After months of Thailand’s hot weather, I’m so happy for the cool breeze of our tropical winter in Sangkhlaburi, a district in the Northwestern region of Thailand. Off the beaten path was a place called ‘Mon Village’ occupied mostly by Burmese and Mon hill tribe villagers who settled there over half a century ago. Today I’d like to take you around the village to show you its charming cultural traditions.
Stepping into Mon Village felt surreal. The mix of Thai, Mon, and Burmese influence gave the mind a trippy feeling of being in three places at once. On our first morning, we woke up before sunrise to help villagers prepare the morning alms offering. Traditionally, rice and side dishes were cooked fresh. However, with time and convenience, packaged and canned ones were offered as well. Before setting off to the city center, the villagers stamped our faces with ‘Thanaka’, a Burmese natural face paste made of ground tree bark. It was used to protect skin from sunburn and has many great benefits for the skin. As we arrived, a never-ending line of people had already formed around the village. At 6:30 am sharp, chants of blessing filled the air as monks received the offering from the community.
It wasn’t long before our rumbling tummy led us to the market. At this point, our eyes and nose were on high alert for the local delicacy. From the typical Thai porridge aka ‘Jok’ to the savory Burmese ‘Roti Ong’ with beef curry, the market is overwhelming for a hungry person. The breakfast scene was lit! After fueling up, we hopped onto the longtail boat to explore the Sunken temple ‘Wat Saam Prasob’. Not long after it was built in the 50s, it was submerged underwater due to the construction of a dam. Every year, the ruin re-submerges from the lake during the dry season and it’s possible to walk around it.
We ended the day by strolling across the iconic Mon bridge that spans 850 meters across the Vajiralonkorn Lake. And not just any wooden bridge… It’s Thailand’s longest one and the second-longest in the world after ‘U Bein Bridge’ in Burma. For four decades, it has connected Burmese, Mon, and Thai people, bridging countless friendships and fostering new ones.
Words and photo by Buranee Soh