HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Some enchanted evening, but bring your own chair - it was a sold out affair!

Chiang Mai Buddhist Monks Association oppose Ministry of Education decree

More money to be spent on Wieng Kum Kam

Popular singer

Phayao’s Lychee Fair May 16-18

Songkran in Nong Khai

Some enchanted evening, but bring your own chair - it was a sold out affair!

Latest Chiang Mai Choral Society Performance proceeds on a very high note

Story by Marion Vogt
Pictures by Michael Vogt

Much to the delight of the organizers and members of the Chiang Mai Choral Society, the concert last Saturday at Gong Dee Studio was a huge success. In fact, there were so many people interested in seeing, and hearing, the latest program, that Gong Dee was literally running out of chairs, and quite a number of guests had to enjoy the show whilst standing. And they did enjoy. Anyone who might have thought that songs performed by a chorus would be mostly heavy-hearted and solemn, was proven wrong. Under the professional guidance and conductorship of Rainy Riding, the 17 person international chorus laid out a wide spectrum, touching jazz and musicals, children songs, rock n’ roll, and individual solo performances, plus a masterly rendition of George Gershwin pieces, performed by pianist David Wilson.

The Chiang Mai Coral Society in action.

The soul of the Chorus is Khun Waranan, who presented a lovely speech straight from the heart. Her message was a comparison between a chorus and the world community; different nationalities joining in perfect harmony by listening to each other, and political and personal differences could easily be forgotten if the world community would listen to their hearts more.

Everybody was moving along when it was time to Rock ‘n Roll.

The evening started with a soft song, ‘Quietness about the world’ and an explanation about jazz. Jazz was actually born in New Orleans, spiced up from the international community there with rhythms from the Caribbean, Ireland, Africa, Spain, Germany and many more places. It moved from New Orleans across America to Memphis, St. Louis and Chicago, and sounds of praise flew to jazz, and jazz flew into praise. That’s how Frank Weicks introduced the next 2 songs the audience was going to listen to, namely two children’s songs. ‘Too hot down there’ and ‘Jonas’ were almost unrecognizable as children’s songs, as they were interpreted so full of life and movement as a fusion of gospel and jazz.

Suddenly an argument broke loose, which was peacefully resolved through a duet, sung by the dynamic Sherry, and Richard Dixon, "Anything you can do I can do better", Irving Berlin’s song from the famous musical "Annie get your gun". Both were acting on stage, with perfect mimic and gestures, and if the audience was not relaxed yet, all started to grin and clap and cheer after they finished.

Rainy Riding than took over the microphone and told her story of 13 years trying to play piano, which amounted to 650 lessons as a child, knowing she would fail to reach the perfection of the choir’s pianist David Wilson. She started talking, moved to the song, ‘I love Piano’, and then left David to perform a breathtaking interpretation of the sounds of Gershwin.

When afterwards Richard Dixon got up and sang a solo from the musical Lion King, ‘Can you feel the love tonight’, the room was as quiet as one could imagine. The only sound heard before the ‘bravo’ shouts came from the ‘tookai’, who thoroughly enjoyed himself somewhere up in the ceiling.

To relax the audience again, the one and only Chiang Mai Dance Duo emerged from the back. Khun Gao and Khun O, two lovely, young and sexy dancers gave an incredible performance of South American ballroom dance to Latin beats.

Yet again, the "who is who" of Chiang Mai was found enjoying a cultural highlight at Gong Dee Gallery.

Having an "argument" on stage - Sherry and Richard. The winner? Both.

Rainy Riding looking for victims, finding one in Bud Velat. If you look at the faces, you can see how much they enjoyed the evening.

But there was really no time for the audience to get overly comfortable in their chairs since the program brought another challenge. Rainy ‘changed her hat’, from conductor to singer, walking through the audience, looking for a ‘victim’ with the song ‘You made me love again’, and then returned to being a conductor with a song from the world’s longest running Broadway musical, which closed after 17,642 performances and 42 years non-stop running. Everybody could hum ‘Try to remember the times of September’ from ‘The Fantastics’, and it was much too soon that this concert came to an end with another performance of the Dance Duo, while the choir was on their feet in order to ‘Rock around the clock’, their final number of the evening. Those fortunate enough to have had a chair did not need it anymore, as the whole audience, including a number of local and foreign dignitaries, gave a standing ovation to the Chiang Mai Coral Society. What a great success!

Chiang Mai Buddhist Monks Association oppose Ministry of Education decree

Demanding Minister of Education attend Buddhist conference

Nuttanee Thaveephol

Chiang Mai Buddhist Association opposes the new education reforms that reduce Buddhist study periods in Thai schools. Due to the government reducing schools’ Buddhist study period from twice a week to once a week, priest Amorn Dharmatatt, secretary of Chiang Mai Dharma Dissemination Center said that the Chiang Mai Buddhist Association has sent a letter to Minister of Education, Dr. Sirikorn Maneerin, to register their disagreement, but as yet have received no response.

Chiang Mai people make merit and offer alms to monks.

The priest, Amorn Dharmatatt said that since more than 90 percent of Thai people are Buddhists, so the education institutes should promote the religion to the students. "There are more than 30,000 temples in our country and His Majesty the King is also Buddhist. But why is the new education system not promoting Buddhist learning," he said.

The Chiang Mai Buddhist Association will invite the Minister of Education, monks from 1,500 temples all over the northern Thailand, Buddhists, and school headmasters to attend the Buddhist Conference on May 16.

More money to be spent on Wieng Kum Kam

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Wichien Noonrod, head of Chiang Mai Public Relations Office, revealed that the government has released 40 million baht to spend on the preservation of Wieng Kum Kam, the Underground Empire. This project is being assigned to the Culture Ministry to launch during this year.

The recently discovered ancient remains of Wieng Kum Kam.

Wat Pu Pia is part of Wieng Kum Kam, the ancient underground empire.

Wieng Kum Kam is one of our cultural tourist attractions. Since it was rediscovered in 1984, the Archeology Office and National Museum Chiang Mai has spent the first budget amount to excavate and repair, boosting the historical tourist destination in the region.

This second budget will help make Chiang Mai people realize that Wieng Kum Kam is a national treasure. Officials began promoting Wieng Kum Kam at the end of last year, and the project was deemed a success as Chiang Mai people and tourists have been visiting to see the underground city.

Popular singer

"Got" Chakkaphan Arbkornburi, regarded as the king of country "Look Tung" songs, will perform elegant concerts in Chiang Mai over three night: May 30-31 and June 1.

"Got" Chakkaphan Arbkornburi will perform in Chiang Mai May 30-31 and June 1.

"Got", who is very popular among Thais, especially the ladies with his good looking sweet face, will perform cool songs from his latest album "Charoen- Charoen" (Prosperous).

The concert will be held at Kad Theater, 5th floor of Kad Suan Kaew Department Stores. The ticket prizes range from 300, 500, 600 and 800 baht.

Country song lovers, "Got" fans and foreigners who are interested and desire to experience Thai country "Look Tung" songs should not miss this concert.

Phayao’s Lychee Fair May 16-18

Autsadaporn Kamthai

The annual Phayao Lychee Fair promises a mixed bag of entertainment and information this year. Tanya Nikrothanont, Tourism Authority of Thailand, Northern Region 2 office director, declared that Phayao will be holding its Lychee and Phayao Product Fair on May 16-18 at the Muen Pee pavilion (sala) near Phayao Lake in Muang District, Phayao, running from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

On May 15, there will be a bicycle rally around the city. This will go for 12 kilometers around the city and start at 7 a.m. The rally tour will focus on sight seeing such temples in the city as Wat Sri Khom Kam, Wat Pra Thart Chorm Thong, Wat Pa Daeng Boon Nak.

The opening ceremony will take place on May 16 at 5 p.m., with a procession, Miss Lychee contest, lychee wines, lychee products as well as mango and other fruits.

There will also be interesting activities, and a lychee garden tour with home stays, available for tourists. This activity will be provided in the Mae Jai District Lychee Gardens and Phong District Garden. The lychee garden tour will end on May 31. For more information call Mae Jai District Lychee Gardens 054 477 970, Phong District Garden 054 499 155 or Phayao Provincial Agriculture Office 054 431 405.

Songkran in Nong Khai

by Kathryn Brimacombe

The morning sun breathes light into the room, awakening me. With my sleepy eyes still shut, I listen to the chirping and chattering of birds in the mango tree outside my window, and to the whirring fan beside my bed that is trying in vain to dispel the oppressive heat that is already permeating the wooden walls. For the past few days, the temperature has slid up to 40 degrees Celsius in the shade, and with little breeze coming off the Mekong River, even the locals say it’s too hot.

"The revellers begin bringing out buckets of sweetly-scented jasmine flowers and emptying them into the barrels of water. Children plunge their arms in, swirling the petals."

As I finally sit up, pulling the sticky sheet off my already-sweating skin, I hear a cheer from my neighbours outside, and music suddenly blasts through the air. It’s not even 7 a.m. yet, but Songkran in Nong Khai has already begun!

Songkran is a Sanskrit word that means "to move into," and refers to the changing position in the zodiac. It marks the end of the 12-month calendar and the beginning of a new solar year.

Held this year in Nong Khai from April 12-15, Songkran is a time for people working in the city to return home to their families in the country. The community joins to make merit (by giving offerings to monks and listening to Buddhist teachings), reacquainting with old friends, and enjoying sumptuous feasts. It is also a time to clean houses and temples.

But the most jovial time of this national holiday is the water-throwing celebrations. Not only is it a way to beat the heat and cool emotions, it also symbolizes cleansing and purification.

By the time my partner and I venture outside, the sun has already climbed up the morning sky and its intense rays feel like they’re burning through my skin. As we close the front door behind us and step out into the soi, our early-morning partying neighbours approach us with smiles and pail of water.

"Sawatdee pee mai," Happy New Year, they say, and pour the cool water over our shoulders and heads. The water feels delicious as it splashes down my body, soaking my clothes.

Hearing cheers, music, and laughter coming from the next street over, we follow the sound to Prajak Road, which has turned into a giant street party. Throngs of people of all ages line the sidewalks drinking and dancing, all the while dipping buckets into barrels and throwing water on each other, passing pedestrians, and ducking motorists. Children fill their long water guns and fire at anything that moves; pickup trucks drive slowly along the wet road while revellers in the back engage in a water onslaught with the partiers on the ground.

Others find shelter and reprieve from the water fight at the entrances to their shops, where a cloth laid on the floor is laden with bottles of beer and plates of food.

"Sawatdee Songkran!" they call out to us and invite us to share a glass of beer with them, and we accept thankfully.

Soon, though, we see a procession of brightly-decorated vehicles approaching us in the distance. The revellers begin bringing out buckets of sweetly-scented jasmine flowers and emptying them into the barrels of water. Children plunge their arms in, swirling the petals.

This is the procession of Buddha images. In the morning of the first day of Songkran, the statues are removed from the temples with ceremonial care and bathed with lustral water as a sign of respect. They are led around the temple grounds as revellers throw water on them; then they are taken in a procession through the town’s streets.

The pickup trucks and floats carrying the Buddha statues are beautifully decorated with garlands of creamy-white, red, and yellow flowers. The golden images sparkle and shine under the rain of water thrown on them and the sun’s bright light as they are driven slowly along the street. On several floats, monks dressed in their saffron robes accompany the images, and they sit solemnly while they are drenched by the joyous and respectful merrymakers.

Once the procession passes by and continues to the other end of town, we head home to dry off before joining our friends on the beach of the Mekong River, several kilometres south of Nong Khai, to watch the sunset.

As we walk along the fine white-sand beach, I marvel at the contrast between the calm tranquility of the river and the wild chaotic party we left behind in town. As the bright red orb sinks into the dusky sky, a peace settles over us and we are silent.

I remember this beach will be gone in a few months when the monsoon rains come and where I am standing will be metres under water. We wade into the Mekong, watching dragonflies dip and dart over the mother river and headlights prick the dusty evening along a road across from us in Laos. The brown water is cool against my calves and my feet sink into the soft, slimy mud. My mind drifts with the river until the sound of the cicadas breaks my reverie.

Shivering slightly in the cooling air, I watch the last sliver of sun disappear. I smile, remembering the events of today, and am happy we can celebrate all over again tomorrow.