Drawing and painting don’t come naturally to me. In school, my teachers would not fail me in drawing because I was good at other subjects! Even today I can hardly draw a straight line with a scale. However, on my trips, I often end up in experiential crafts set up. Truth be told, such events used to terrify me in the past, but not anymore. Gradually I lost my fear of messing up. This was no school and I was not giving an exam. So, when I visited the Benjarong Village at Ban Don Kai Dee in Thailand, I actually had fun!
I was traveling with a group of Indian media and travel agents and we were assigned two separate tables, one for media and one for travel agents. Our task was to paint a design on porcelain object.
The history of Benjarong is fascinating spanning two countries China and Thailand and involves marriage! I quote from Wikipedia–
“The earliest trace of Benjarong ever recorded is back to the Ming dynasty in China (1368–1644 A.D.). In the reign of Xuande Emperor (1425-1435 A.D.) Benjarong was invented at Zhejiang province. Although Benjarong was invented in Xuande Emperor, it started to be popular in the reign of Chenghua Emperor (1464-1487 A.D.). In China, Benjarong will have three or more colors but in Thailand, Benjarong usually has five or more colors … About 600 years ago, a princess from China was married into the Siam dynasty (now Thailand) and she brought Benjarong with her. At that time, it is understood that Benjarong porcelain was made only for the Emperor of China’s use. However, Benjarong was then supplied from China to the king of Siam for several generations (i.e. King Prasat Thong reigned 1629-1656). Siam started to produce porcelain after they discovered Kaolin which is one of the main materials of Benjarong. ( History of Benjarong, 2014) After discovering the Kaolin, the King of Siam decided to bring some of the artists from China and established workshops in Siam Kingdom. The first Benjarong that was made in Thailand was in the reign of King Rama V. King Rama V also permitted Benjarong to be used by his aristocracy and by certain wealthy and influential merchants. Nowadays, Benjarong is available to all who have the means to purchase it because of King Rama IX’s permission.”
Moving back to the present day, I was given an elephant shaped pencil holder to paint. The drawing was already there, all I needed was to fill in the colors. I had good fun doing so.
The workshop space also holds a large collection of Benjarongs done by experts. One can buy the artwork but the prices are still fit for the kings!
We took a walk around the village. At the other end there are small shops that sell Benjarongs at more affordable price.
If you have been to Thailand many times like me you might be on a lookout for new things to do! Benjarong Village is a fun filled activity that lets you engage with the authentic craft of the land.
PS. I was invited to Thailand on this trip by TAT New Delhi.
Chhavi and I took a short break in Koh Samui, Thailand as soon as her summer vacations started. We stayed at the Royal Muang Samui Villas. We are really thankful to TAT New Delhi and the property for hosting us with such care.
This was my 11th visit to Thailand and the first for Chhavi. We flew in via Singapore this time, so we took the visa on arrival at Koh Samui, it was a breeze! However, we were tired after a long lay off at Changi when we arrived at resort. Norbert, the guest relations manager greeted us and took us around the property. We stayed in the Villa 217 which is right next to the pool!
Our room was beautiful. We had a lot of space both in the bedroom and the bathroom. Chhavi’s favorite place was the bath tub with the Jacuzzi. We had a good sleep on all nights.
In the mornings I could hear birds twittering away right from my room. But during my entire stay I didn’t get up even once early in the morning.
A quirky thing I noticed on the roof was a painting of a lizard, which looked a bit realistic but somehow infinitely cute.
We were at the Royal Muang Samui Villas on May 15th and it was my birthday. The hotel staff surprised me with warm messages and a yummy chocolate cake! I totally loved it. A big thank you to them from my side for making my day special!
We loved the unhurried breakfast we used to have at the resort. We enjoyed the fruits, particularly the dragon fruit. There was plenty to choose from in the buffet. I particularly loved their fresh goat cheese!
My child is a fussy eater. But she enjoyed looking at everything and she even tried out a few new things like grilled fish!
We had two dinners at the Spice Zone Beach Restaurant. Our last dinner was with live music which Chhavi enjoyed a lot! I ate pasta, phad thai and rice while Chhavi would share my dish and eat french fries!
We loved sitting by the beach as the sky turned dark and enjoy our meal at leisure!
The Pool and The Beach
However our hot favorites were the pool and the beach. The kid enjoyed it so much that she was not interested in going anywhere else! As she can swim she could enjoy the deep pool too.
There are two waterfalls around the pool and they were her magnets! There was a cascade near the waterfall and we both would park ourselves there!
Then we would run to the beach. If you like peace and quiet you would prefer Choeng Mon beach more than Chewang. The sea is like a giant pond out here. It is safe and immense fun for kids!
I too love being near water and I did not protest when Chhavi refused to venture beyond the hotel!
The Green Effort
I was truly happy to see glass bottles in our room for water! I hate using small plastic bottles on my travels and I was happy that my stay was not generating any plastic bottles which eventually go in a dump.
We also visited there nursery where they grow their ornamental plants for both their properties. They also grow lemon grass, papaya and fruits and vegetables.
This was fourth foreign trip for Chhavi. She has been to Hong Kong and Prague with me and to the USA with her father. Never once she said she wants to go back to a place. To Koh Samui she told me, “we have to do it two times!” It was so much fun for us!
Thailand is my most visited country, I have been there 11 times as I write this. On all my previous trips, my point of entry was Suvarnabhumi, Bangkok. And if you enter from Bangkok, that is where you get your visa on arrival for Thailand. However, on the most recent trip my daughter, Chhavi and I traveled via Singapore for a vacation at Koh Samui. Getting a visa on arrival at Koh Samui on Indian Passport was a breeze!
Koh Samui is a beautiful, small airport, much different from the regular ones we encounter. It looks more like an open air tropical resort than an airport. As you climb down the stairs of the plane, carts with open sides carry you to the main building.
As there are only a few flights landing at Koh Samui, the lines at the passport control are much shorter than Suvarnabhumi Bangkok. I think a lot of nationalities do not need visa to enter Thailand, so when Chhavi and I came in to passport control area, there was hardly any queue at visa on arrival counters.
There were exactly two families on the visa on arrival counter- us and one more! The other family was waiting for something, so I had all the counters to myself! As I have been to Thailand many times, I know they accept only Thai Baht for the fee. It is 2000 per person at the moment.
I paid the fee for both of us, got the receipt and proceeded to the passport control. There was a short queue, which was nothing compared to what I see in Bangkok. I was offered the express counter for additional payment of 200 Baht per person, but I did not use it. In Bangkok I almost always use the express queue as the wait time is anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes.
We stood in the queue for about 10 minutes, got our passports stamped. We ran to the luggage counter to get our bags! Our holiday has started! It was that easy for us to get the visa on arrival at Koh Samui!