The story of powder

The story of powder

The editor of Muse magazine visits Lop Buri villages which produce din sor pong — the natural white powder Thai people put on their faces and mix with water during Songkran.

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Payong Huangmit, right, and her daughter, make din sor pong droplets. CHUMPORN SANGVILERT

The story of powder

Arusa Pisuthipan

Payong Huangmitr makes a living selling din sor pong — the natural white powder Thai people put on their faces and mix with water during Songkran. During next week's festival, where revellers' faces everywhere in the country will be painted with the powder, she expects to rake it in.

"We usually earn about 15,000 baht a month. But the rising demand for din sor pong pushes up the family income and we receive more than 20,000 baht extra," said Payong, 58.

One downside of powdering faces during Songkran is that young boys can get a bit aggressive with young ladies. THANARAK KHUNTON

Pictures of Thais with the off-white powdery paste smeared on their faces has long been a symbol of the Thai New Year celebration. But the tradition of the Thai water festival has significantly changed in past years. The silver bowls people use to pour water over the elderly have been replaced by heavy-duty water pistols. Males use din sor pong paste as a way to take liberties with young ladies. Excessive use of din sor pong is also believed to cause sewer blockage.

For these reasons, certain water battlefields in Bangkok such as Silom Road and Khao San Road have banned din sor pong in past years. This year, authorities have yet to set a clear policy regarding its use.

Last Songkran, the authorities banned the use of din sor pong on Silom Road, but the powder was smuggled into the area by vendors. APICHART JINAKUL

"If the government bans the use of din sor pong during Songkran, it will definitely affect our income," she said.

A native of Hin Song Kon village in Muang district of Lop Buri province, Payong is the third generation in her family to produce din sor pong powder. Lop Buri, according to her, is one of the country's largest producers of din sor pong. Her village is one of few places in Thailand where marly limestonenatural talc used for producing din sor pong — can be found underground.

In Lop Buri, there are three villages that make the powder. In Hin Song Kon alone, 60 families earn a living by making it, using local wisdom that has been passed on from one generation to the next. Locals learn the production through on-the-job training.

Din sor pong makers call themselves chao din — soil people. Each family makes an average of more than 10 tonnes of din sor pong a month. Middlemen buy the powder at approximately 1,500 baht per tonne, which means a family earns an approximate monthly income of more than 15,000 baht from din sor pong.

An elderly villager in Ban Hin Song Kon in Lop Buri prepares the white powder for Songkran. CHUMPORN SANGVILERT

Payong's mother, Cha-aim Phuhong, has made din sor pong since she was seven years old. She follows the same routine every day, waking up as dawn breaks, beginning work and finishing before noon.

"First you sift the soil before mixing it with water," the 76-year-old explained, as she wiped the powder from her pants. "Then the mixture is left to sit there for a day or two until it becomes clay with a smooth texture. After that, the clay is ready to be shaped. The powder is all natural and fragrance-free.

"Making din sor pong is a tough job. We have to stay under the scorching sun because the clay mixture must be sun-dried. That's why we try to finish everything before midday, because otherwise it would be too hot," she added.

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  • aggressive: behaving in an angry and violent way towards another person - ก้าวร้าว
  • approximately: used to show that something is almost, but not completely, accurate or correct - โดยประมาณ
  • authority (noun): a person or government agency who has the power to make decisions or enforce the law - เจ้าหน้าที่ผู้มีอำนาจ
  • average: an amount calculated by adding several amounts together, finding a total, and dividing the total by the number of amounts - เฉลี่ย, ค่าเฉลี่ย
  • banned: officially not allowed to do something - ห้ามอย่างเป็นทางการ  ถูกตัดสิทธิ
  • battlefield: a place where a battle is being fought or has been fought - สนามรบ
  • blockage: a thing that blocks flow or movement, for example of a liquid in a narrow place - การปิดกั้น, การปิดล้อม, การขัดขวาง
  • celebration: a party or special event at which you celebrate something such as a birthday, a festival or a religious holiday - การฉลอง
  • clay: a type of heavy wet soil that becomes hard when it is baked - ดินเหนียว,ดิน
  • dawn: the beginning of the day, when it begins to get light - รุ่งอรุณ, เช้าตรู่
  • definitely: certain; having no doubts about something - อย่างแน่นอน
  • demand: the amount of a product or service that people want - ความต้องการ
  • downside: the disadvantages or less positive aspects of something - ผลเสีย
  • droplet (noun): a small drop of a liquid - หยดเล็กๆ, ละออง, เป็นหยด
  • excessive: much greater than is usual; too much of something   - มากเกินปริมาณที่พอดี
  • extra: more than is usual, expected, or than exists already - เหนือกว่า
  • festival (noun): an event that is held to celebrate a particular thing or activity - เทศกาล
  • fragrance: a sweet or pleasant smell - กลิ่นหอม
  • generation: a group of people in society who are born and live around the same time - รุ่น (คนรุ่นต่างๆ)
  • income: money that someone gets from working or from investing money - รายได้
  • limestone (noun): a type of white stone that contains calcium, used in building and in making cement - หินปูน
  • local: in or related to the area that you live, or to the particular area that you are talking about - ท้องถิ่น
  • locals: people who live in a particular place - ชาวบ้าน
  • make a living: to earn the money needed to pay for food, a place to live, clothing, etc - ดำรงชีวิต, ครองชีพ
  • male: being a man or a boy - ผู้ชาย
  • middlemen (noun): buyers and sellers (traders) of goods between producer and final customer; agents - พ่อค้าคนกลาง,
  • native: someone who was born in a particular place - ชาวพื้นเมือง
  • natural: existing in nature; not made or caused by humans - เป็นธรรมชาติ, ตามธรรมชาติ
  • off-white (adj): a very pale yellowish-white colour - ที่มีสีขาวนวล
  • otherwise: if not; used for saying that if one thing does not happen or is not true, something else will happen, usually something bad - มิฉะนั้น, ไม่เช่นนั้น
  • paste: powder mixed with water to make a thick substance that can easily spread - แป้งเปียก
  • pistol: a small gun that you hold in one hand - ปืนพก,ปืนสั้น
  • policy (noun): a set of plans or action agreed on by a government, political party, business, or other group - นโยบาย
  • rake it in (idiom): to earn a lot of money -
  • regarding: concerning somebody/something; about somebody/something - เกี่ยวกับ
  • replace: to change from one thing to another - แทน
  • reveller: someone who enjoys themselves at a party or celebration   - คนที่ชอบงานฉลอง ความสนุกสนานและงานรื่นเริง
  • routine: the normal order and way in which you regularly do things - กิจวัตรประจำ
  • scorching: extremely hot - ร้อนมาก, ซึ่งทำให้แสบร้อน
  • sewer: an underground pipe or passage that carries sewage (liquid waste) - ท่อน้ำเสีย, ท่อระบายน้ำ
  • sift: to examine something very carefully in order to decide what is important or useful or to find something important; to put flour or some other fine substance through a sieve/sifter - ค้นหา, ร่อนแยก, กรอง
  • significantly: in an important way - อย่างสำคัญ
  • silver (noun): a greyish-white precious metal used for making coins, jewellery, decorative objects, etc - ธาตุเงิน, แร่เงิน
  • smear: to spread a soft of liquid substance over a surface in an untidy way - รอยเปื้อน
  • smuggle: to take things or people to or from a place secretly and often illegally - ลักลอบนำเข้า
  • soil: the substance on the surface of the Earth in which plants grow - ดิน
  • symbol: someone or something that represents a particular idea or quality - สัญลักษณ์
  • take liberties with (idiom): to use rights or freedoms in an unreasonable way; to make important and unreasonable changes to something - ใช้บางคนหรือบางสิ่งในทางที่ผิด
  • talc (noun): a fine soft powder, usually with a pleasant smell, that you put on your skin to make it feel smooth and dry - แป้งโรยตัวและทาหน้า
  • texture: the quality of something that can be decided by touch - เนื้อ
  • tough: difficult to do or to deal with - ยาก ยากลำบาก
  • tradition: a very old custom, belief, or story - ประเพณี, ขนบธรรมเนียม
  • vendors: people who sell things, e.g., food or newspapers, usually outside on the street - พ่อค้าแม่่ค้าหาบแร่แผงลอย
  • wipe: to rub something against a surface, in order to remove dirt or liquid from it; to rub a surface with a cloth, etc. in order to clean it - เช็ด
  • wisdom: the knowledge that a society or culture has gained over a long period of time - ปัญญา
  • yet to: not yet - ยังไม่ได้

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