Tribal Trappings – Asian Ethnic Art, Artifacts, Textiles and Folk Art Tribal Trappings – Thoughts about Thailand, Chiang Mai, things tribal including textiles, ethnographica and folk art <data:blog.pageTitle/>

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Cheers to the New Year! Part 1

Dear Reader, for you I girded my loins and went into battle, armed with only my camera and a smile, on this, the first day of the Water Wars.

Known as Songkran, or Thai New Year, it is an annual display of wet merriment and mayhem (tho this year the merriment may have been curtailed somewhat by the banning of alcohol). The water, however was freely flowing and almost everyone was armed.

Enjoy from the dry comfort of your home and try to imagine being soaking wet in 100 degree heat-it's not too bad actually, especially if you're properly prepared.

May the games begin!

In this battle size didn't matter,

especially if you had a backpack water tank...

Where's Tigger?

There's Tigger!

Hello Kitty! But of course... a monkey on her back...

...and an elephant on his chest...

...or came as a Water Warrior

And for that 'je ne sais quoi', weird headgear seemed to be the must-have accessory this year...

For those just passing through and unarmed, it was necessary to have proper armor:
rain poncho, socks, and gloves(!) nothing was sacred and nobody spared

But this is just the beginning. See Part 2 for the parade of Buddhas.

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Cheers to the New Year! Part 2

Coward that I am, most of my photos were taken at a friend's shop from the second floor balcony overlooking Tha Pae Rd., as I really did not want to sacrifice my camera to the gods of Songkran. I was there mainly to document, for you Dear Reader, the kinder and gentler side of Songkran: the parade of Buddhas, brought out to be cleansed for the new year and to bestow merit on those doing the cleansing.

For this a necessary ingredient is 'lustral/holy water'-
a special, fragrant water made with the flowers of certain trees, plus special herbs and seed pods.

It is poured onto the Buddhas and that which has run off is given back as reciprocal blessings. It can be a lovely ritual when done with small silver cups or ladles, and proper timing. Unfortunately, the Buddhas were often parading by at speed and there was barely time to throw some holy water in their direction.

More venerable and sacred ones, however, were on old, ornately carved, hand-pulled carriages.

Some were on elaborately constructed and ornamented floats

and even the common rickshaw was elevated to a conveyance of the holy (tho surprisingly no tuk tuks were to be seen)

Buddhas from all over the province were brought out for the ritual cleansing and included a variety of postures and materials:

a standing Buddha

a red-headed one

a large alabaster Buddha

a very large silver Buddha

a small, but sweet jade Buddha

gold Buddhas


a very dark green bronze one

It's always a treat to see so many beautiful Buddha figures all decked out for their big day.
Part 3 of 3

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Friday, April 13, 2012

Cheers to the New Year! Part 3

Not only Buddhas got a thorough cleansing... everyone marching in the parade was fair game, including the Governor of Chiang Mai and his entourage.

Participants, one and all, were pretty well soaked at this early stage of the march. One could only wonder what would happen when they reached the moat enroute to Wat Phra Singh, even with special precautions:

...umbrellas were an attractive, tho not very effective, defense against the water...

Waterproof makeup should have been a priority for these Lady Boys.

And there's nothing like wearing a purple elephant head!

Interspersed with the Buddhas and wet dignitaries were small groups of traditional musicians keeping the beat going for their own mobile dance parties- veritable pied pipers:

A swan and dancer "flew" in all the way from Myanmar to join the fun.

And an 'naak' on prancing pony from the concurrent Poy Sang Long festivals even made an appearance.

During a lull in the procession Mr. Burger sneaked in, receiving ovations and hopefully some business.

And the local rickshaw drivers did their part by ferrying large offerings.

Finally the official parade ended and the parade of city life resumed, but the water never stopped.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Truly Amazing Thailand!

er journey lit by the full moon, HRH Princess Bejaratana was given a truly royal send-off yesterday. Eight months of preparations preceded this day which included multi-gun salutes, a long parade, appearances by all the royal family (including the King, who was her cousin), plus important personages in government, the military, the monkhood, and dignitaries from other countries. Richly detailed architecture and gardens turned Sanam Luang (the Great Field across from the Grand Palace) into a colorful, gilded fantasyland intended to mimic the mythical Himaphan Forest.

The ceremonies officially began on the 8th with some members of the royal family paying their respects at the Throne Hall where the Princess had been lying in state since her death in July 2011. Her body was contained in a large gilded urn that was elevated on a multi-tiered altar of sorts.

On the 9th the urn was carried from the Throne Hall to Sanam Luang by a series of conveyances in an impressive parade. No elephants were in evidence, but those walking included the Crown Prince and his sister Princess Maha Sirindhorn, the Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, and ranks of men in a variety of uniforms. The range of attire was fascinating and included traditional uniforms from the 19th century or before, as well as dress whites of modern times. Even the Prime Minister was wearing a quasi-military jacket and hat. Headgear was even more varied and should be seen to be appreciated. Women without rank, but of importance, wore close-fitting black silk, long-sleeved jackets over matching ankle-length skirts. In Bangkok's heat it must have been most uncomfortable, but everyone played their part with dignity and precision.

Early in the urn's procession it was transformed with the addition of a multi-part covering of carved, gilded wood with a tall, pointed spire and decorated with delicate silver ornaments. At one point it was carried in a 200 year old funeral carriage; later it was held aloft by over 50 attendants in dark orange uniforms. Along the way it was accompanied by seven-tiered umbrellas denoting royal status. Upon arrival at the special pavillion at Sanam Luang it was again transformed when the gilded cover was removed, revealing a beautifully detailed, carved sandalwood container. It was ensconced on an elevated platform, almost a baldachine, with a canopy and columns covered with creamy white flowers strung together in a delicate net-like design. Here, monks chanted, and a procession of dignitaries placed symbolic sandalwood flowers around the base of the urn and last respects were paid.

The actual cremation followed, at just before midnight, during which time the attendees were entertained by classical 'khon' dancers performing dances from the Ramakien/Ramayana. Other performances, including the large three-dimensional puppets, went on throughout the night. The entire spectacle was broadcast on public TV and footage has been posted to YouTube (some links shown here). It made me proud to be living in this quite amazing country.

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