Phuket Batik - Clothes and Textiles

Indonesian rice paddy workers c1985

I remember during my school days making 'tie and dye' fabric as well as using dripped candle wax to make similar designs. Used to love doing things like that! So when I made a trip to Bali back in the mid 1980's I fell in love with the Batik sarongs worn by the local women. The Indonesian Batik fabrics were made by using wax printing blocks called Batik Caps (tjap) that allow the wax to seep through.There was also the hand drawn method using a 'canting' (tjanting) to form the patterns but commercially this was far too time consuming and expensive. I inevitably went to a demonstration for tourists and I also ended up with several sarongs that came to be my favourite attire for hanging about at home, the habit of which is still with me even today.

 Indonesian Batik on sale in Phuket

Malaysian Batik is different in style from the intricate small patterns of Indonesia and tends to be larger more floral patterns. With Thailand and Malaysia sharing the same border most of the sarongs here in Southern Thailand have a Malaysian influence and many are imported from both Malaysia and Indonesia. However a lot of batik work can be found in the very southern provinces of Thailand such as Narathiwat, where the local people have been encouraged to produce products for sale under the OTOP label.

Batik from Narathiwat.
Batik often depicts scenes from local life or the underwater world as these are popular as souvenirs.


When I came to Phuket I discovered that there was also a different style of hand-painted batik here, although popular with tourists, it has really only become widespread recently during the introduction of OTOP (One Tambon One Product) which promoted the production and use of local handicrafts and encouraged government offices and local businesses to adopted the batik shirts for their uniforms. Just take a walk in front of Phuket's Fresh Food market and you're almost sure to see both styles of Batik been worn by the locals! 

In 1993 I decided to have a go at making batik and joined a training session at Phuket Achiwa College. It was a fun course that taught screen printing as well as batik. My end result wasn't brilliant but....

Batik has been in Phuket since the days of Tin Mining over 100 years ago when merchant ships traded between Phuket and Penang on a regular basis. At that time a large population of Chinese started to live in Phuket and the influences of Indonesia and Malaysia came to Phuket in the form of food and dress as part of the Peranakan culture. This influence along with the Muslim influence from the south of Thailand is still present here in modern times and has been revived as part of the 'Phuket Old Town' tourism project. The Muslim community in Phuket hold an annual Halal Festival in Kamala with parades and stalls selling food and textiles which shows just how much influence has come from Malaysia. Nowadays batik sarongs that were once thought of as just everyday clothes for the locals have now taken their place on show at the front of the clothes shops in Tanon Thalang as traditional Phuket dress. 

During the Phuket Old Town Festival, as well as other street festivals, the local women descending from Chinese families will dress in 'Baba - YaYa' style (บ้าบ๋า-ย่าหยา Baba-Nyonya 峇峇娘惹) that is part of the Peranakan culture

Phuket traditional dress
Thai batik is made using hot wax dripped onto the base fabric using a canting. Each colour has to be done separately so the more colours the fabric has, the more expensive it will be, and really good works used for wall hangings can be may thousands of baht. I f you want to buy batik or see how it's made then try visiting Chai Batik on Chaofa East Road (Chao Fa Tawan Ork), Phuket Batik near Bangkok Hospital or Batik House near the Bangjak Petrol Station in Rawai.

Phuket Batik

Batik House Now offers Batik Classes and Homestay. (See VDO)
Viset Road
Tel: 076 384061

Phuket Batik .
Yaowarat Road,
Sam Gong
Tel: 076 211849

Chai Batik   If you want to see the techniques this is the place to visit. (see more below)
16/3-4 Moo 3 
Chaofa East Road
Tel: 076 375754

Batik in PhuketChai Batik Phuket

Khun Chai or Ajarn Sirichai Jansongsaeng  (อาจาร สิริชัย จันทร์ส่องแสง) is a trained and skilled artist, if you visit Chai Batik you will no doubt be as impressed as I was at his works that hang on the showroom walls. 

Ajarn Sirichai Jansongsaeng  (อาจาร สิริชัย จันทร์ส่องแสง)

Chai Batik Phuket

Chai Batik Phuket

Apart from Batik you will also see drawings and paintings by Ajarn Chai, both of which have amazing detail, but you can't help wonder how such detail can be achieved when drawing in wax.

Chai Batik Phuket

When Ajarn Chai is not away teaching in Thailand or overseas he can be seen keeping an eye on things. Batik products are produced on the premises so it is an ideal place to see how Batik is made. In the workshop next to the showroom you can see the staff working at the different stages from drawing the design in wax to painting the details and background.

Chai Batik PhuketChai Batik Phuket

Chai Batik will take special orders and have a good selection of shirts and sarongs for sale. Prices vary according to how much work is put into the design.

See also:
2013 World of Batik Exhibition at Central Festival East (Homeworks Phuket)