Renew Thailand’s West Coast to a “Sustainable Ecotourism”
Let’s travel to the west coast of Thailand and learn about stucco arts by one of the national artists, Ajarn Thongruang Em-aot, in Phetchaburi province. Plus, take a tour around a pineapple plantation and taste a flavorful “braised spare ribs with pineapple”, a famous dish guaranteed by a Community Chef Award in Prachuap Khiri Khan province.
Four provinces in the west coast tourism development area are Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chumphon, and Ranong. All of them are interesting seaside provinces with abundant natural resources and outstanding terrains. With these reasons, the Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration (Public Organization) or DASTA had visited these provinces and has been working on the developments with government agencies and private sectors since 2019 in order to pave the way for local communities to the “sustainable ecotourism”.
Mr. Sujin Meepradit, director of operations for DASTA office 8, has said “what we have seen from the visit is that these 4 provinces in the west coast of the country have potentials to become the tourist attractions. There are marvelous nature and local ways of life that are still relying on a coastal fishing and an agriculture. Also, the 4 provinces possess fascinating historical sites, arts and cultures, and ancient tales,”
Mr. Sujin Meepradit
Phetchaburi was used to be a fortress city; hence, the province is full of historical stories, ancient arts and cultures, old places, and copious amounts of artifacts. It is home to not one but three palaces of three kings which are Phra Nakhon Khiri (Khao Wang) of the King Rama IV, Phra Ramratchaniwet (Baan Puen Palace) of the King Rama V, and Mrigadayavan Palace of the King Rama VI. All of these reasons make Phetchaburi become a hub of skilled craftspersons and the province has also been called “a city of 3 palaces”.
The craftsmanship of Phetchaburi is renowned for its unparalleled fineness and meticulousness. One of the 2 branches of arts which the community has been protected and developed is a stucco art in Thai-style flowers and leaves pattern (Pra Jum Yarm pattern) which is a signature pattern of a stucco art club by the national artist, Ajarn Thongruang Em-aot. This art club is a learning center for conservative stucco arts which welcomes everyone who is interested to learn about the stucco arts and see how they are made under a theme of “Sculpt to Conserve Arts”.
Art aficionados will be amazed by an endless variety of artworks of Phetchaburi’s craftsmanship. Apart from the stucco arts mentioned earlier, there are also Thai-style gilded black lacquer arts, goldsmith works, banana stalk carving, cowhide stencils for shadow play puppets, wood carving, Khon mask sculpture, and exquisite paintings. The visitors will be able to see these precious artworks in the making and they will also get to carve, sculpt, and make the art pieces by themselves.
An old community on the banks of Phetchaburi River is a place worth visiting since people in the community have had a profound connection with paper and cowhide stencil arts. To continue and conserve these rare arts, the community has designed a tourism-related activity inspired by these 2 branches of arts which is a Nang Yai or shadow play puppet paper stencil activity under a name of “Create Your Imagination with Stencils”.
Moreover, the visitors can participate in an activity to learn about the local ways of life of toddy palm farmers and hop on a tour around a toddy palm plantation. For the visitors who love sweet treats, they can take part in an activity called “Warm Your Heart with Sweet Toddy Palm” by Thumrong community which allows the visitors to learn how to make a famous steamed toddy palm cake and enjoy it fresh right out of a steamer! These activities aim to provide more knowledge and understanding to the visitors that growing toddy palm trees is not easy and being a farmer requires a lot of patience and hard work. DASTA has helped Thumrong community by incorporating a creative tourism concept to develop the tourist attractions and activities in the community so that the farmers and residents can protect and preserve their valuable toddy palm ways of life.
For Prachuap Khiri Khan, DASTA office 8 has visited local communities in the province to develop famous activities and turn them into part of the creative tourism. One of the activities is an activity that lets the visitors enter a pineapple plantation and learn about how to pick and harvest the pineapples. One pineapple plant should have only one pineapple fruit. If there are more than one fruits, the visitors will have to cut them out so that the remaining fruit will grow up and become the perfect pineapple.
A highlight of visiting the pineapple plantation is tasting “braised spare ribs with pineapple”. Needless to say, the local pineapples are used to make this menu and its scrumptiousness has been guaranteed by a Community Chef Award. Another activity by Ao Noi community is called “Heart to Heart, Eye to Eye”. The term “eye” in this context means the pineapple cupulas and “heart” refers to the hearts of the visitors.