Phuket souvenir: Marine Life Limited Partnership, museum pieces made to scale
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Phuket shopping: Crafted in fiberglass

 Museum Pieces Made to Scale

In the back roads of Chalong district, in Phuket there is a thriving cottage industry that is well known and sought after by anglers the world over. This is where perfect replicas of fish are skilfully crafted in fiberglass. The current owner, Khun Bancha, learned the trade from the legendary Australian, Ian Pike who won worldwide recognition for producing scale perfect reproductions of black marlin in Cairns, Australia. This region of Australia is known as the "Black Marlin capital of the World'.

Prior to Ian's creative solution that brought about the "catch and release' practice that he helped initiate, proud anglers had their catches stuffed and mounted. It was hard work convincing these traditionalists to release their beautiful "trophy' fish, but Ian's creations were so perfect, that anglers were willing to try his eco-friendly solution. It was no longer necessary to kill the magnificent specimen. Ian had a collection of moulds in different sizes of various species that only took 2-3 days to manufacture.

Ian Pike met Khun Bancha's sister and her husband, Khun Chamnan ten years ago at a fishing tournament in Phuket. Khun Chamnan at that time was the President of Phuket Fishing Association. Ian mentioned that he wanted to start a factory for making fiberglass fish mounts in Phuket. He was introduced to Khun Bancha, who was then sent to Australia to learn all the tricks of the trade.

Shortly afterwards, Ian Pike moved to Phuket. A thriving partnership was formed between him and Khun Bancha and a successful business was born. The production was going well, but tragically, Ian was killed in a motorcycle accident just 200 metres from the workshop.

Khun Bancha has carried on the successful business and ships these outstanding replicas not only to anglers and divers worldwide, but also to resorts and museums as well. Le Meridien hotel in Patong has one on display in their restaurant and Karon Whale Resort ordered 2 whales, each 3.5 metres long. "The biggest one we made was a 6-metre long whale shark manufactured for the National Museum in Bangkok," says Khun Bancha. A manta ray manufactured here is also on show at the Phuket Aquarium.

Khun Bancha has a large collection of custom-made moulds in his workshop. The process of manufacturing is fairly simple but requires skilful workmanship. The mould is sprayed with a releasing agent and fiberglass is applied to the mould. It takes about 1-2 hours for it to dry. Once a replica is made, well-trained artists with an eye for detail paint them. "We used to use glass-eyes, but found they didn't look real enough. So now, we make our own eyes using plastic," says Khun Bancha.

Khun Bancha does a brisk business in November, during the fishing tournaments in Phuket. "The catch includes marlin, sailfish, trevally, king mackerel, wahoo, rainbow runner, tuna, dorado and barracuda," he says. With the "catch and release' policy during the tournament, all the anglers have to do is tell Khun Bancha the size and species of their catch, and he will make a splendid replica that anyone would be proud to take back home.

The workshop in Chalong has several of these works of art on display. They come in the form of table-mounts, wall-mounts, on shields as trophies and as freestanding individual pieces. There are manta rays hanging from the ceiling, reef-coral fish in display cases and leopard sharks on the floor. A large stingray spanning 135 cm across and 206 cm from head to tail looks so real, it is hard to believe that it's not. The wall has a display of dorado's, blue marlin, jack mackerel, groupers, coral trouts, tiger trouts and many others. It is fun to browse through the displays as well as the grounds and workshops full of an interesting collection of moulds.
Custom orders take about 3 days and worldwide shipping is available.

Marine Life Limited Partnership;
9/10 Moo 9, Chaofa Road, Chalong.
Tel: (++66 76) 283 238 Fax: (++66 76) 283 239 Mobile: 01 271 1697


- September Issue, 2002

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