Thursday, September 24, 2020

All points lead to Pattani

Jul 05. 2019
 Uncle Aree Maha carves unusual but beautiful coconut graters.
Uncle Aree Maha carves unusual but beautiful coconut graters.
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By Pattarawadee Saengmanee
The Nation

Once the capital of the ancient Langkasuka Kingdom, the southern province of Pattani is home to one of the country’s oldest Muslim communities and several historical sites, many of them dating back some 500 years to the time when its leader, Sultan Ismail Shah, converted from his Hindu-Buddhist roots to Islam.

One of these is Krue Su mosque which, in addition to serving as a memorial to the 32 gunmen killed by the military in 2004 as they sought sanctuary, is a magnificent structure fashioned out of red bricks in a striking mixture of Middle East and European architecture.

Located seven kilometers from downtown Pattani, the mosque was erected in the reign of Sultan Muzaffar Shah and became a popular hub for merchants from Persia and Europe in the 18th century, though its domed roof has never been completed.

Krue Se mosque combines the architectures of the Middle East and Europe.

Designated an historical site by the Department of Fine Arts in 1935, its structure was restored twice in 1957 and 1982. Inside, it is lined with magnificent pillars and arched doors in gothic style, while its base boasts the shape of the upside-down lotus.    

“Built by artisans from the Middle East, Muslim villagers still come to Krue Se Mosque for prayers. Even now, we don’t really know why it was never completed. Perhaps it’s because Pattani went through several wars or maybe its structure wasn’t strong enough to bear a huge domed roof,” says retired teacher Attaporn Areehatairat, who serves as our guide.  

“Chinese merchants were the first to come Langkasuka Kingdom for trade and Krue Se district is a good place for the younger generation to learn about history. Pattani was acquired by the Dutch before falling into the hands of Siam when two of our cannons were transported to Bangkok as a present and are now installed in front of the Ministry of Defence headquarters.”     

Just 15 minutes by car from Krue Se mosque is the fishing village of Pare. Located in Barahom district, it welcomes visitors with an interesting, one-day programme of eco-cultural tours that include strolling around the area on foot, boarding a long-tail boat to the mangrove forest or enjoy a handicraft workshop.      

Standing on the estuary of Laem Tachee and Laem Sai Khao, this area was the biggest harbour during the Ayutthaya period and crowded with sea merchants from Holland, England, Portugal, Japan, China and the Middle East. 

Farida Abdulloh and her neighbours show off their creativity through a collection of handmade keepsakes. 

We arrive just in time for lunch and are greeted with an enticing feast of southern delicacies like spicy salad of seasonal aquatic plants and mashed fish, sweet pepper filled with fish and steamed coconut and deep-fried Khor Ngae fish that go well with the yellow curry.

After eating, we head to a learning centre, the ground floor of which has been turned by the owner, Farida Abdulloh, into a boutique offering a wide collection of handcrafted home decor items, fashion accessories and beautifully embroidered apparel. The designs, she tells us, are inspired by the ancient motifs painted on Ming Dynasty ceramic ware discovered in the village. 

“Most residents fish to earn their living while the younger generation has mainly left to work in Malaysia. Our hamlet is home to historical sites and is rich in nature. Last year, I teamed up with neighbours to offer customised, eco-cultural tours and a home-stay programme to promote tourism. I also formed a group of housewives to create a collection of unique handcrafted souvenirs using traditional embroidery techniques,” says 30-year-old Farida, who also serves as village head.  

“A sightseeing tour is priced at Bt400, including food and a workshop and Bt800 for those who want to travel along the river into the mangrove. Both offer a great opportunity for visitors to learn about the way of life here and Pattani’s long history.”


Visitors are invited to explore the graves of Sultan Ismail Shah, Ratu Hijau, Ratu Biru and Ratu Ungu at Pare village. 

Farida joins our guide Attaporn in leading us to the old graveyard, where Sultan Ismail Shah was buried alongside his wife. He was the first sultan of Pattani and a convert from Hinduism to Islam. Nearby, another burial ground was reserved for the sister queens Ratu Hijau, Ratu Biru and Ratu Ungu who ruled Pattani between 1584 to 1635. 

“The Muslim cemetery is normally built near the community. Sultan Ismail Shah’s tombstone was engraved in Arabic and mentions Muslim beliefs and looks like the summit of Mount Meru,” Attaporn explains. 

“According to Islamic belief, a grave should face north and be close to the sea. The gravestone for men has a square or round shape while that the one for women is flat.”

The house of Uncle Aree Maha, 76, brings our sightseeing tour to an end and is a true treat for the eyes. He demonstrates how to carve a selection of astonishing coconut graters. Made from Takien Thong, santol and jackfruit wood, his graters boast unique Melayu designs, mostly inspired by local flowers. He also produces the Indonesian bamboo musical instrument known as the Ja Pee that can double as a drum and lute.


>>Pare village is in Barahom district, Pattani. The sightseeing tours ranges from Bt400 to Bt800. 

>>Find out more by calling (093) 580 2702, (081) 969 1207.          


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