‘More like one happy family than a village’
PHUKET VILLAGE OF THE WEEK: The east coast of Phuket, just near the Heroines’ Monument, is littered with prominent developments – the luxury villas, the golf course, the marina.
Friday 16 September 2011, 05:00PM
But how many people would notice the small village down the small road leading to the waterfront of Baan Pa Klok?
Probably not many as it’s very easy to miss – this small village has just 781 households, and with a population of just 1,870, Baan Pa Klok is the only Buddhist village of the seven villages that fall under the Pa Klok Tambon Administration Office.
Nestled among the imposing development projects around it, this small village remains a tight-knit community and residents continue living as they have been for generations.
Mana Sammuang, a local teacher, has been studying the history of Baan Pa Klok since 1992. He said his job has been made difficult due to a distinct lack of documentation on the area, much of which has been destroyed or was simply never recorded.
But Baan Pa Klok takes it place in the annals of Phuket’s history for a less than glorious reason. In 1809, after the Heroines (Thao Thepkrasattri and Thao Srisoonthorn) successfully defended against the invading Burmese, another army from Burma marched on Phuket. This time, they won.
The Burmese rounded up able bodied prisoners to take back to their country, while the young and elderly, considered a burden, were locked up in cages.
When the Burmese left, they set fire to the village, and the caged prisoners perished in the blaze.
But there is also another version of this story. When the Burmese attacked, the Pa Klok villagers fled into the nearby forest to escape. Rather than enter the forest and risk ambush, the Burmese simply set fire to the entire forest, killing everyone who sought refuge there.
It was not until years later that the village adopted its present name of Baan Pa Klok – pa meaning forest and klok meaning consumed by fire.
Mr Mana said that there is no specific document that indicates where the original village was that was destroyed by the Burmese, but historical documents mentioned surrounding landmarks like Koh Yao, Koh Naka, the nearby mountain and the seafront. A few remaining historical sites such as the remains of the village walls also lend to the conclusion that location of this tragic story was indeed the location of the modern day Baan Pa Klok.
The afternoon I went to the village, the residents were having their annual merit making ceremony where the Buddhist monks will bless the village and its inhabitants.
The ceremony has been held at Weerasatree Anusorn School for 25 consecutive years, where villagers come together for a day and build a small boat for the loy kroah ceremony.
Here, each villager will fill the holy boat with a small amount of dry food to make merit to the sea, and a small pouch contains their nails and hair, and anything else they believe to have brought bad luck. The boat is then pushed out to sea, carrying with it the bad luck of the entire village.
I arrived there late afternoon and was greeted by Village Head Chokechai Suebsak and Weerasatree Anusorn School Director Mr Wichote Chaichana.
They showed me to the beautiful boat which was almost completed. The male villagers were busy helping with the boat while many women, in their beautiful traditional clothes, set up small tables to demonstrate traditional handicraft and cooking.
Mr Chokechai told me that being the only Buddhist village in the area makes them very tight-knit, and villagers often come together to celebrate Buddhist ceremonies.
“Most people often think this area is a Muslim village, but we are the only Buddhists here, so it’s more like one big family than a village,” he said.
“Our ceremony today is symbolic and spiritual at the same time. Villagers believe that they will be blessed and the boat will carry their bad luck away to the sea, and in a symbolic way, this ceremony represent us and our village.”
Mr Chokechai also introduced me to Grandma Arun Jantawong, who showed the children how to make a clay pot from only a ball of clay and a small stick.
Meanwhile, Grandma Prakiang Muenpan and Aunt Ratree Petcharat steamed traditional sweets from sticky rice wrapped in a palm leaf.
Other village elders also gathered to teach school children how to make brooms, a rose from pandanus leaves, and everyone got stuck into free food and snacks prepared by the local women.
In the evening, the children from Phuket Panyanukul School for handicapped children performed a traditional dance on stage.
After the merit making and alms offering ceremonies, the villagers carry the holy boat off to Ta Lah Beach, only a few hundred metres away from the school. The monks lead the parade, blessing the pathway where they pass while the villagers follow.
The boat floats away, and so too does the villagers’ anxiety about the coming year.
But for me, I believe they are already very lucky to be living in such a friendly community where everyone stands together as one, while the world just a few minutes drive away is full of individuals who lack the sense of social cohesion of the Baan Pa Klok villagers.
Getting there: From Phuket Town head towards the airport, turn right at the Heroines’ Monument. Follow the road for approximately 15 minutes until you reach the Pa Klok Tambon Administration Office. The village is in the surrounding area.
– Kazira Hanshanasattru