UBON RATCHATHANI- Don’t miss it or you might have to wait for another year before being allowed to take a glimpse to it! Passing along the highway going from Ubon Ratchathani (in Eastern Isaan) down to Srisaket, there is a stunning mansion, a rarity in Thailand where beautiful architecture is not a genuine concern of locals. But this mansion is a welcomed exception with its typical old style Thai wooden structures surrounded by manicured gardens. The house belongs to the Khampun, a wealthy local Sino-Thai family who has been involved in silk trade.
Once a year only, during the hosting in Ubon Ratchathani of the famous Candle Festival, Baan Khampun opens to the public and provides an insight on its treasures. “The houses are new but we wanted to recreate an authentic old atmosphere. We were inspired by Isan vernacular architecture and created the mansion which strictly adhere to classical Thai construction principles,” explains Meechai Taesujariya, son of the family matriarch, Mrs Khampun Srisai.
During these two days, visitors will be able to admire rooms mixing art nouveau details to typical Thai wooden sculptures and furniture, a mix which was very much in fashion during the reign of Thai King Rama V. All the houses are exquisitely decorated with the feeling of being back to the past.
Baan Khampun wants also to be the heart of Thai traditional silk production as well as a centre of craft conservation. “We want to be a source of inspiration not only for visitors but also for local students and anyone interested into Thai culture”, says Mr. Taesujariya. The house shows Isaan’s most extensive collection of silk pieces and silk-weaving related objects. “Our pieces are source of inspiration when we produce our silk pieces today,” tells Mr. Taesujariya who also runs a shop in the city centre of Ubon Ratchathani. Baan Khampun also displays precious rare pieces such as Buddha images, manuscript covers as well as antique furniture and sculptures.
Why is this house only open once a year? “It would be too expensive to open it all year-round. And despite asking many times the government to help us to create a real museum here, we so far did not get any support. I deeply regret it as the art of doing traditional silk disappears and this place is a good area to still make younger generations proud of our past and craft skills,” indicates Meechai Taesujariya. The Khampun family looks however to eventually open a small museum in Ubon Ratchathani. Money collected during these two days will be donated to provide scholarship and food for needy students as well as to the further preservation of Wat Sri Ubonrattanaram Museum in Ubon.