“To us, the Chao Phraya River is a never-changing stream of happiness.”
A descendant of Portuguese soldiers with a nearly-70-years strong bond with a river.
Navinee Pongthai, or Tong, is a descendant of the family of Portuguese soldiers who joined with Taksin the Great for a battle. Her family name is also one of sixteen family names descended from the Portuguese people. She is a founder of Baan Kudichin Museum as well.
Tong has been connected to a riverside lifestyle since she was born—with 66 years in total— for her house is located around Kudichin canal and the canal was exactly cut through her house. Tong lets us recall childhood memories—when we were playful, enjoyed having fun and had the happiest moments. Children and a river—no need to ask why.
“When I swam, I swam in a canal. Starting from a small canal where I could swim, I tried to swim in a big one and later in a river. When there was a flood tide, the elders took us to sit in a basin, then tied a rope to the basin and pulled us to play around Santa Cruz Church. While the elders were wading across the water talking with each other, my friends and I were having fun in the basin scooping the water out and splashing out.”
Tong tells us that floods were the moment she was waiting for throughout the year because it was time to take a wooden boat from the stocks, dust off the boat, bring a sealant for caulking it to make the boat ready to use. “We were waiting for floods because we would paddle a boat. It was so enjoyable. When we were back from school in the evening, we put our school bags and hurried to paddle a boat to fetch our friends or they paddled to see me and we played together. Sometimes, we passed by rose apple trees growing along the waterside and we picked them to eat.”
When time changes, the flowing river changes as well.
“Anyway, we manage to adapt to that change. If we have to wade across the water, we’ll prepare a bag for keeping our pair of shoes and wear flip-flops. And we don’t forget to bring a towel for drying our feet. We don’t think it is dirty, but we see it is the Chao Phraya River, the original as it was when we were young. It is a stream that brings us happiness and enjoyment. It is a bond between us and her since we were born.”