Thai Sarong (Pa Kao Ma) Rss feed Twitter button Facebook button

In the old days, pa kao ma was one of the most common items among Thai men. Today, you are most likely to see it in the north and northeast of Thailand. However, it is still used by elderly men throughout the country.

Pa kao ma is a rectangular piece of cloth, about the size of a large bath towel. Unlike most sarongs, the ends are not sown together. It normally measures 80x180 cm.

Traditionally, the pa kao ma was made of hand-woven cotton in 2-3 colors, with a checkered pattern. The pa kao ma thread was dyed with fruit rind and bark, which made the colors rather pale.

The more exclusive ones were made of silk.

Traditional Thai hand-woven pa kao ma in silk and cotton.
The hand-woven pa kao ma on the left is made of silk, while the one on the right
is naturally colored cotton.

Today, most pa kao ma fabrics are factory-made and dyed with synthetic colors, making them really colorful.

Pa kao ma is light weight and durable. What is more, it’s easy to wash and dries quickly, which makes it a breeze to care for. All in all, pa kao ma is a practical multi-purpose cloth.

Pa Kao Ma Uses

Thai man washing wearing a sarong.

Pa kao ma is most commonly used as a towel by Thai men, in rural areas. It is worn around the waist, when they go to and from the shower. After the shower, they use the pa kao ma as a towel.

The pa kao ma is also worn when showering in the open or when swimming in nature.

Many Thai men who work in agriculture and construction often have a pa kao ma on the body. Since the work is really physical, they keep it handy by tying the pa kao ma around the waist like a belt, or hanging it over the shoulder. They use it to wipe the sweat.

A man relaxing with his pa kao ma in Thailand.
An easy going Thai man with his pa kao ma.

The pa kao ma also has the following uses:

- Wearing it as a sarong at home

- Keeping it around the neck to wipe away insects with the ends

- Wearing it while changing clothes

- Wrapping things inside and using it as a bag

- Using it as a headband

- Using it as protection from the sun, wind and rain

- Using it as a table cloth and a mat

- Using it as a bed sheet or a light blanket

- Using it as a hammock for an adult, child or infant

- Using it as a rope

- Rolling it up and using it as a pillow

- Using it as a rag

- A pa kao ma made of silk can be worn over the shoulder, as a decoration, at formal occasions

In the past, a pa kao ma was a common present for Songkran, the traditional Thai New Year, for older Thai men.

Nowadays, most Thais who work outdoors wear full-hood face masks made of pa kao ma fabric. The hoods are sold at most local hardware stores.

Suggested Reading:   Hand-Printed Cotton   Thai Crafts

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