The Lifestyle of Ban Don Luang Community Members in Lamphun – Preserving their Local Identity
We visit the Yong people at Ban Don Luang, Lamphun province – a community renowned for its weaving and handicraft products that generate revenue for the people. By practicing and preserving their weaving skills, the community retains their cultural and traditional identities.
Southeast Asia is rich with ethnic diversity. The Tai ethnic group, for example, can be found in the Lanna region of Thailand, specifically throughout Lamphun province. Those seeking to experience the traditional Lamphun lifestyle are recommended to visit the Yong community at Ban Don Luang. The community has strongly preserved its cultural and traditional identities of their ancestors for hundreds of years. The Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration (Public Organization), also known as DASTA, has actively supported the community to develop creative tourism activities, with the purpose of generating sustainable revenue for the community.
The History of the “Tai Yong”
“Tai Yong” refers to the Tai Lue ethnic group from Muang Yong, Myanmar. They settled in Lamphun and Chiang Mai provinces of Thailand since the year 1805, when Chiang Mai ruler Phraya Kawila brought in people from Muang Yong to help revitalize the Lanna Kingdom. These immigrants settled in Lamphun upon entering Thailand. The ethnic group called themselves “Khon Yong,” which means “Yong People.” Prince Kawila also appointed a Yong community leader as the governor of Lamphun. Moreover, Prince Kawila allocated an area along the Kuang River to serve as the Yong leader’s home. Other groups of Tai Yong are settled in various areas throughout Lamphun.
In their hometown of Muang Yong, Myanmar, the Tai Yong had “Wat Hua Khuang Ratchathanluang” Temple as their center of faith. After being moved to Thailand, the settlers constructed “Wat Kuang Nang Liew” as their new place of worship. After many years, river erosion damaged the temple, requiring the locals to construct a new sanctuary in the year 1814. The temple was named “Wat Hua Kua.” Although the Tai Yong have a strong Buddhist background, they also practice animism – believing that a sacred entity known as “Dheva Bhutluang” will bless them with peace and protection.
The Yong Cotton Weaving Community at Ban Don Luang
The Ban Wiang Yong craftsmen are famous for their handwoven textiles, characterized by unique patterns inspired by local lifestyle, values, and Buddhism. The signature designs include the orchid pattern, “Kanok” pattern, and the Amaranth pattern. Each pattern is a local heritage disseminated from one generation to the next.
The weaving process starts from planting the cotton trees, underscoring the community’s emphasis on nature. This led to the “Yok Dok Handwoven Textiles,” a famous product of Lamphun since the reign of King Rama V. The Royal Consort Dara Rasami (born in Chiang Mai) shared weaving techniques with the royalty of Lamphun, who was related to Princess Suanboon - the Royal Consort of King Chakham Kajornsak, the last ruler of Lamphun. Upon witnessing the weaving skills of the Wiang Yong locals, Princess Suanboon invited community representatives to weave textiles at her royal residence. After spending time at the princess’ residence, these representatives disseminated their newly acquired experiences with their fellow community members upon returning home. These processes expedited the growth of the weaving industry in Lamphun.
The textile weaving industry of Ban Don Luang have developed new designs, colors, and patterns to meet with contemporary demand. New products include dresses, shoulder-cover cloths, pillow cases, curtains, tablecloths, and bedsheets. Many products are also handcrafted and distributed to tourist attractions to be sold as souvenirs. Thus, Ban Don Luang serves as one of the largest handwoven textile industries of Thailand. The community also hosts festivals each year to highlight the colors and patterns of their handwoven textiles.
Tourist Activities to Experience the Yong Lifestyle
Amidst a rapidly growing society, the Ban Wiang Yong community members have successfully retained their traditional culture and lifestyle. To experience the local lifestyle, visitors are welcome to participate in the following activities:
- Traditional Handwoven Textile Workshop
From a small weaving community, the locals have developed themselves into a Handwoven Textile Products Center and Network. The center disseminates knowledge on handwoven textiles to all visitors and provides an opportunity to share experiences with local craftsmen. The weaving acumen of the locals, coupled by the development of new products to meet market demand, lead to traditional and contemporary designs which create substantial revenue for the community.
Experience another activity of the Yong community by attending the Batik Tie-Dye workshop. The patterns on the textile are formed from tying the cloth, followed by boiling or dyeing in natural indigo color. The entire process is chemical-free. Hang the cloths for drying, and unwrap the finished products to appreciate the unique patterns.
- Rest and Homestays to Experience the Yong Lifestyle and Cuisine
Rest, relax, and enjoy the heartwarming services from the locals. Enjoy “heartmade” culinary delights exclusive to the Don Luang community. The signature menu is “Mee Sanaed,” or spicy vegetable salad. Enjoy a variety of fresh, locally-grown vegetables mixed in a spicy sauce.
-Bike Tour around the Community; Visit Wat Don Luang
The small, charming Yong community creates an environment ideal for biking. Explore the small alleys of the community and experience a lifestyle of serenity. The locals know each other and participate in many activities together – like one single family. Don’t miss visiting Wat Don Luang – the main temple of the community – for merit-making or to simply appreciate the majestic Lanna architecture.
The Ban Don Luang community is proud of its ethnicity, language, and lifestyle – preserving their cultural heritage over the years. Their unique identity has generated sustainable revenue for the community. Ban Don Luang is always ready to welcome visitors who seek to experience one of the largest cotton weaving industries of Thailand.