Traditional Thai cart or kwian has two wheels and is pulled by a water buffalo or an ox. It is used for transport and travelling long distances. Most carts are constructed from hard woods such as blackwood, Siamese redwood, Burmese rosewood, and Malabar ironwood.
Cart-making requires the knowledge and skill to calculate the right proportion of the structure and components to correspond to the function that the cart will serve. The right kind of wood must be selected for each component to suit the load, shock and friction the cart will be subjected to. The principal production source centres in Ban Na Samai Village, Nasamai Sub-district, Mueang Municipal District, Yasothon Province.
One unique characteristic of the cart created at Ban Na Samai Village is in the decorative carvings all over the cart, hence the name Kwian Salak Lai (Carved cart). The cart body and other components are decoratively carved, such as, the paen chan (footboard), the hua thon, the khan yan, the paet or praek (cotter), the hua thuak (head of the cart’s pole), the khan thup kwian (the cart’s pole), the hua tao na and the hua tao lang (front and back joists of the cart’s cot), the khan na and the khan lang (front and back joists of the cart), and the kong phlao (axle). The hua thuak of the Nasamai carved cart is slightly curved down. The cart’s cot is separately built to be assembled later by placing it directly onto the joist framework and cart’s pole can also be disassembled as required.
Most of the decorative motifs might look similar to the uninitiated eyes but they are actually different. Each carver has the freedom to choose the motifs that he prefers and arrange them in any way that he wishes to do. These traditional motifs to choose from are, for example, Lai Met Khao San (rice grain motif), Lai Dok (flower motif), Lai Yoi (drooping motif), Lai Khruea (vine motif, a kind of Thai arabesque).
Carved cart building presently risks disappearing because animal-drawn carts are obsolete today and the raw materials for making them are running out. The cart-makers and craftsmen had to change to other profession, and consequently, the art of carved cart-making risk disappearing forever.