FLOATING GARDENS – THAILAND

Sangkhlaburi is set towards the end of one of Thailand’s most spectacular roads, nestled on the low hills edging Vajiralongkorn Lake. It is an area in the north-west of Kanchanaburi Province, close to Myanmar. This faraway border region which for centuries has linked Thailand and Myanmar is approximately 360 km from Bangkok. Though a small and sleepy rural town in the western Thai province of Kanchanaburi, Sangkhlaburi enchants visitors with its rich history and wide range of diverse ethnic cultures. Residents live in hill stations, floating raft houses and stilted bamboo houses where laughing children frolic with clucking chickens.

The people of Sangkhlaburi are made up of various ethnic groups, including the Mon, Burmese and Karen groups. Although many visitors find that the locals can converse in Thai and all have irrepressible Siamese smiles, many of them are not Thai citizens or have only recently been given Thai citizenship or ID cards. Hence, the area is a melting pot of different cultures with Sangkhlaburi being home to the kingdom’s largest groups of ethnic communities.

My brother is my Tour Guide in 2005 as he shows me HIS THAILAND. This rather remote destination tends to attract only the most determined of travellers but it is well worth the trip. While the road itself is long, it is certainly not a tiresome journey, especially when joining the local people on the well-filled public bus. They came well prepared with food which they were keen to share. The language of food knows no bounds, even if a bit challenging, but beyond that, one just smiles much. The route is wonderfully scenic and there are many chances to enjoy the unique cultures and attractions along the way. Our Guest House is set in a beautiful garden.

When home is a floating raft house then the garden must also float.

In addition to fishing, locals grow vegetables and fruit in large gardens that float on the surface of the lake. The floating garden beds are formed by extensive manual labour. The farmers gather up lake-bottom weeds from the deeper parts of the lake, bring them back in boats and make them into floating beds in their garden areas, anchored by bamboo poles. These gardens rise and fall with changes in the water level, and so are resistant to flooding.

A famous symbol of the region is the Mon Bridge (Uttamanusorn Bridge). It is said to be 450 metres long (some reports say it is longer) and the locals claim it to be the longest hand-made wooden bridge in Thailand. When traveling, one quickly learns that many sites visited are reported to be the longest, biggest, tallest, best, etc. In July, 2013 the bridge was partially washed away in a storm but residents of every ethnicity joined forces to piece together in an incredibly short time, a temporary awe-inspiring floating bridge.

 

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