The roots of Thai painting, like much of Thai culture, are grounded firmly in Buddhism. Thai art began as a pure religious form, using murals to depict many of the great tales from Buddhist mythology. Western ideas of perspective were eschewed and characters were made larger or smaller depending on their importance to the story.
Backgrounds were simple to help place the emphasis on the detailed action taking place. As Thai painting evolved it began to focus more on depictions of simple village life and Thai artists showed a flair for capturing character in their work. Examples of Thai painting can most commonly be found at temples in Krabi town.
Although Thai painting and watercolour are both excellent, Thai artists are most famous for their spectacular carving. Using a variety of media, ranging from traditional wood and stone to animal horn and fruit, Thai artisans create amazingly intricate and finely detailed works depicting scenes from mythology, history, daily life and nature.
If you’re staying in a hotel that draws on traditional Thai inspiration you’ll also notice the rich legacy of wood carving. And some resorts put on cultural shows demonstrating Thai dance and traditional music.
Thai architecture in Krabi
You’re unlikely to see any of the charming, highly decorated and inspiring Thai temples if you never leave Ao Nang or the islands. And if you didn’t get your fill of temples during a Bangkok stopover, it’s well worth spending an afternoon wandering around Krabi Town to visit some of its temples and admire the sheer beauty of their form and intricacy.
Thai architecture is best diplayed in temples and tends towards an ornate style, with façades covered in gilt and intricate carvings. Building temples was one way that rulers would demonstrate their power and wealth and the results are often quite impressive. However, Krabi doesn’t display a very wide and impressive selection of these, relative to older centres such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
Thai dance in Krabi
Another important form of Thai art is traditional dance, and it’s often put on as a cultural show with traditional music in hotels during dinner. The stately, deliberate grace of Thai dancers hypnotizes audiences as they act out tales and myths that have been passed down the generations. Thai dance is characterised by elaborate costumes, including ornate headgear and graceful finger extensions. The dancers bend up and down at the knee only, remaining upright from the hips to the neck. This places emphasis on the complex and delicate movements of the hands and fingers.
Traditional Thai dance was developed in antiquity as a form of entertainment for the royal court, but its mesmerising grace and quiet dignity has carried its popularity into the modern era. Thai dance performances are common today and enjoyed by modern Thais of all ages.
Interestingly, funerals for important community figures are often characterized by several days of dance and music performance. Additionally, it is common to see modern Thais performing a version of traditional dance in nightclubs to the accompaniment of Milam music.
Thai music in Krabi
Traditional Thai music uses up to 50 different instruments in ensembles of between five and 12 musicians. Percussion, strings and flutes are combined using an extraordinary scale unique to Thailand. The music is stately and soothing, with a steadily 2/4 cadence and provides perfect accompaniment to a Thai dance performance or an evening meal.
With the widespread acceptance of Western pop music, many Thais have begun creating their own pop music. Although this music is thoroughly modern, the roots of traditional music are easily discerned. Molam is the name of a style of music that has gained a great deal of popularity among modern Thais, combining traditional rhythms from the Northeast region (Isaan) with modern rock and pop.
A robust music industry churns out endless crooning music professionally produced, and restaurants like to play it to add to the atmosphere, so you’ll have plenty of opportunity to experience this pleasant background music. Of course, if you’re sipping a beer in a beach bar, you’re more likely to hear Bob Marley.