There was once an abundance of tapian fish in the Chao Phraya River, inspiring residents of a neighborhood in Ayutthaya to develop a highly-original form of handicraft, which also provided a suitable pastime for their children. A Practical Application
Fortunately, the craft has not only been kept alive, but is also recognized as being a symbol of the culture of the ancient former capital.
A Popular Memento
These popular craft items are made from woven palm leaves. The woven tapian fish have become one of Ayutthayas most popular souvenir items, which has ensured that plenty of residents of Tha Wasukri subdistrict in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya district retain the skills required in order to produce them. Tha Wasukri is credited as being the place where the craft originates.
A Family Enterprise
Tha Wasukri resident Sarawuth Meepholkij, 35, has been producing woven tapian fish since he was a child. He picked up the skills from his mother Wantanee, 66, who has received official recognition from the provincial authorities for her weaving expertise. Several other members of the family have also learned how to produce the fish thanks to Wantanees expert guidance.
While it seems that plenty of locals still possess the necessary skills required to produce the woven fish, the method used to produce them has evolved over the years. Although the patterns used remain the same, these days the finished article is usually painted, too, in order to ensure the fish capture the attention of passersby.
Often, individual fish are combined to produce a mobile. The size of the finished product will depend on the size and number of fish used to produce it.
Many local people still use a single fish, or a fish mobile to hang over an infants cot. This attracts the attention of the child and often stops them annoying their parents too often, Sarawuth says. Most tourists tend to use the fish or mobiles to decorate their homes.
A Popular Attraction
Fans of folk art often visit the Meepholkij residence, a shophouse located in Tha Wasukri, to purchase some fish or a mobile. They can also learn during their visit how the fish are skillfully produced as this is also where Wantanee, Sarawuth and other members of the family produce their wares.
While the production process isnt very complicated, it does require a good deal of patience and practice, according to Sarawuth. As well as weaving the body, you also need to do some sewing and painting in order to complete the piece.
Certain weaving techniques are also required when producing a mobile, he says.
Sarayuth says that over the past several decades, thousands of the mobiles have been exported to Japan on an annual basis.
Pride of The Province
Sarawuth and his mother are also instructors at a tapian fish weaving workshop, which has been introduced to schoolchildren in the province as part of a long-term campaign by the provincial administration to promote local wisdom among current and future generations.
They have also joined cultural road shows to China, Singapore and the United States in order to demonstrate their skills.
Im proud of the skills I possess and am determined to continue weaving for as long as I can, or until people lose interest in the woven fish, says Sarawuth.
For further information on the Meepholkij familys weaving activities, call Tel: +66 (0)2 673 8801.
The shophouse residence belonging to the Meepholkij family is located on U Thong Road, near Pratuchai Junction in Tha Wasukri subdistrict in Ayutthayas Phra Nakhon Si Ayuttahaya district.
Car: Route 1 - Take Highway 1 from Phahol Yothin Road before switching to Highway 32, which will take you to downtown Ayutthaya.
Route 2 Take Highway 306 (Bangkok-Nonthaburi-Pathum Thani Road) before switching to Highway 347, which will take you to downtown Ayutthaya.
Bus: Buses depart regularly from the Northeastern Bus Terminal (Morchit II) from 5 am to 7 pm. Ayutthaya's main bus terminal is located on Naresuan Road.
For further information regarding bus travel to Ayutthaya, contact Tel: +66 (0)2 936 2853.
Train: Trains depart Bangkok's central Hualamphong Station hourly from 4.20 am until 10 pm. For further information contact Tel: +66 (0)2 223 0341.