Chai Batik, located on Chao Fa Nok (east) Road is an amazing place. It may have an unassuming façade with a medium-sized car park and modest Thai-language signage outside but inside is a riot of creativity, astounding paintings and one of Phuket’s most iconic yet approachable artists, Chai Changsongsan.
In most people’s mind batik is more associated with Indonesia, especially from Yogyakarta and Surakata. This wax-resistant dyeing technique is different in Thailand in that the traditional indigo, dark brown and white hues (representing the three major Hindu gods) are replaced by vivid, more strident colours with lighter themes such as underwater scenes, palms, beaches – reflecting Phuket’s colourful surroundings – and abstract patterns. The wax used in this case is bees’ wax.
The products for sale here include sarongs, shirts, bags and – more spectacularly – paintings. Khun Chai explains that one batik painting alone can take up to a year to accomplish and one can easily believe this in inspecting the incredible complexity of the works that line the walls of his shop.
He also explains that to create the ‘whirling’ almost 3-D effect featured in many of his works he sprinkles sugar over the painting to absorb and weaken the dyes used. Clever stuff.
If the waiters at your hotel happen to wear brightly coloured shirts with marine and palm motifs on them then it’s 99% sure that the management bought them from Khun Chai’s shop. Chai’s work is also displayed at Phuket International Airport and he has designed batik for both the Thai and Dutch royal families. But if fish and palms aren’t your scene then there are some seriously attractive abstract patterned shirts here, in western sizes too.
The shirts are made from Thai cotton and are made to last so you’re guaranteed quality. You can buy off the peg here and also place a personal order and come to think of it, what could be a better souvenir of your stay in Phuket? Prices of shirts and sarongs are reasonable considering the skills involved and the whole experience is a real eye-opener. Large canvas-based batik works go for up to five million baht.
Chai Batik Phuket
- Opening Hours: 08:30 – 19:30 daily
- Location: 16/3 Chaofa Road East (by the Kwang Road intersection halfway between Phuket and Chalong)
- Tel: +66 (0)76 375 754