Ekkarat drum manufacturing village in Thailand: a unique experience

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In a previous post, I talked about Wat Sanam Chai, in the province of Suphanburi. When you are there or in Ayutthaya, it does not take much time, to go to Ekkarat drum manufacturing village.

This village is unique in that there are a number of traditional drum-making craft shops which still go on making drums while you visit. An excellent visit outside of the beaten tracks.

These drums are mainly used in temples or for religious occasions and the local craftsmen are proud to let you see the whole drum-making process.

A survival of an ancient tradecraft

While not very known, it is rare nowadays to still see a traditional craft being performed at various stages of development. During my visit in Ekkarat, back in 2016, I was able to see all the stages of a drum making (ok, not the finition).

The start: stretching a hide

It all starts with the hide. A large cow hide is stretched on a portico, to let it dry as well as to extend it to its maximum size. If you are lucky, you will see such a hide hung outside to dry.

It all starts with a single leather hide of a cow which is extended and left out to dry like this.

Obviously, the drum membrane is both thin and dry to give the best sound. ISome smaller parts may be further left to dry for the small drums.

Small leather membranes for the smaller drums

The central part of the drum: a tree trunk

While the hide for covering the drum is stretched and extended, the wooden body of the drum is prepared. For the bigger size drums, they use the whole trunk of a tree, which is then hollowed in a single piece on a machine as you can see in this picture.

It all starts with taking a single tree trunk and hollowing it on this machine.

After the trunk takes its final shape, it is further polished by hand.

A lady polishes one of the elongated drums by hand.

Stretching the membrane

The next important stage is stretching the membrane over the drum and leaving it in that position for some time, in order to avoid the hide retracting once the drum is complete. To do that, the drum-makers use metallic contraptions to stretch the hide across and pull it downward.

Another important step is pulling the leather hide across the wood.

Once this is done, the drum is left to rest for a few days to let the materials take their final form.

This drum’s membrane has been stretched and is left to rest.

You can see below a short video filmed in Ekkarat in the same shop where these pictures were taken.

The final product

Obviously, walking you through each step of the process would be meaningless, if you did not have a glimpse to some of the finished products. Once the drum is completed, it is painted and the membrane is sometimes decorated as well. This drum is huge, basically man-size, so you have an idea of the tree trunk that was used to manufacture it.

At the end, once completed and decorated a ceremonial drum looks like this.

In short, if you want to see a glimpse of traditional Thailand, do not miss Ekkarat, it is a worthwhile visit when you are near Ayutthaya or Suphanburi.

How to get there?

Ah, now that is the painful part. Getting to Ekkarat drum manufacturing village is as difficult as getting to Suphanburi, in fact. Given that the village is halfway between Suphanburi and Ayutthaya, it might be worth hitting it as a mid-point visit between the two cities. To the best of my knowledge, there is no public transportation that takes you straight from Bangkok to Ekkarat, so the best choice is still a private car or a tour visiting that place. You will find below the google maps location to help you.

Bonus

Finally before leaving, let me introduce you to a video filmed by students showing the visit of the village. If you understand some Thai, you might understand the exchanges going on.

Wat Sanam Chai – An unknown ruin of Thai history

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Wat Sanam Chai, a temple in ruins in the city of Suphanburi, is an interesting visit, far from the throngs of tourists in the neighboring Ayutthaya.

Suphanburi is a city of historical significance as it is located on the direct pathway for invading armies from Burma. That’s why a number of battles were fought on those grounds, and Wat Sanam Chai is a reminder of one of these battles.

A mausoleum

Wat Sanam Chai nowadays is in ruin. Originally built as early as 1203 AD, the current ruins date back to the Ayutthaya period. The main feature is a sort of tumulus, or pagoda, originally thought to have been 70-80m high. In 1961, during restoration works at that pagoda, human remains and ashes were found inside the tumulus. It appears that beyond being a temple, it was also the resting place of warriors who had been killed during the frequent clashes with the Burmese armies. Several battles were fought with Burma in this province in the Ayutthaya period. The symbol of the province is, after all two war elephants fighting…

Peacefulness

Wat Sanam chai sunrise
Sun rising in the morning fog is an unforgettable experience at Wat Sanam Chai.

Where Ayutthaya has too many tourists for its own good, Wat Sanam Chai appears to be out of time itself.

Peacefulness imbues this place, mainly because of its remoteness and the lack of visitors. However, the presence of some Buddha statues do remind that this is still  a place of worship for Buddhists. You should also remember it is a place of rest where dead warriors lie. Just let the peacefulness imbue you and think about the centuries of history and war about which these ruins talk in their silence.

Another Buddha statue located behind the Pagoda itself.

How to get there?

Several ways, the train being the most inconvenient. You are better off if you can drive or have a driver take you there. As this place is a bit off the track, you will have to follow the google maps provided below to reach the ruins. It is not far from the main highway from Bangkok, but you must have nevertheless to make  a dangerous u-turn on the highway…

Ideally, this visit would be combined with the artisanal drum-making village of Ekkarat, and a tour to Ayutthaya.