National Geographic : 1961 Jun
Thailand Bolsters Its Freedom vation. In several towns we saw villagers using pools and reservoirs the Khmers built. "Our big task here today is the same one the Khmers faced 800 years ago: to provide an adequate water supply," a United States Operations Mission (Point 4) official told me. "Since 1951 we've helped build more than 100 tanks and reservoirs. Some serve for rice irrigation, others for domestic supply." Villagers Drink American Water Thirsty, I asked a villager where I might get a drink. "The well," he said, pointing to a cluster of people with water buckets not far away. I knew the risk of drinking from the usual village well. "I meant a bottled soft drink," I quickly amended. He gestured toward a small village shop, but added, "The well is good - the best water, mister. It's American nam." It was, I discovered, one of scores of wells American teams have drilled in the region. The water was champagne cool and crystal clear. It was lifted by a familiar old-fash- ioned hand pump. In places, however, the well drillers have struck brackish water stemming from underlying strata of salt. Near Surin, east of Nakhon Ratchasima, we saw trucks piled with bales of jute, an expanding new enterprise of the region. And we detoured again to reach the silk-weaving village of Pak Thong Chai. This town raises its own silkworms, dyes its silks in a dis tinctive tie-and-dye manner, and weaves them to produce a fabric of interesting bro ken patterns (page 838). When I got back to Bangkok, I called on my friend Jim Thompson of Thai Silk Com pany to see more silk weaving. Jim first reached Thailand at the end of World War II; he liked the Thai and decided to stay. To him falls much of the credit for reviving and booming-hand-woven native silks. When Jim first became interested in Thai silk, there were few weavers in Bangkok. He journeyed to eastern Thailand and to Chiang Mai in the north to contact the small village producers. "We've quite a sizable weaving colony in KODACHROMESBY MELVILLE BELL GROSVENOR(OPPOSITE) AND W. ROBERTMOORE, NATIONALGEOGRAPHIC STAFF © N.G .S. Cut by knifing canals, ricefields carpet the plains near Bangkok. Farmers' homes dot bamboo-lined banks. The nation's road system grows slowly; watery klongs serve as highways. Mud-splashed farmers harrow a rice seed bed near Rat Buri. Thailand's main crop and export, rice feeds its people, and even cats and dogs. Rice chaff stokes mill furnaces.