If you live in Khon Kaen or especially the countryside I`m sure you will have come across sticky rice and the basket that it is served in. Sticky rice is common enough as are the baskets, which you probably pay absolutely no attention to at all. Me neither. Until I started to watch my wife’s Grandfather make them.
He lives in a small rural village on the way to Kosum Phisai, about 45 minutes drive out of Khon Kaen. They didnt have the internet until last year, most folk work on the farms and many of the elderly villagers have never even been to Khon Kaen. Grandfather is approaching his 80s’, has 5 children and several grand children. Back in his day he was a Morlam singer. On special parties hell still don his clothes and hat and do a turn.
You can imagine when he was a young man that tools, modernisation was limited. And so in the fields and other crafts they followed techniques handed down through generations. Making a rice basket is one of those traditional crafts.
Eventually after watching him several times for brief periods I decided to spend the whole day with him. Crackling radio on and all., watching him make a sticky rice basket from start to finish.
He starts off with a piece of bamboo about 2 foot long and machetes that in half. He then uses a small knife to carve thin strips from the bamboo. These he will use to lace together the basket. There`s an unhurried, methodical, even rhythmic way to how he works. As he uses different sizes of knives with ease. I wondered if he found the whole process cathartic at all. All this and he`s almost blind as a bat.
He spent the entire day making one basket as I sat there in awe. Although a whole day of Morlam music on what passed for a radio can be a bit taxing. If you go on Amazon website you can buy one for 296 baht. Lazada, the Thai equivalent doesn`t sell them. If hes lucky in getting someone to take them off him he can maybe get 150 baht. Think about that next time you`re eating sticky rice somewhere in Khon Kaen from a basket.