OCT 3 — Hua Hin, Pattaya and Phuket are three major seaside towns in Thailand. Pattaya and Phuket are by far more popular with visitors who enjoy more than just the beaches and sun but also can’t do without the nightlife of the go-go bars, which the Thais do so well.
However, there are a growing number of both Thais and foreigners who prefer a quieter tropical seaside atmosphere, especially the elite and those of retirement age, and they choose to be in Hua Hin.
This fishing village was abandoned about 250 years ago during the fall of the Ayutthaya period and in 1845 it gradually came back to life. This may be because it’s near to Bangkok, just 281 kilometres south. The scenic location and its climate are ideal for Bangkokians to get away for the summer from heat in the city.
By the 1920s, the elites descended into this province. A specially built gingerbread style railway station was built to welcome the Thai royalties. The Thai King, Rama VI, in 1923, was the first King to build what is now known as “the longest golden teak palace in the world” the Maruekhathaiyawan Palace, on stilts, by the sea not far from Hua Hin.
That King spent one summer in his elegant palace just a year before he died in 1925. King Rama VII also built his getaway palace here and it continues to be the Royal Family’s summer residence till today. The present King, Rama IX, also has his own palace and he is in Hua Hin often and that gives a calm royal air to this stretch of the coastline.
The hotel and tourist industry is the main economic backbone here, followed by fishing, agriculture and some light industries. There are efforts to promote and attract more tourists. Recently an annual jazz festival has appeared but usually the audience and musicians disappear after the event.
Some home-grown groups of artists are pulling their resources together to put up a yearly arts festival with dance, music, painting and traditional arts. The Hua Hin artist group was formed in 2004 and has since put together an annual display of their members’ works. They now have a permanent art centre, Baan Sillapin, in the outskirt.
This group of about 20 members runs this centre and gallery as a cooperative venture. Some of the artists live and work and also run the day-to-day business of the centre. Other artists do their works at their own studios but sell their their works at the gallery.
Making a living as an artist in Hua Hin is a constant struggle and there are just too many very skillful painters around. Warapol Moonbunjong with his young family, is the artist in residence at the centre. After his graduation in fine art, he started work in Hua Hin and there met his wife, who is also a painter. This family is happy to have a home at the centre.
Warapol is a versatile artist like many of his artistic colleagues. So besides producing the more saleable paintings – Buddha portraiture, idyllic sunsets, and lotus - he also attempts to push his own development in his art practice.
The many royal palaces in Hua Hin are a popular subject and there are a great verity of styles and presentations on sale in the market. There will always be one artist whose art work that will appeal to your taste, and if not, you can commission a painting of your choosing.
The latest painting of Warapol’s is of the Maruekhathaiyawan Palace. What he has done is to turn a conventional scene of one section of the building into an unconventional display of high contrasting colours. The unexpected colour scheme of orange /red of the palace against blue/green of the trees in the garden is a bold artistic move. Not many artists could pull this complimentary colour contrast off as well as he has done in this painting. His decision to have a huge tropical tree dwarfing the palace can be read as a metaphor about the power play between nature and civilization.
Warapol’s increasing command of his painting skills especially in his use of colours in a refreshing way is also reflected in his painting of the moonlight night of a temple complex. This artwork is just a study of one colour scheme – purple in all its shades and tints. To make this colour construction “sing” he painted in sharp dark shadows to bring out the splendid Thai architecture details of the temples. Perhaps this artwork may lead some viewers into a darker yet colourful meditative mood on some moonlit nights.
* Contact: E-mail: email@example.com , Baan Sillapin Hua Hin, 81 Moo 14 Hin-Lek-Fai, Hua Hin.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.