This is truth story about Somkiert and his 6 brothers and sisters. They collect boats and so far, they have 20- not pint-sized models but large, abandoned riverboats. And lest you think they run a junkyard, the Sontithams own a housing estate. Combine these two diverse interests and you have the best of both land and sea living - a houseboat moored to the earth.
One two-storey houseboat, located in the Samut Sakorn province 40 kilometers from Bangkok, was built by brother Surakiert who is in the construction business. It is made from eight huge riverboats and comprises of a large living romm and a kitchen on the ground floor, and two bedrooms and a terrace on the first floor.
Everything is nautical in nature or origin. For instance, in the living room, the sofa is built in the shape of a small boat facing a big table made out of the timber from one of the vessels. In fact, every piece of furniture has been crafted from the timber of the boats.
From a distance, the unusual home looks like a beached whale that had swallowed several tonnes of rice. But if looked closely, it resembles a huge ship ready for its next voyage.
"Riverboats shaped like this one used to transport rice from this area to other parts of Thailand," says Surakiert. "The boats were designed to endure long periods sailing - people lived on board for months at a time. Now, people have modern motorised boats and these old models have been abandoned. Building houses out of them is a way to conserve them for the younger generations."
Somkiert explains about his family's fascination with boats. "When we are young, boats were popularly used for transporting people and agricultural products. There were several canals and people commuted using boats like we do today with cars. We grew up with boats and rivers. Sadly, it is impossible to bring the lifestyle back. It is a pity to see farmers leaving their old boats and buying cars, so that is why we started collecting them."
A 103-year-old riverboat was used as the main structure of the houseboat, thus keeping the original shape of the boat. Wood material from seven other boats was used to create the second level and the fitting. A roof was added while the concrete foundation anchors the houseboat to the ground.
The house faces east and backed by an artificial canal. In the morning, the deck basks in the sunlight while the second floor terrace is fanned by the breeze form the canal. However, there is one non-nautical feature - it is surrounded by a small garden.
"The beauty of this house is its close-to-nature feeling," says Somkiert. We try not to change much in terms of the structure and the interior design as we wanted to retain the essence of the boat. While it was being built, I had eight ship craftsmen helping me to make sure I got everything right."
The main riverboat was found in a nearby province and was brought to Samut Sakorn province via the river - a nostalgic last sailing of sorts. The family uses the house as a weekend home and willing to make replicas on their estate for any interested buyers.
Their passion for water-vessels has another outlet. The family also has a"boat museum" in their housing estate, with 80 small boats and 20 big riverboats on display. All of them wee brought in by Somkiert during the four years, who drove from village to village in the central province.