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Tag: festivals-in-thailand (page 1 of 2)

Loi Krathong (Yee Peng): An Unexpected Pleasure in Chiang Mai

Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai

Celebrating Loi Krathong and Yee Peng in Chiang Mai…

Wikipedia: Loi Krathong (Thai: ลอยกระทง) coincides with the Lanna (northern Thai) festival known as Yi Peng (Thai: ยี่เป็ง). Yi means “two” and peng means a “full moon day”. Yi Peng refers to the full moon day in the second month according to the Lanna lunar calendar (the twelfth month according to the Thai lunar calendar).

I had no plans to join the Loi Krathong / Yee Peng festivities but last night I was persuaded. Twenty minutes before my ride showed up I was googling instructions on night photography.

We first went down by the river, slipping and sliding through the mud churned up by the thousands of people who were setting off fireworks, letting Krathongs go in the river, and releasing lanterns into the sky. Most of the westerners were crowded around the moat in the middle of town (they missed a real Thai time – seriously).

I found night photography to be unnerving as well as exhilarating, and now I’m hooked. Below are just a few of the shots that came out.

Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai

Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai

Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai

Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai

Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai

The last photo is of a guy chest deep in the river where the Krathongs were set off. Several theories have been put forward but I’m not sure what he’s doing. Does anyone know?

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Bread Krathongs? Prayer, Appreciation, and Apologies

Bread Krathongs? Oooops

Loy Krathong: 2013…

If you’ve never experienced Loy Krathong, it’s a must. As far as Thai festivals go Loy Krathong is right up there with Songkran. And if you do it right you’ll have loads of fun. But, right or wrong, you’ll also have to deal with hordes of people. Yeah. And that means traffic.

For Loy Krathong this year I’m in Chiang mai, which is known to get crazy (people and traffic-wise). When chatting with Mia from Learn2SpeakThai she advised:

If you go to the war zone for Loy Krathong festival, be safe!!

I never found out what “be safe!!” meant because I decided to pare down the holiday to a quiet float in a backyard pond instead. No matter. I’ll be in Chiang mai for the dual Yee Ping and Loi Krathong Festivals next year. This year has been too busy, too frantic, too, too… you know.

After reading the Bangkok Post article, Loy Krathong round-up, I dropped by Tescos for a new style of Krathong. One made of bread.

Krathong Creations Then: A krathong is made of a slice of banana trunk decorated with folded banana leaves and fowers. Joss sticks and candles are put in the centre. Men get to show of their manliness by chopping down banana trees.

Bread Krathongs? OooopsKrathong Creations Now: We float pre-made krathongs of various materials, tangible and intangible. There are virtual versions on websites and smartphone applications you can float guilt-free.

People release bread krathongs in the hope that fish will eat them. This is two birds with one krathong – paying respect to Phra Mae Khongka and feeding fish for extra merit. If you’re afraid that a fish may get a piece of bread stuck in its throat, there are krathongs made of waffle cones that are probably easier for them to eat.

Even after not being fed for four days, the fish were curious about the bread Krathong but weren’t biting.

Not wanting to make a mess of the pond, I pulled the Krathong back out. Does that still count as paying respect?

Curious about respect and bread Kratongs, I went to Yuki from PickUp Thai:

Wow… that’s a hard question. I would say yes. IMO, it doesn’t matter how long you leave the krathong floating in the river. It’s more the prayer (the appreciation and apology to the river) and your intention to pay respect (expressed by floating the boat onto the river, or in your case, the fishpond) that matter :)

I tried looking for an article about bread floats for you because I don’t know much about it myself. Unfortunately, it turned to be the worst type of krathong possible in terms of damaging the environment. That was a total surprise. I would’ve thought it was one of the best materials to make a krathong out of. You can read about it here: กระทงขนมปัง เหมาะสมจะนำมาใช้ลอย จริงหรือครับ.

Thanks Yuki! I needed to know about damaging the environment for next year. This year I was only floating the Krathong in a fishpond, but if I hadn’t pulled mine out, there would have been a mushy mess to clean up. A big “Oooops” about the prayer and apologies bit though. Brb…

My appreciation for helping out with this post goes to Thai Skype Teachers Yuki (PickUp Thai) and Mia (Learn2SpeakThai). Happy Loy Krathong!

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Happy Mother’s Day from Thailand

Happy Mothers Day from Thailand

Happy Mothers Day from Thailand…

Did you know August 12th is one of the most revered days of the year for Thai people?

As a young child I can remember celebrating August 12th by making a present for a special visitor to my school.

And when the day finally arrived each of us students had a special guest at school.

Our own Mothers greeted us as guests at school and received our creations with tears in their eyes.

What’s so special about August 12th?

It’s Mother’s Day in Thailand.

You might wonder why Mother’s Day is so important to Thais. After-all, Western countries have Mother’s Day too.

The difference is in the social structure of the family. Thai children are taught to respect their parents and to be prepared to take care of their parents in their old age.

This is a task they take on willingly and lovingly. There is nothing a Thai person wouldn’t do for their mother.

In 1976 the Thai government decreed August 12th (The Queen’s Birthday) to be Mother’s Day.

In addition Jasmine was chosen as the symbol of Mothers Day in Thailand.

Why Jasmine?

Because it’s pure white color and angelic aroma signify the love a Mother has for her child.

As students the reverence for our Mothers is reinforced.

I was given white paper in school to create a jasmine flower for my Mother.

Like most Thai children, it would have been much too expensive for me to purchase a real Jasmine flower for my Mother. The bonus is she can keep it a little longer too!!!

Then, on Mothers Day, our moms visit the school.

Thai kids are very shy and I had to build up a lot of courage to give the flower to my Mother and bow at her feet. But it was all worth it when I saw she had tears in her eyes. I knew she was emotionally touched.

Thais even have a Mothers Day song. It was written by Paiboon Butkan, who’s beloved Mother took care of him even though he had leprosy.

Others stopped going near him but his Mother would not abandon him.

The song is very popular, you hear it wherever you go: television, radio, etc. The children practice it at school.

Every Thai knows this song by heart. It’s imprinted on our hearts. It touches us deeply. In its translated form it uses Mother’s milk as a euphemism for the lifelong care you receive from your Mother. Here it is:

Value of Breast Milk ค่าน้ำนม /kâa náam nom/…

แม่นี้มีบุญคุณอันใหญ่หลวง
mâe née mee bun kun an yài lŭang
Mother is the greatest benefactor…


ที่เฝ้าหวงห่วงลูกแต่หลังเมื่อยังนอนเปล
têe fâo hŭang hùang lôokd tàe lăng mêua yang non bplay
…who has been cherishing us since we were gently rocked in cradles.


แม่เราเฝ้าโอ้ละเห่
mâe rao fâo ôh lá hày
Mother soothes her babies to sleep with lullabies…


กล่อมลูกน้อยนอนเปลไม่ห่างหันเหไปจนไกล
glòm lôok nói non bplay mâi hàang hăn hăy bpi jon glai
…and never leaves us alone.


เมื่อเล็กจนโตโอ้แม่ถนอม
mêua lék jon dtoh ôh mâe tà-nŏm
Since our childhood, a watchful eye of mother has been kept on us.


แม่ผ่ายผอมย่อมเกิดจากรักลูกปักดวงใจ
mâe pàai-pŏm yôm gèrt jàak rák lôok bpàk duang jai
Her weight loss ensures the wholehearted love she has.


เติบ โตโอ้เล็กจนใหญ่
dtèrp dtoh ôh lék jon yài
What else could be the reason for how we grow up today…


นี่แหละหนาอะไร มิใช่ใดหนาเพราะค่าน้ำนม
mêe làe năa a-rai mí châi dai năa prór kâa náam nom
…other than the breast milk.


ควร คิดพินิจให้ดี
kuan kít pí-nít hâi dee
Take into consideration…


ค่าน้ำนมแม่นี้ จะมีอะไรเหมาะสม
kâa náam nom mâe née jà mee a-rai mòr sŏm
…what else could be comparable to the breast milk.


โอ้ว่าแม่จ๋า ลูกคิดถึงค่าน้ำนม
ôh wâa mâe jăa lôok kít tĕung kâa náam nom
Mother, I miss the milk you once breastfed.


เลือดในอกผสม กลั่นเป็นน้ำนมให้ลูกดื่มกิน
lêuat nai òk pà-sŏm glàn bpen nám nom hâi lôok dèum gin
The bloodstream of hers turns into milk for us.


ค่าน้ำนมควรชวนให้ลูกฝัง
kâa náam nom kuan chuan hâi lôok făng
The value of breast milk will be every child’s lasting reminder.


แต่เมื่อหลังเปรียบดังผืนฟ้าหนักกว่าแผ่นดิน
dtàe mêua lăng bprìap dang pĕun fáa nàk gwàa pàen din
It is compared as the far-flung sky and heavier than the earth.


บวช เรียนพากเพียรจนสิ้น
bùat rian pâak-pian jon sîn
No matter what we have done and how hard we have tried…


หยดหนึ่งน้ำนมกิน ทดแทนไม่สิ้นพระคุณแม่เอย
yòt nèung nám nom gin tót taen mâi sîn prá kun mâe oie
…nothing can compensate for one drop of milk and the kindness of mothers.


Every time this song comes to mind I get a big lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. Now it’s my turn to support my mother and I do it just as many Thai have for ages.

I’m often asked by my students, “Why do I have to support my Thai girlfriend’s mother?”

The answer is: That’s the Thai way. Our elderly relatives have always been taken care of by their families. As the song says, “Nothing can compensate for one drop of breast milk and the kindness of mothers.” We feel like, whatever we do for our mothers, it won’t be enough to make up for everything she has done for us.

I would like to credit this post to my Mother. She has been a single mother of two and she put everything she had into raising me and my brother. I wouldn’t be who I am today without her.

Btw: If you want to Learn Thai Mother’s Day Song, you can do so on my site.

Happy Mothers Day from Thailand!

Mia Rongsiaw,
Web: Learn2SpeakThai | Youtube channel: learn2speakthai | twitter: learn2speakthai

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Trains, Cars and Phi Ta Khon (Thai Ghost Festival)

Phi Ta Khon Festival

Phi Ta Khon (Thai Ghost Festival)…

After missing Phi Ta Khon last year I promised myself that THIS year I’d go. No matter what. I mean, come on, Loei’s ghost festival is all about masks and fun, and masks, I love!

My Thai friends tell me that Phi Ta Khon is sort of like a Thai Halloween, only Thai style. And as the celebrations are mostly in the daytime, it’s a photographers delight! Ah. A double like.

Wikipedia: Phi Ta Khon, also Pee Ta Khon (Thai: ผีตาโขน meaning Ghost Festival), is the most common name for a group of festivals held in Dan Sai, Loei province, Isan, Thailand.

After debating about possible transportation – car, plane, coach, or train – on Thursday morning we (meaning a friend and I) jumped on the express-my-batootie from Bangkok to Phitsanulok. The promise? About three hours from place to place. Or four (depending).

Ghost Festival: Train toilet

Over SIX hours later the train limped into Phitsanulok. What kind of train is two hours late? No matter. I’ve never been on a Thai train before but for me the seats were comfy, the rolling views out the slightly dirty windows spectacular, and keeping balance on the squat toilet challenging (but amusing fun).

Oh. And forget about smelly toilets. The breeze coming through the very open window whoooshes any nastiness up and away. But be warned, the clanking noises from the train tracks and the wind whirling around the small room and across your bare neither regions are a bit surreal.

Ghost Festival: Train toilet

The driver waiting in Phitsanulok wasn’t too put out (thank goodness) about our tardy arrival. A former school teacher, he admitted that being a driver has taught him plenty of patience. And teaching kids didn’t? Heh (I forgot to ask).

Climbing into the van, off we went to Dan Sai for another three plus hours on the road.

Ghost Festival: Rice fields

Looking back, this trip was all about the incredible views. The views seen from the train. The views from the drive between Phitsanulok and Dan Sai. And the view from the hotel room. And more. Read on.

Ghost Festival: Room

Views aside, both nights in Dan Sai were rough going sleep-wise. For one, the beds were hard. Really hard. For two, some sort of critter was chomping on the floorboards of our room. All night long (yes, I have recordings). For three, my roommate was terrified of moths. Peeing moths hanging from the ceiling. A treat, for sure. And four, there was no hot water.

Blurry-eyed but hopped up on a mix of Thai coffee and painkillers (yeah), on the first morning we attended the opening ceremony for the Ghost Festival. Turns out, it was a perfect introduction to Phi Ta Khon.

The opening ceremony featured schools, and as you’ll see below, the children involved in the celebration were beautiful to snap. And while there were a few photographers around, it was still possible to get decent shots without other cameras invading. Barely.

Ghost Festival: Kids

Ghost Festival: Kids

Ghost Festival: Parade

Ghost Festival: Boy

After the speeches (some in English) and performances were finished, the celebration headed for the streets.

Ghost Festival: Parade

Ghost Festival: What a face!

Ghost Festival: Monks

I swear this trio of monks were at other ceremonies I’ve attended around Thailand (I’ll have to check and get back to you).

Getting our fill of the parade, we headed off to the National Park and Chateau De Loei (thanks for the heads-up about the vineyard Martyn).

Ghost Festival: National park

Ghost Festival: Wine

Ghost Festival: Wine

Ghost Festival: Wine

Working our way through a bottle of wine and even more hours of Thai massage – did I forget to mention the first night’s massage? – the second day ended and the long night of painful beds and peeing moths began.

By day two we were not exactly staggering from a lack of sleep. More like hyperventilating from an overdose of caffeine (in a weak attempt to get through the day). Still fun? Sure.

Ghost Festival: Masks

All the way up to the day of arrival we still weren’t 100% sure when everything was going to happen. On the morning of the official parade we were told the parade would start at 9am. After arriving and wandering around with nothing much happening, we asked the police who replied “maybe” it’d start at 9.30am. Maybe…

Ghost Festival: Masks

Ghost Festival: Parade

Ghost Festival: Too many cameras

You know, I had a wonderful time on the first day of the celebrations. And I had a great time running around the countryside. But when photographers started showing up in groups of tens and twenties, it was time for this Cat to leave. And leave, we did. For more fun (just not in Dan Sai).

Will I be back next year? Or the year after? Sure. The Ghost Festival is an amazing experience and I’m not done yet.

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Songkran 2012: Siam Square: On Day Two

Songkran 2012

Songkran 2012: Siam Square: On Day Two…

Did you miss the first day of Songkran? Me too! The closer it got to 4pm on the first official day of the celebrations, the more I wanted to stay high and dry (so I never made it out of my PJs).

But seriously, getting drenched at Songkran is FABULOUS! And honestly? Between you and me? I should have done it sooner. Like, on day one of Songkran at least.

Mod’s Wild, Wild WET: To state that the Thais celebrate Songkran with water is a huge understatement. If you long for the carefree days of childhood (or if you are still a kid), don’t miss out on the Songkran ‘water wars’. Bowls (ขัน), containers (ภาชนะ) and large buckets (ถัง) filled with water are hurled at anyone who happens to be around, and lively water fights take centre stage on the streets, which are awash with carnival-like atmosphere. Some Songkran enthusiasts even resort to using garden horses and powerful water guns. (ปืนฉีดน้ำ)

Your presence at the festival is seen as an invitation to participate, so if you don’t want to get wet, stay clear!

And man oh man, did I ever get WET.

Songkran 2012

During the last two Songkrans I’ve focused on Khao San Road. Compared to Siam Square and other Songkran venues in Bangkok, Khao San Road is the easiest to get around via taxi. Incase you haven’t experienced it, unprotected cameras and flying water don’t mix. So hiding (mostly) behind glass was, to me, the safer, dryer bet.

This year I had the new iPhone with its snazzy camera and video capabilities so I opted for the Songkran party at Siam. On foot.

On Khao San Road there are a LOT of tourists and expats. I read that it’s something like 80%? 90? But not at Siam. At Siam there were a few westerners but the rest were Thai. I like.

Running the gauntlet of water guns was great fun. With my hands full of iPhone and water bottle, I chose not to have a pistol to retaliate. But next year? Next year it’ll be different… oh yeah.

Smothered behind a large crowd of onlookers was a live band. I couldn’t see them, but they were cranked up LOUD so I could hear them just fine. And every so often the crowd would stop spraying water to throw up their arms in rhythm with the tune. Fun.

Songkran 2012

Right outside the party gates you could buy powder, buckets, bowls, and beer. But I never once saw anyone actually partake. At Siam very few people had faces smeared with white paste and no one was walking around drinking alcohol. I missed the paste especially. Except for the water, it was not like Khao San’s Songkrans of the past at all.

I did take my Canon 7D but it never made it out of the backpack (too risky). Pity. Because while I love the ease of taking photos via iPhone, I felt no real connection with the scene around me. You can see it easily by comparing this year’s photos (above) with the ones I took last year (here).

So NEXT year I’ll be walking around with a waterproofed camera, a water pistol, and… and… what else?

Soaked from my head to my knickers, it was the coolest I’d felt all week. All during the ride back home I was grinning away, chatting excitedly about the wild and wet experience of Songkran at Silom.

“YEAH! That was fun! How long did I last?”

“Ten minutes”

“Oh”

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Rules of Songkran 2012: No Drink Walking. No Talcum Powder

Rules of Songkran 2012: No Talcum Powder or Drink Walking

No Drink Walking or Talcum Powder…

In a few days the Songkran festivities will take over Thailand. In Bangkok, where I’m at, tourists flood in and a chunk of locals (mostly from up north) stream out.

Except for sampling Khao Chae (a first), my Songkran plans are not set. I might grab a taxi and drive around taking photos of the water fights, but that’s about as energetic as I’ll get this year. And for good reason.

  1. Even with the rain it’s blazing HOT this Songkran.
  2. Thai roads seem even more deadly than usual.

At this time each year Thailand braces not just for the heat of Songkran but for the death tally due to careless drivers. That’s the bad part. The good part [knock on wood] is that we don’t have Red Shirt protests or floods to worry about.

But wait. We do have additional concerns and new rules. Oh joy.

Khao San ready for a splash: To provide safety for Songkran celebrants and tourists, 300 police officers and 150 volunteers will be deployed around the area. Security checkpoints will be set up to search for explosives and weapons.

As well, the sale and use of talcum powder are not allowed, and drinking alcohol while walking will be banned.

Mr Piyabutr also said he was confident that the recent bombings in the southern provinces would not affect the number of Songkran revellers or holiday sentiment in the capital.

Forget about the bombs in the south AND Bangkok for awhile… in Khao San (where I sometimes go), there’s to be no talcum powder or walking while drinking? Strange combo. What about being drunk? Is drunk walking allowed?

Anyone game for testing it out?

The dancing traffic cops of Thailand…

To lighten the gloomy mood, Thailand created a massive traffic jam in Ratchaprasong (yup, where I shop) to bring us this cute Songkran video.

…police closed the Ratchaprasong intersection in central Bangkok on Friday morning to shoot a music video scene featuring a dance by 12 female traffic police officers. The video is part of a police campaign to reduce road accidents during the Songkran period.

Good luck to them. I’ll be checking @191Thailand on twitter to see how this latest idea pans out. Fingers crossed it will have more success than the “Drink, Don’t Drive” campaign.

Anyway… if you are interested in attending any of the Songkran festivities around Thailand, here’s Richard Barrow’s Schedule and Dates for Songkran 2012.

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Visakha Bucha Day & Happy Birthday & VOTE?

Visakha Bucha Day

Visakha Bucha Day & Happy Birthday & VOTE?…

There’s a lot going on today… We all know it’s Visakha Bucha Day but it’s also my birthday (yeah)… and… it’s the day voting opens for the Top 100 Language Lovers 2011 competition.

So, yeah! Let the voting begin.

Happy Visakha Bucha Day…

Officially, 17 May 2011 marks 2,600 years since Buddha’s enlightenment. To celebrate the anniversary, on the 8th of May 12,600 monks in orange and goodness knows how many Buddhists in white got together in front of Central in Bangkok. I was there. It was a massive event. And I was rightfully impressed.

Alms Giving to 12,600 Monks in Bangkok (thai-blogs.com – no longer online): Visakha Bucha Day is one of the most important days in the Buddhist calendar. It takes place every year on the full moon of the sixth lunar month. Three important events happened on this day. These were the birth, enlightenment and the death of the Lord Buddha. Buddhists make merit on this day by going to the temple to offer food to monks and to listen to sermons.

Richard Barrow showed up at 5:30 in the morning, putting me to shame. I didn’t roll up until 7am and ran right into a sea of white. Not orange.

Visakha Bucha Day

Passing along the rows of white, each sitting by their stash, I also came across street hawkers and merit making birds at the ready.

Visakha Bucha Day

Then I walked past people crammed into available spaces on the sidelines.

Visakha Bucha Day

As well as young lads patiently waiting the morning out.

Visakha Bucha Day

Finally, after about ten minutes of dodging the worshipers in white, I hit orange.

Visakha Bucha Day

Lots of orange.

Visakha Bucha Day

I don’t know what hour the monks arrived but by the time I rolled up they were rightfully zonked.

Visakha Bucha Day

Some were animated during the speeches, while others did a bit of pot cleaning.

Visakha Bucha Day

There was one TiT moment. See that pedestrian walkover? The one with the half naked model behind it? Photographers were walking up there to take advantage of the prime photo taking spot of the morning. When I went to do the same I was stopped.

Waggling my camera in protest I was told “Male photographers only”. WHY? Says I. “Women cannot be higher than the monks.”

I mentioned this to a Thai friend. He scoffed. Said there is no such rule in Buddhism.

So TiT strikes once again.

Visakha Bucha Day

Were you wondering how comfortable those seats would be? I guess not much!

Visakha Bucha Day

Now here’s a monk after my own heart. He’s parked right at the back where he can fiddle with his earphones undisturbed.

Visakha Bucha Day

To snap a photo from as high as I could I walked to the very back of the monks, climbed up to and then across the Skytrain walkway. Did you notice the signs keeping step with the sitting monks? The ones that say “Women for Women”? Gotta love it.

Visakha Bucha Day

The sea of orange was amazing.

Visakha Bucha Day

It was all amazing (but apologies, once again, my video skills are still total cacca).

Visakha Bucha Day, 17 May 2011, is a one off deal for Buddhists and if you are missing it, that’s it. Finish. So if you are in Thailand and this is your thing, then please get your butts away from the computer and get out there. Or vote. There’s always voting.

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For Songkran’s Sake

Songkran 2011

For the love of Songkran…

I’m not even supposed to be here. A party pooper, during Songkran I’m usually found in locations not here, or hiding quietly away. This year I had tickets and hotel booked for Cape Town, South Africa, of all places. But I changed direction and decided that I’d go somewhere UP from Bangkok instead. Sounded good. I’ve done Bangkok at Songkran but nowhere else.

A sore throat, fever, coughing up gunk and junk and a list of other nasties (don’t ask) took care of my Songkran plans. So instead of experiencing a different side of Songkran I settled on my sofa. And I was content and happy to wait out the holidays with all my drugs and my two cats UNTIL…

…Snap wrote me asking about Hawaiian shirts and Songkran. I, in my [cough] [cough] wisdom, poo pooed the thought. Hawaiian shirts? In Thailand? I’ve never seen the like. But she did get my Songkran curiosity up. And (darn her) it turns out she was right (but Lani says the shirts are new to Songkran so she’s only half right. Right?)

Songkran 2011 - Hawaiian shirts in Khao San Road

And then yesterday Talen started taunting me with a promised run of Songkran posts! AGHHHHH! What’s a gal to do?

I got off the sofa, got dressed, felt my forehead, and went straight back to sleep for the rest of the day.

But Thursday morning was different. A mixture of guilt and healthy competition does that to me. Snap didn’t say, but I could feel a Songkran part II coming from her end. And Talen, well, the man is a Songkran maniac!

To make it easy on my [pathetic] sicko self, I decided to brave the watery world of Songkran close to home. I got dressed, felt my forehead [got the all clear], Saran wrapped and unwrapped my 7D, and then marched outside. But guess what? My soi is BORING! I keep bragging about how quiet my soi is, but on Songkran? It was dead dead DEAD!

There was nothing to do but walk to the main highway (a mere 8 minutes away). Again. Quiet. But Taxis were plenty so I hailed the most chalk-covered one of all and explained the deal. He drives me to Khao San Road and back. And I’ll pay him a lovely set price. A done deal.

He threw in the killing spree for free.

The white powder of Songkran…

As I mentioned in my previous Songkrang post: In the name of warding off evil, an elder would anoint faces and body parts with a white powder or paste carried around in a silver bowl. Today, the ritual has evolved into a modern free for all: silver bowls have been replaced with coloured plastic bowls of choice; teens to young children join in as well.

So if you arrive chalkless, what you do when you first get to Khao San Road is you head for one of the powder sellers. Ten baht gets you a wimpy bowl and twenty baht, a bucket.

Songkran 2011

And after you get your spray gun wrapped around your body, you have a friend fill it up. Or refill, as the case might be.

Songkran 2011

(I know Talen’s going to come in and say THAT’s not a gun, THIS is a gun – but remember, he lives in the badlands of Pattaya where there are no rules).

From what I saw, the average water gun in Khao San Road is about the size of what this young guy is touting. And isn’t he sweet? His spray changed the visibility of my newly wiped down window from smudgy but doable, to a sea of droplets. Photographers pay big bucks for filters like that and I got it for free!

Songkran 2011

Anyway… some just bowl it instead of gunning it, and that’s ok too. Especially when you hold the higher ground, like this guy does.

Songkran 2011

During this Songkran I paid more attention to those giving and receiving the water and white paste. But I was more interested in the pasting.

These two guys were quite civil in their exchanges. One slathered the paste, the other poured water. And it wasn’t a brief stint either, they were going at it for awhile. Smile smile smile, slather and pour.

Songkran 2011

And this couple were talking their time slathering the paste on too. Mmmmmmmmm. Nice.

Songkran 2011

But then it got even more interesting. I saw many guys (and they were all guys) reach out from nowhere to slather a pretty girl. Look at that guy. He’s not even looking. He’s just walking, reaching out, and slathering paste as he goes. What’s up with with the hit and run pasting?

Songkran 2011

And these guys had an assembly line going. I was stuck in traffic so I got to watch them for awhile as well. One slathers a gal with paste and the next guy follows until all four have had their turn (one is out of camera shot). The poor gal couldn’t catch her breath! Or their phone numbers!

Songkran 2011

Another twist is to hold the girl tight while pouring a bowl of water over her head. Slowly. I was able to get a long series of photos from this scene too (my favourite out of all).

Songkran 2011

So from what I saw, on Khao San Road it’s mostly a guy going after a pretty gal thing (but not always). You find a pretty gal, slather her with paste or drench her from head to toe and walk on. It’s almost like a mating ritual.

Oh, and the taxi even got pasted. Repeatedly. Window pasted. It didn’t put an end to my Songkran voyeurism but it did create interesting photos (way too many to share here).

Songkran 2011

Happy Songkran 2011 all! Stay healthy. Stay safe!

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Chinatown, Chinese New Years, and Bangkok Bunnies

Bangkok's Chinatown for Chinese New Year

Bunny hunting in Bangkok’s Chinatown…

Before I get started on this post I want to give good warning. I did not succeed in my quest in Chinatown. I did not divide and conquer. But I did see red.

The main reason for going into Chinatown wasn’t to see about Chinese New Years. I was hankering to hunt down bunnies. You see, the year 2010 is the year of the rabbit. Asking around, K.Pi thought Chinatown would be the best bet. Me too. Me too.

And honestly, I expected not just bunnies plastered everywhere, but a town transformed for New Years’ celebrations. I was so wrong. Except for red banners down the street and a few extras, it was practically the same ‘ole same ‘ole: hordes of people pushing their way everywhere, not much room to swing a camera, and loads of red.

Bangkok's Chinatown for Chinese New Year

Curious, I asked Greg Jorgensen what usually happens during Chinese New Year in Bangkok’s Chinatown. Greg has resided in Chinatown for donkey’s years, so of anyone, he’d know.

Well, living in Chinatown as an expat during the new year is like living in Calgary as a non-hick during the Stampede, in that you want to keep as far away from it as possible. Truth be told, it’s kind of a nightmare and I avoid it at all costs, but I guess some people might find it charming. :P

I can’t remember ever seeing any huge statues of animals or anything like that – maybe there are lanterns or hats or things decorated with the appropriate animal, but nothing ostentatious. What you CAN expect is endless, sweaty, heaving crowds of people everywhere you go. The main road – Yaowarat – is closed for foot traffic, and there are stages set up with singing, dancing and acrobatic shows. Food is also a main attraction, but if you do stop for a bowl of noodles you’ll be sitting elbow-to-elbow amid a sea of diners, often as one of 6 strangers squeezed together at a table meant for four. But kids love it – lots of balloons, noise, and candy for them to check out, and it’s certainly not a boring time of year in that part of town.

So basically it’s the same, only louder and with more people pushing and shoving their way through bigger crowds. Hmmm. I’ll pass.

While there weren’t many New Year’s decorations, I did make way for Chinese dragon dancers coming through the crowd. And like crowds everywhere in Chinatown, their concern was not for anyone else but to get where they wanted to go. It was a bit annoying when you are trying to shoot video, and I imagine the dragon dancers were not impressed either. Ah. Scratch that. They are sure to be used to it.

I did find some bunnies but not what was expected. Bunnies were on sale as dangling things and ornaments but Chinatown was bereft of megga bunny decorations on the streets. Oh. Well.

Bangkok's Chinatown for Chinese New Year

Ok, I also came across small bunny decorated money envelopes. But that was only after hours of wandering around asking anyone who would listen. And when I’m looking, I’m also finding stuff. Yeah. So I spent way more then I’d intended (my little girls are just going to love this month’s care package!)

Bangkok's Chinatown for Chinese New Year

Unless I’m wrong (and pretty please tell me if I’m wrong about any of this stuff), อั่งเปา /àng-bpao/ is the Thai pronunciation of the original name for the red envelopes you fill with money. And it means red envelope, funny enough. The envelopes are given on special occasions such as Chinese New Year, but the practice of giving money envelopes is no longer just Chinese. When I lived in Borneo even the Malays gave coloured money envelopes during Ramadan, birthdays, and pretty much anything sanuk. And I believe the Malaysians do too. Singaporeans? That’s a given.

And I don’t have a clue what this sack is – do you? – it looks gorgeous and gaudy. I like.

Bangkok's Chinatown for Chinese New Year

This being Chinatown, anything or anyone decked in red fits the theme. Can you figure out what product these cuties represent? I never did get any because they were too busy fiddling guitars, conferring with each other, and ignoring the public.

Bangkok's Chinatown for Chinese New Year

If you are interested in all things Chinatown, there are many sites with decent information about Chinese New Year in Thailand. Here’s one:

thaiwaysmagazine.com: The Chinese New Year in Thailand

And if you want to know what’s happening in Thailand before it happens, my buddy Talen puts a heap of work into his ‘Thai Calendar’ (no longer online). Not everything going on in Thailand is promoted Western-style (as in letting people know before the event), so work really is the operative word here.

Happy Chinese New Years all!

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Wat Bang Phra Tattoo Festival

Wat Bang Phra

The tattoo festival is happening this month…

Wat Bang PhraWat Bang Phra Tattoo Festival
Saturday, 27 February, 2010
5am (starting time) – 9am (main presentation from the head monk)

If you visit Wat Bang Phra during a regular week, you can pretty much expect peace and quiet. And as I’m a softly-softly type of gal, that’s what my previous post was all about: Wat Bang Phra: Tattoo Temple Time Out.

But if you show up during the Tattoo Festival, everything changes. For a few short hours, the Wat is flooded with thousands of followers attending the historic ไหว้ครู (wâi kroo ceremony). Some devotees are hyper, some are not. Others are overcome with the spiritual power garnered by their tattoos of tigers, monkeys, and snakes. And last year, all this jumping around culminated in a photographer getting his arm broken during the fracas (yet another reason why you won’t see me there… this time).

Thailand’s temple of tattoos: The centuries-old Thai tradition dates back to the time when schools were located in temples and teachers were monks. Once a year, students would make obeisance to past and present generations of knowledge bearers — a hierarchy of ancient Brahmin gods represented by colourful masks on a multi-tiered stage. Nowadays, the wai khru ritual is performed rarely, except in a condensed version at schools or boxing matches. And at this unusual temple.

Wat Bang PhraRichard Barrow states that he arrived one year at 7am and: “by 9 a.m. there were literally thousands and thousands of people packed into every available space”.

Btw: The final dates for the festival came from three separate phone calls to the Wat. If you are arriving from overseas, please check back here and/or with Richard’s Paknam forum before booking your ticket.

Which tattoo to choose…

Patty (one of WLT’s readers), asked about a Sak Yant (สักยันต) tattoo to protect travelers.

The Thai Guide to Thailand mentions that there are many varieties of tattoos to choose from. The different styles include (but are not inclusive to) the Five Sacred Lines Yant, Nine Spires Yant, Tiger Yant, and the Hanuman Yant (Monkey God).

Your tattoo of choice does not stop there, as Khmer script makes an entrance too (Tip: Khmer script is pronounced Kom in Thai). My research gathered the following (but don’t hold me to it):

  • อำนาจ (am-nâat – personal power)
  • โชคลาภ (chôhk lâap – luck and fortune)
  • ตามความ (dtaam kwaam – power over people, law)
  • จากนาง (jàak naang – paralyzing, stunning spell)
  • เเคล้วคลาด (kleow klâat – evasion and invisibility)
  • คงกระพันชาตรี (kong grà pan chaa-dtree – protection from harm and danger)
  • เมตตามหานิยม (mâyt-dtaa má-hăa ní-yom – lucky/popular in love)
  • มหาเสน่ห์ (má-hăa sà-này – charm and attraction)
  • สัตว์หิมพานต์ (sàt hĭm-má-paan – animal powers)
  • ยันต์กันไฟอุบัติเหตุ (yan gan fai ù-bàt-dtì hàyt – protection from fire and accident).

So from the looks of it, the ยันต์กันไฟอุบัติเหตุ (yan gan fai ù-bàt-dtì hàyt) will protect travelers. But with the possibility of five to nine lines to fill, it looks like party time! Ouch!

Arjan NooNote: I am obviously not an expert on Thai tattoo so please ask around before choosing your tattoos. In addition, each tattoo artist/monk/teacher will have their own twists and turns, so be sure to discuss it with them too.

I do have a fat book by อาจารย์หนู Arjan Noo (arjannoo.com – no longer online), the Thai tattooist responsible for working on Angela Jolie. The book is called หมื่นยันต์ (mèun yan – ten thousand magic symbols).

Arjan Noo points out that the drawings in his book are merely representative of the Khmer tattoo prayers he uses. He goes on to say that the designs have already been copied by disreputable tattoo artists, and as the Khmer script shown mean nothing, neither do their tattoos.

So, as they say in Thailand… up to you

Other Thai tattoo resources…

Tattoo Museum
Sak Yant Thai Khmer Buddhist Temple Tattoos
Sak Yant – Magic Tattoo
Wikipedia: Wat Bang Phra

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