments, and joss sticks. This village used to be called Ban Jian (Chinese village) during my grandmother’s youth. Many Chinese lived here and produced rice in the past. There used to be many trees and fields, but now there is a lot of industry. Still, many people sell pigs, cows, and buffalo. My grandmother remembers that people had many children back then. There wasn’t any electricity, so people used oil lamps and stayed home at night. The area now has two sand ponds”.
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