‘Ban Nongsan’

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Ban Nongsan, A Hidden Gem for Indigo Dyeing of the Misty Phu Phan Mountains


Originating in India, the knowledge of indigo dyeing and the plant which exhibits blue pigment – Indigofera tinctoria travelled along with the Hindu priests to Southeast Asia centuries ago. Hinduism and methods of indigo dyeing later emerged into ‘Suvarnabhumi’ or the Land of Gold. The widespread influence of Indian culture was absorbed by the Southeast Asian natives. The culture also reached into a small village nestling in the Phu Phan Mountains. From generation to generation, the wisdom of indigo dyeing has been passed on and preserved within the community. Nowadays, Ban Nongsan, locating in Sakon Nakhon a Northeastern province in Thailand, is a well-known community for its charm of indigo dyed products and community-based tourism.

Once a year, the locals will harvest the cultivated aforementioned Indigofera tinctoria or ‘indigo plant’, to prepare for the inherited dyeing process. The crops will be bundled and soaked in huge jars. Big pieces of rocks will be put on top to ensure the secretion of indigo pigment. According to local beliefs, it is necessary to add fruits such as tamarind juice, bananas, limes or pineapples into jars as ‘offerings’ to ‘Mae Nil’, the goddess who blesses indigo dyeing to yield the best color. However, viewing from a scientific perspective, adding ripe fruits, rice whiskey or calcite will adjust the pH value during fermentation which will enhance the shades of blue. The ‘recipe’ varies from house to house. After being fermented for a few days, the mixture will turn yellowish and be ready for the dyeing process. Dyers will soak cotton, leather or silk into the yellowish liquid. The soaked fabric will turn from yellow into blue or indigo when it gets exposed to the air.

Couple with intricate Northeastern Thai weaving patterns such as Mudmee, Mheekit, Lai Takoh and Lai Kit, indigo dyed products of Ban Nongsan represent the authentic local way of life very well. Moreover, tourists are welcome to join the indigo dyeing session taught by the locals, where they can get hands-on experience. Tourist will also get to join a variety of community-based tourism activities such as cooking local dishes with homegrown ingredients, hopping on a farm tractor for village sightseeing and a lot more seasonal activities including indigo plant harvesting, rice farming, and short-distance trekking. Community-based tourism at Ban Nongsan is fully managed and operated by community members offering authentic tour packages. Accommodation is available upon preferences. The expense of tourists will be fairly distributed back to the community. VT Thai is one of the Thai handicraft distribution channels, supporting Thai handicraft and community development. Together with Local Alike, we seek opportunities to develop local products along with community-based tourism at Ban Nongsan.

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