HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Festival of Flowers brings out the best

Chinese New Year for the Lisu hilltribes

Ask your local US Consul

Valentines Day Greetings


The Festival of Flowers brings out the best

Story by Phitsanu Thepthong
photos by Phitsanu Thepthong, Marion & Michael Vogt

The 27th Chiang Mai Festival of Flowers was held last weekend, and the opening ceremony on February 8 produced some of the most stunning flower arrangements ever seen. Shown here, Chiang Mai City’s impressive float was just one of many. 

Last weekend saw the northern capital decorated with eye-catching blooms for the 27th Chiang Mai Festival of Flowers. The opening ceremony, on Saturday, February 8 at the western foot of the Navarat Bridge, was officially presided over by Anurak Chureemas, the Minister of Social Development and Human Security.

The 29 floats were beautifully decorated with flowers and adorned with pretty young women representing the province’s districts and private sectors. The parade floats were judged in three categories; beauty, artistic excellence, and cultural preservation.

Young Thais and foreigners perform Thai traditional dance during the beauty contest.

Ms Suchada Wongrithikorn (center), wife of the permanent secretary of Chiang Mai province Office, presents the reward and shield to Miss Thai Cultural Representative Terra Mathews (left)

Ms Samoekae Khetphasook (right), the Chiang Mai governor’s wife, presents the winning prizes to Miss International Flower Bloom winner, Indira St Claire (left)

Three future Miss Floral Beauty Contestants practicing their smiles.

Miss Floral Beauty Queen, Thanida Chaiwong (2nd right), poses with her runners-up.

Ms Suchada Wongrithikorn, wife of the permanent secretary of Chiang Mai provincial office (left), presents winning prizes to Miss Floral Beauty Queen, Thanida Chaiwong

Flag-twirlers and marching bands dominated the parade.

Who shows whom the correct step - the horse, his horseman, or the horseman the horse?

The elderly did not want to miss this year’s flower parade.

The grand parade, witnessed by thousands of Thais and foreign tourists, started from the bridge, moving through the western part of the city to finish at the Nong Buak Haad public park, where flower arrangements, landscaping exhibitions and other contests were held. In the evening, the grand finals for the titles of Miss International Flower and Miss Floral Beauty for the locality were held.

On Saturday evening at the park, the contests were chaired by Chiang Mai Governor Pisit Khetphasook. 30 beauty queens were vying for the Miss Floral Beauty title with the eventual winner being 23-year-old Miss Thanida Chaiwong, a bachelor degree graduate in the computer field from the Rajabhat Institute of Lampang. Miss Thanida was born in Lampang province and represented the Hang Dong local administration organization.

The first runner up was Miss Wanida Mekpayoong, of Chiang Mai, a graduate from Rajabhat Institute of Chiang Mai in the field of management and representing Sanpatong District. The second runner up was Miss Sirirat Arnond, a degree graduate from Bangkok, representing Saraphi District.

A local beauty from Hang-Dong, well protected by her sun-umbrella

Got milk?

Locals as much as foreign visitors did indeed enjoy the show.

The see-through umbrellas did not really protect from the sun, but who cares when so much beauty is involved.

To get the best seats or stands in the house was relatively easy, as the traffic came to a complete standstill.

Is it a painting? Is it a collage? It was flower power, and without doubt a piece of art.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand’s float.

Heavenly flowers, checked out by the local representatives on earth.

The Float from Ban Thawai, created by a local artist named Yut.

It took them 2 weeks to fix the dried flowers onto this float.

What impresses more - the pretty young girl, the handsome men, or the beautiful flowers?

Miss International Flower Bloom saw 30 internationals vying for the title. Miss Indira St. Claire from the USA was judged the winner, with the runner up being Arla Patricia from Canada. Miss Terra Matthews, also from Canada, was chosen as the Miss Thai cultural representative.

The floral parade winner was the float from Sansai District, which was awarded the first prize of 30,000 baht, with the first runner up from Hang Dong District, and the 3rd from Sanpatong District.

In the artistic excellence category, the Thai Hotel Association won the title, while Phrao District was the first runner up and Central Airport Plaza was the second runner up.

The cultural preservation category was won by the Rajabhat Institute of Chiang Mai Alumni Association float, while Mae Rim and Saraphi districts were the first and second runners up respectively.

One of the magnificent floats, featuring the famous white elephant.

A Country & Western Marching Band in full force - even disguised with war paint.

More Marching Bands ...

The Monument of the Three Kings, made out of flowers.

Two kids embedded in ancient floral scenery.

Harmony and symphony - one of the numerous marching bands from different schools and universities around town.

Not really Gene ‘Somsak’ Krupa, but he is working on it...

A lovely threesome ... out of a fairy tale.

They were really enjoying themselves - kids from all over the North danced, paraded, and had a great time.

Lanna culture at its best.

Chinese New Year for the Lisu hilltribes

Phitsanu Thepthong

The Lisu, one of the minority hilltribe groups, in Chiang Mai’s rural Phrao District, celebrated their Chinese New Year in the mountains while Chinese-Thais celebrated theirs in the towns throughout the Thai countryside.

The Lisu man in the center performs musical steps to lead Lisu women in dance around a party.

Lisu women dressed in their traditional costumes perform their cultural dance at a party.

Young Lisu boys in their traditional dress go to the party and celebration.

For the Lisu folk, they like the green of forests and the blue of the sky, so their dresses would be mainly green and blue; however, these days their taste and colours have changed to be light pink, yellow and red, especially during their most important event which they call “kin wor” or the New Year Days February 1-2.

For the Lisu, the celebration consists of dinner among relatives, and then dressed up in their most beautiful costumes, join the grand dance organized in the middle of the village. After that they move from house to house form a night long party.

Despite the adherence to some of the ancient ways, the hill tribesmen’s way of life, culture and traditional dress have been being changed from their primitive life in the rural and remote mountains, to now wearing jeans and shirts, living in the cities. Some Thais and hilltribes men often say that, “Chao kao kao pattana laew”, which means hilltribe people have been developed and civilized.

Young Lisu girls having fun dancing at the party.

Lisu women dress up in their traditional costumes and perform their cultural dance at the party.

Lisu girls in their traditional outfits dance as a part of the Chinese New Year celebration at a rural village in Phrao District, a hundred km north of Chiang Mai City, earlier this month. Some dressed up in the modern clothes.

Thai, Cambodian and American tourists join the Lisu dance at the remote hilltribe village in Phrao District.

Young Lisu girls take part in the ceremonies during the party.

Many prefer to just sit and watch the show.

“Lisu suay, soong and na rak duay la,” said one Lisu girl, 19, from Doi Wawee in Mae Suay, Chiang Rai - who now works for her living in the Chiang Mai city nightlife in the entertainment sector and services. She means that Lisu hilltribe girls are beautiful, tall, slender and also cute. This may be so, but the migration from poverty of the young Lisu to the cities brings with it other social and cultural problems; however, many of them returned home during their Chinese New celebrations to visit their relatives and get together for the village parties.

The local Lisu emigrated in 1924 from the upper part of the Salwin River in Burma to live in Thailand’s northern region, bordering Mae Hong Son, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, mainly in Chiang Mai’s Chiang Dao and Mae Taeng districts. Some settled down in the western part of Chiang Rai, and the east of Mae Hong Son, as well as northwest Tak Province. Now the Lisu tribes are scattered along the hills’ shoulders, about 1,000 meters above the sea level, shifting and relocating with their slash-and-burn cultivation.

Sometimes it’s just as much fun to just sit and watch the show.

The Lisu man in the middle performs the musical steps to lead the Lisu women, children and old tribesmen in dance around the Chinese New Year party.

Interestingly, Lisu have no written language and their speech is a branch of Lo Lo language in the family of Burma and Tibet, with 30% of the spoken language coming from the Yunnan Province of southern China.

Ask your local US Consul

Dear Consul,

The last time I renewed my passport, I went to the embassy in Bangkok, and I had it back the next day. I went to the consulate and they told me it might take more than two weeks! Do I have to make a special trip to Bangkok, or is there some kind of expedite fee or other way to get it done sooner? Why does it take so long, anyway?

- Gotta Go

Dear Mr./Ms. Go,

Your passport is about to make a long and marvelously high-tech journey. In olden days - before April 2002, to be precise - passport applications accepted in Chiang Mai used to travel down to Bangkok, and applications accepted in Bangkok were processed on the spot. These days, all U.S. passports are processed in the United States. You’ll see why when you get it back: rather than having a photo embedded in it - which can be removed by nefarious means - the new passport has a digital image seamlessly integrated into the actual page, along with other less immediately visible security features. Not only does this little book now look very “new millennium” and present a more svelte profile to your pocket*, but, more importantly, no photodigital passport, to date, has been successfully altered. This makes it - and you - a much less attractive target to criminals. Unfortunately, the technology to produce these new passports currently exists only in the U.S. processing facility.

The good news is that you don’t have to make that trip to Bangkok. Processing times are now absolutely standard around the world. The bad news is that there’s no way to hurry the process. Yes, there’s some wording in the application instructions about an “expedite fee,” but that applies only to applicants living in the U.S. who want to pay extra to use an express courier. Your passport is already being sent out and back via an express courier, at no extra charge to you. Not a nice enough perk to offset that $30 notarial fee, perhaps (coming next time: “why are notarial fees so high?”), but a nice break nonetheless.

If your travel situation is more about life-or-death than about having to reschedule the timeshare in Majorca, we can do an emergency passport for you. Why not just request an emergency passport from the start, you ask? For one thing, it’s only valid for a year, and then you have to do the whole thing again. For another, it’s an entirely different and considerably lower-tech book - the actual production process involves a hot iron and a piece of tin foil, and I’m not making that up. It’s more subject to theft and fraud, which is bad for both you and country, and you leave yourself open to difficulties, or at least questioning, from those folks at Homeland Security (who are perfectly companionable, but not always one’s first choice in conversational partner at the end of a 22-hour flight). If you do need to go this route, please try to give us as much lead time as possible - even an emergency passport can rarely be a same-day issuance.

Happy travels,

The Consul

*The Consulate does not actually endorse the carrying of your passport in your jeans back pocket. Why not get yourself one of those nice little under-the-shirt travel pouches?

Have a question about visas, passports, travel to the United States, services for American citizens, or related issues? Ask the Consul. Send your e-mail to acschn @state.gov, with “ask the consul” in the subject line. If your question isn’t selected, you can get an answer by calling the consulate at 053-252-629, from 8 to 4.

Valentines Day Greetings

Conny greets all his friends in Germany for Valentine and DAAO

Just a quick note to say Happy Valentine to Daddy Zerin from Rung

Manuel I send you many many hearts but most of all my own. Happy Valentine from Claudia

Mrs. Kutscher - You are a very special teacher to me - Timon

Anna! I know in Germany they also celebrate Valentine! So I hope you have a very special one. Rey

Happy Valentine Micha from your friend Max

Dear Mom, Dear Dad, thank you for always being there for me. Simon

Calvin says hello to his friend Rey - not only because it’s Valentine but because you are a good friend to me!

Max! Have a special Valentine- Maurice

Peng! I wish you a most beautiful Valentine Day in Bangkok. Thinking of you. Alex

Dear Mrs Kindler, This is a Valentine greeting to a superb and most loved teacher! Linda & Kanruethai

Khun Suk greets Nikom and Champ on this year’s Valentine’s Day. Have a good one!

Deng, this is your very own and special Valentine greeting. Guess who thought about you? Snoe

To Grandpa ‘Full of Bull’ from Grandma ‘Bossy’ - I’d marry you all over again. Be my Valentine!

Lucas and Dang want to wish all guests from ‘Darling’ a romantic Valentine to remember...

To the one and only Polar Bear in Thailand! Just stay as you are and never stop to learn. This way you will reach ‘Fat City’ in No Time... We love you. T + T.

Luxami! Just the 2 of us, we can make it if we try... Love you - Marc

Happy Valentine to all our friends! I miss you already but I know we will see each other again! Holly & Jerry

Happy Valentine Laurie from Gavin

Dear Vadder & Mummy have sweet holidays and come back relaxed and with a beautiful suntan- Happy Valentine! Ralf & Manuela & Grete

Dear Som

May you always be my Valentine

Walter (Frozen Fountain Restaurant)


Yurie Ball

Yurie Kudo Ball died peacefully on Tuesday 4th February 2003, after a long battle with cancer.

Yurie Kudo Ball

She was born in rural Japan on July 7, 1952. After university, to further her studies, she traveled to England, where she met Tony, her future husband. He recently said, “We were together for 29 very happy years.”

Yurie and Tony were married in Japan, where they lived for 10 years. They then moved to Bali and eventually spent their last 14 years in Chiang Mai.

Yurie worked part-time as an interpreter and liaison assistant for Japanese residents and visitors at the Amari Rincome Hotel and Chiang Mai Ram Hospital.

Yurie painted this beautiful portrait of a Great Hornbill.

Her interests were bird watching, which was also her husband’s passion. She painted with great skill, in water-colors, the birds they had seen together. Her work is on display all over Northern Thailand. Another hobby was playing Mah Jong, which she played with great enthusiasm and astuteness with her friends.

Her real interest was people, from all walks of life, whose company she enjoyed.

Yurie’s strength, quick wit and loyalty will be greatly missed by her family and friends.