THAILAND DIARIES – VOLUME 2 – DRIVING THAILAND
Driving Thailand is the second Volume of my Thailand Diaries and is now complete. But before I published it I decided to post a selection of excerpts which I hope will encourage you to download and enjoy the whole book. This is the best way to see Thailand.
NORTHERN PROVINCES – CHIANG MAI & CHIANG RAI (Part 3)
Thailand’s ‘Loi Krathong’ festival in Chiang Mai is in full swing. My village is buzzing with activity and it is party time again for three days, this year from 16th to 18th November. Those are the official days allocated but that never seems to stop anyone from letting off fire-crackers days in advance. The villagers have been busy building their colourful floats for the street processions and many banana trees are being cut down so that people can make their little decorative Krathong boats to float (loi) in the river at night.
Monsoon has gone but there has been heavy rain overnight for two nights which looks as though it has cleared now and the sun is bright and hot again with just a gentle cooling northerly breeze. The rice has been harvested so the farmers can relax a little and use their skills to make Loi Krathong another fun party. Chiang Mai City is always packed with thousands of revelers, beauty contests and snazzy floats on the last day. At the end people send thousands of sky lanterns (khom loi) floating up and away on the breeze of the night sky. It’s a beautiful sight, particularly if the full moon dominates a cloudless sky. Lanterns also adorn houses, trees and walls where they are either hung or free standing.
The festival is always held on the full moon of the twelfth Thai month and is believed to originate from an ancient ritual paying respect to the water spirits, thanking the Goddess of water. A Krathong is made from a circular slice of freshly cut down banana tree, skilfully wrapped in a piece of the leaf, then decorated with incense sticks, candles and flowers. When the candle, which is lit in reverence to the Buddha, and the incense sticks are burning the Krathong is launched into a calm sea, river, canal or lake and your Krathong is accompanied by a wish. Mine is usually ‘please don’t let it rain until Loi Krathong is over and we’ve all gone home’. The Krathong floating away from you is a symbolic gesture releasing any pent up anger or hatred.
Loi Krathong has a special meaning in Chiang Mai because Lanna is where it originated. For me it is the most spectacular, captivating and engaging of all the Thai festivals.
The Hill Tribes
I did a little business with the charming and shy Hmong people who live in villages in the forested mountains above Doi Suthep overlooking Chiang Mai city. The Hmong (Meo) live in houses that sit right on the ground, not on stilts as do most on the other tribes. However, the main floor of their houses is not at ground level, but rests upon a kind of above-ground basement or root cellar that they use for food storage. Moreover, their house-fronts slope outward and downward, an architectural feature that is the trademark of their villages.
The Hmong, even more than the other tribes, practice a strict male-female division of labour. One custom that especially illustrates this is that of giving a new-born boy a gift of metal from which he will one day forge a weapon, whereas new-born girls receive no special gift. The Hmong are a diligent, patient, and independent people, fond of wearing their silver ornaments during ceremonies and much devoted to the sky spirit they believe has created both the world and their own ancient way of life. (Background: Wikipedia)