Tai Dam: Same as Thai but different

Tai Dam: Same as Thai but different

Traditional houses on stilts at Ban Phai Hu Chang; Inset: Tai Dam matrons with head dress, location of Tai Dam in northern Vietnam, line of young Tai women dancing; Tai Dam writing using special script.
Traditional houses on stilts at Ban Phai Hu Chang; Inset: Tai Dam matrons with head dress, location of Tai Dam in northern Vietnam, line of young Tai women dancing; Tai Dam writing using special script.

Ancestors of a Tai Dam village in Nakhon Pathom near Bangkok migrated from Vietnam more than 200 years ago. Learn about their unique culture, very close to Thai culture.


Tai Dam: Same as Thai but different

A village not far from Bangkok is where one can experience authentic Tai Dam culture
 Pichaya Svasti

Sometimes, precious things are just under our noses.

So it is with Ban Phai Hu Chang, an ethnic Tai village in the Bang Len district, Nakhon Pathom, only about 80km from Bangkok.

Visitors to the village will see a local way of life and culture of the ethnic Tai Dam or Lao Song, whose ancestors migrated from Vietnam more than two centuries ago.

Fon khaen, a local dance.


Piyawan Sukkasem, a teacher of the Ban Phai Hu Chang School who spearheads cultural conservation and community tourism at this village, said:

"Ban Phai Hu Chang has been a small tourist village since late 2001."

"In recent years, we have slowed down due to my busy work schedule as a teacher. In the past, we had a Tai Dam market and other activities."

Traditional houses on stilts at Ban Phai Hu Chang.


According to Ms. Piyawan, the original name of this ethnic group is Tai Dam.

Thais also call them Lao Song, Thai Song Dam, Phuthai Dam and some other names.

Their origin is Lai Chau and Dien Bien Fhu in northern Vietnam, which is called sipsong chuthai by the Thais.


Thais generally use the word Lao in referring to those who come from the north.

Those wearing shorter sin (sarong) are also called Lao.

There are theories that the word Song is derived from either the local word saung (meaning pants, since the Tai Dam like to wear black pants) or the word song, a type of administration.

Interestingly, Tai Dam people everywhere call Thais bak gaui.


The Tai ethnic group is a group of indigenous people of Southeast Asia whose communities are said to date back 5,000 years.

At present, some 90 million ethnic Tai people live across the region, and can be divided into 80 groups.

They all speak various forms of the Tai language. The Thai language is one variety of Tai language.

Amidst the traditional conservation of the Tai Dam people, the Tai Dam in Thailand now want to be called Tai Dam rather than Lao Song.


In Nakhon Pathom, there are about 20 Tai Dam villages.

All the villagers at Ban Phai Hu Chang are relatives in the same extended family.

In 1903, a Tai Dam family migrated from Phetchaburi province.

Five years later, five more families, including Piyawan's grandparents, followed. At present, this village has more than 300 houses.

Only a zone which still has traditional houses of Tai Dam has been opened to tourists.

"Their way of life, dialect, culture and traditions are partially influenced by Buddhism, but all the original traditions and beliefs have been preserved," said Rapeepat Ketkosol, secretary of the Thai Tourism Society, which promotes community tourism.


For about 20 years, most Tai Dam people at Ban Phai Hu Chang have opted for modern outfits in everyday life except on the days of local traditions -- sen ruan, funerals and weddings. They, however, still like to make their clothes from handwoven fabrics.

The elderly like the traditional hair bun. Aside from their modern apparel, their culture and traditions have largely remained the same.

Among their traditions is sen ruan or fad tong (ancestor worship).

The ritual must be performed every five days for a group of people called phu tao (those of royal or aristocratic descent), and every 10 days for descendants of commoners.

The Tai Dam have their own calendar for counting days.


Another tradition is the one related to death.

People at Ban Phai Hu Chang who are Buddhists still strongly have faith in spirits.

They invite Buddhist monks to pray at bathing rites and funerals at home while they still perform a ritual to show the spirits of the deceased the way to Muang Thaen, a holy city in legend, and then heaven. They believe Muang Thaen is located near heaven.

According to Tai Dam beliefs, each spirit can be divided into halves. The first half is in heaven, the second at home to protect their descendants. Therefore, every house has a special room called kalor hong for keeping and worshipping the spirits of their ancestors.


If you visit Ban Phai Hu Chang, you will have the opportunity to see several traditional-style houses, some of them built 90 years ago on 500-baht budgets.

Several villagers still keep their weaving tools under their houses on stilts.

They weave fabrics for family use and made-to-order sale. Their products include scarves, shirts, blouses, pants and pillows, both plain and embroidered in the Tai Dam style.


As for weddings, Tai Dam people in the past have preferred marrying Tai Dam or Chinese people, because they wanted men to stay home and pay homage to ancestors.

Marrying Thai women means the necessity of Tai Dam men to move to live with their wives, abandoning their duty to worship ancestors.


At the age of 74, Kham Thongkhonghan is the village's mor sen (ritual performer) for phu tao, who performs all traditional rituals except funerals.

He still weaves fabrics for family use and sale, and also weaves ritual flags for showing spirits the way to heaven.


When you visit Ban Phai Hu Chang, you will have opportunities to see traditional houses on stilts and weaving tools, observe cotton weaving and buy traditional fabrics and embroidery work.

If you visit this village on April 19 -- Tai Dam Ban Phai Hu Chang Day -- or make group visits by appointment, you will enjoy Tai Dam music, especially with khaen (bamboo flutes), a dance called fon khaen and local delicacies.

Must-eats are jaew pla ra and plara sab (fermented fish chilli paste), kaeng som (spicy and sour clear soup with vegetables and fish), kaeng yuak klaui (fresh banana curry), khao tom mud (sticky rice dessert with sweet banana filling), krayasard (rice and peanut nougats) and other unique desserts, like nom sao, nang khwai and kon.

The Tai Dam museum at Ban Phai Hu Chang School showcasing ethnic costumes and tools is also worth a visit.


Learn from listening

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  • abandon: to leave someone/something - ปล่อยทิ้งไว้
  • according to (prep): as stated or reported by somebody/something - ตามคำบอกเล่า, ตามรายงาน
  • activity (noun): a thing that you do for work, interest or pleasure, or in order to achieve a particular aim - กิจกรรม
  • administration: government - รัฐบาล
  • ancestor: a person, plant, animal or object that is related to one existing at a later point in time (adjective form: ancestral) - บรรพบุรุษ
  • apparel: clothing, when it is being sold in shops/stores - เสื้อผ้า, เครื่องนุ่งห่ม
  • appointment: a formal arrangement to meet or visit somebody at a particular time, especially for a reason connected with their work - การนัดหมาย, การนัดพบ
  • aristocratic: belonging to the highest class of society -
  • at present (adv): now...., currently .... - ในปัจจุบัน
  • authentic: real, not false or copied - ของแท้
  • bamboo (noun): a tree that grows in thick bunches of long green poles - ต้นไผ่, ไม้ไผ่
  • budget: an amount of money able to be spent on something - งบประมาณ
  • busy: having a lot of things to do and not having enough time to do them -
  • calendar: a printed table showing all the days, weeks and months of the year - ปฏิทิน
  • century: a period of one hundred years - ศตวรรษ
  • commoners: non royals, people who are not members of the royal family - สามัญชน
  • community: the people living in one particular area - ชุมชน
  • conservation: to conserve something; to keep and protect something from damage, change or waste สงวน,เก็บรักษา -
  • costume: the clothes worn by people from a particular place or for a particular job - เครื่องแต่งกาย
  • cultural (adj.): related to the customs and beliefs, art, way of life and social organization of a particular country or group - วัฒนธรรม
  • culture (noun): the customs and beliefs, art, way of life and social organization of a particular country or group - วัฒนธรรม
  • deceased: dead - ซึ่งตายแล้ว
  • delicacy (noun): a type of food considered to be very special in a particular place - อาหารอร่อย
  • descendant: a relative of a person who lived in the past - ทายาท, ผู้สืบสายเลือด
  • descent: being related to a particular person or group of people who lived in the past - การสืบเชื้อสาย
  • dessert: sweet food eaten at the end of a meal - ของหวาน, ขนมหวาน
  • dialect: a form of a language that people speak in a particular part of a country, containing some different words and grammar, etc - ภาษาท้องถิ่น
  • divided: split by disagreements or different opinions - มีความเห็นที่แตกต่างกัน, แบ่งแยก
  • due to: because of - เนื่องจาก
  • duty: something that you have to do because it is part of your job, or something that you feel is the right thing to do - หน้าที่, ภารกิจ, ความรับผิดชอบ
  • elderly: (of people) old - สูงวัย, อาวุโส, อายุมาก
  • embroider: to decorate cloth with a pattern of stitches usually using coloured thread - เย็บปักถักร้อย, ปัก, ปักผ้า
  • embroidery (noun): decoration by sewing - การเย็บปักถักร้อย
  • especially: more with one person, thing, etc. than with others, or more in particular circumstances than in others - โดยเฉพาะอย่างยิ่ง
  • ethnic: of a group of people with the same culture or traditions - กลุ่มชาติพันธุ์
  • ethnic group: a group of people with the same language, culture and history, usually a minority, not the largest group in the country - กลุ่มชาติพันธุ์
  • except: not including -
  • experience (verb): to have something happen to you or to live through some event - ประสบ
  • fabric: cloth, especially when it is used for making things such as clothes or curtains - ผ้าหรือสิ่งทอ
  • faith (noun): strong religious belief - ศรัทธาในศาสนา
  • funeral: a ceremony that takes place after someone dies - งานศพ
  • generally: true in most cases and situations - โดยทั่วไป, โดยปกติ, ส่วนมาก
  • hair bun: when hair is made into a ball at the back of the head -
  • handwoven: to make fabric by hand; to weave fabric by hand; not use a machine -
  • heaven: the place believed to be the home of God where good people go when they die - สวรรค์
  • indigenous: naturally existing in a place or country rather than arriving from another place - เกี่ยวกับชนพื้นเมือง
  • influence: to affect or change how someone or something develops, behaves or thinks - มีอิทธิพลต่อ, ชักจูง อำนาจบังคับ
  • largely (adverb): mostly -
  • legend: a story from ancient times about people and events, that may or may not be true; this type of story - ตำนาน
  • migrate: to move from one place to another - อพยพ (ตามฤดูกาล)
  • necessity: the fact that something must happen or be done; the need for something; a situation that must happen and that cannot be avoided - ความจำเป็น
  • opportunity (noun): a chance to do something, or a situation in which it is easy for you to do something - โอกาส
  • opt: to make a choice or a decision from a range of possibilities - เลือก
  • original: existing at the beginning of a particular period, process or activity - ซึ่งเป็นแบบฉบับ, ต้นกำเนิด
  • outfit (noun): a set of clothes that are worn together - เครื่องแต่งกาย
  • partially: in part, but not completely - บางส่วน
  • pay homage to: to show deep respect for someone - แสดงความเคารพ
  • perform (verb): to do what is required - ปฏิบัติหน้าที่
  • pillow: a soft object on which you rest your head in bed - หมอน
  • precious: of great value because of being rare, expensive or important - มีค่า,ล้ำค่า
  • preferred: liking or wanting more than anyone or anything else - ซึ่งชอบมากกว่า
  • preserve: to keep something as it is, especially in order to prevent it from being damaged or destroyed - ทำให้คงอยู่, สงวน
  • protect: to make sure that somebody/something is not harmed, injured, damaged, etc - ป้องกัน,อารักขา,คุ้มกัน
  • recent: happening or starting a short time ago - เร็วๆ นี้
  • refer: to mention someone or something - อ้างถึง, อ้างอิง
  • region: a large area of land or space, usually without exact limits or borders - ภูมิภาค, ขอบเขต, แถบ, บริเวณ
  • related to (verb): to be connected with something/somebody; to refer to something/somebody - เชื่อมโยงกับ
  • relative: a member of your family - ญาติพี่น้อง
  • ritual: a formal ceremony - พิธีการ
  • schedule: a plan that lists all the work that you have to do and when you must do each thing - ตารางเวลา, กำหนดการ
  • showcase: to show the best qualities or parts of something - แสดง,ทำให้เห็นจุดเด่น
  • spearhead: to begin an activity or lead an attack against somebody/something - นำหน้า
  • spirit (noun): the soul thought of as separate from the body and believed to live on after death; a ghost - วิญญาณ
  • stilts: a set of posts that a house is built on to raise it above the ground or above the level of water - เสาค้ำ
  • theory: one or more ideas that explain how or why something happens - สมมติฐาน
  • tradition: a very old custom, belief, or story - ประเพณี, ขนบธรรมเนียม
  • traditional (adj): of a custom, a way of life or a way of doing things that has not changed for a long time - เป็นประเพณี, ตามธรรมเนียม, ตามที่ปฏิบัติกันมา
  • under our noses: very near to us and easy to access, use or experience -
  • unique: very special, unusual or good - ที่มีลักษณะพิเศษ  เป็นเอกลักษณ์
  • weave: to make cloth, a carpet, a basket, etc. by crossing threads or strips across, over and under each other by hand or on a machine called a loom - ถักทอ
  • wedding: a wedding ceremony, usually religious, in which two people are officially married - พิธีแต่งงาน
  • worship (noun): the practice of showing respect for God or a god, by saying prayers, singing with others, etc; a ceremony for this - พิธีสักการะบูชา, พิธีกราบไหว้, พิธีบวงสรวง
  • zone: an area that has an important or typical feature; an area where a particular activity is allowed or not allowed - พื้นที่, บริเวณ, เขต
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