HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The night before Visakha Bucha

An afternoon at Tha Sadet Market

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

New Royal 24 K stamp issued

The night before Visakha Bucha

Autsadaporn Kamthai

Visakha Bucha Day is one of the most important Buddhist days, celebrating the birth, attaining enlightenment and death of the Lord Buddha. On this day, every part of Thailand celebrates by carrying out various activities, such as offering food to monks and performing the Wian Tian (ceremony of carrying lighted candles clockwise round a pagoda or temple).

After reaching Doi Suthep, people ring the bells on Wat Prathart Doi Suthep.

San Kamphaeng villagers also attended the ceremony.

Imitation elephant made with papier-mâché was one of the highlights of the celebration.

Royal Holy Water on the way to Doi Suthep to pour at the pagoda.

In Chiang Mai, there is also a very sacred and pious ceremony, known as the Climbing Up to Doi Suthep. The ceremony is performed on the night before Visakha Bucha to offer food to the monks on Wat Prathart Doi Sutep the next morning and to show strong faith in the Lord Buddha. Residents in Chiang Mai and nearby provinces have been performing this ceremony for 630 years.

This year thousands of people attended the ceremony, including foreigners as well as devout Thai Buddhists. Buddhists believe they will receive merit by performing the ceremony, but for some, especially the young, it was not only making merit that urged them to climb up but also the challenge that stimulated them. Although it is 12 kilometers to reach the Doi Suthep mountaintop, many old people also join in, unafraid of the distance because of their strong faith in Buddhism.

Hill tribes were a colorful sight as they too took part in the ceremony.

A crowd walks up the slope steps to worship at Wat Prathart Doi Suthep.

Two officials take care of the Royal Holy Water on the way up to Doi Suthep.

The procession of people begins to head up Doi Suthep.

Tung made for use in the climbing procession.

People started their long walk from Chiang Mai University, and this year I joined in with many strangers of all ages. On the way up, people rested by the roadside to refresh themselves with the cool air before continuing walking. Along the way, there were aid stations to help anyone who were faint or exhausted.

There was also the ceremony of carrying Royal Holy water to bathe the pagoda in Wat Prathart Doi Suthep. His Majesty the King gave the Royal Water for this purpose and this was the 4th time that the water had been given to Chiang Mai. Sermsak Pongpanich, Ministry of Interior permanent secretary, presided over the ceremonial pouring of Royal Holy water on the pagoda and the Wian Tian ceremony at the temple.

An afternoon at Tha Sadet Market

by Kathryn Brimacombe

Tha Sadet Market in Nong Khai is a wonderful place to explore if the endless lazy days slide effortlessly into each other without much differentiation and you find you need something to do. The market is next to Tha Sadet pier and customs office in the centre of town, and is where boats used to ferry people back and forth across the Mekong River to Laos before the Friendship Bridge opened in 1994. Today the pier is mostly used for transporting merchandise across the river.

Brightly coloured silks spill out of baskets.

Not looking for anything in particular, just happy to window shop, I pass slowly by stalls of toys, puzzles, kitchenware and herbal medicines.

Although the heart of the market is a few paces past the customs office, the entire area along Rimkong Road from Banteringjit Road eastward (including the many small streets branching off from it) has become a marketplace. You can find everything in Tha Sadet Market from Lao textiles and dried goods to Thai-made clothes and jewelry, and much more in between.

I begin my exploration outside the customs office, where tuk-tuks and pickup trucks continually drop off boxes and rainbow-striped bags full of goods to be taken across to Laos, and where men and women line the road, sitting under large umbrellas with brightly coloured silks spilling out of baskets. Next to them, vendors with large carts displaying mounds of mangos and long links of red sausage also take cover from the sun under the wide umbrellas.

I follow the road and walk into Tha Sadet Market proper, which is like entering a tunnel. Shops on both sides of the road extend their store displays as far out onto the pavement as they can, offering in some places a very narrow path to walk along, while overhead the sky is concealed with umbrellas and plastic tarps. Although the covering shields shoppers and merchants from the sun’s rays, the effect is that of a greenhouse - very hot and humid.

For a mid-week afternoon there are few people at the market, which is a relief as sometimes it’s so crowded you must walk shoulder to shoulder and shuffle along with baby steps. But today Thais and tourists amble leisurely, taking in the visual array of merchandise offered, occasionally stopping to ask the price of an item and begin bargaining.

Vendors with large carts displaying mounds of mangos and long links of red sausage also take cover from the sun under the wide umbrellas.

For a mid-week afternoon there are few people at the market; today Thais and tourists amble leisurely, taking in the visual array of merchandise offered, occasionally stopping to ask the price of an item and begin bargaining.

Not looking for anything in particular, just happy to window shop, I pass slowly by stalls of toys, puzzles, kitchenware, herbal medicines, and floor rugs, whilst scanning my eyes widely over the displays of items for sale. There is so much to see, the effect is dizzying!

I continue through the tunnel, passing by an electronics shop filled with cameras, VCD players, portable CD players, karaoke machines, microphones, and every possible electronic gadget imaginable. Next to it is a beauty shop selling makeup, creams and lotions, and a group of teenage girls chatter and giggle as they open the jars and bottles to smell their contents.

Several stalls down is a shop selling dried goods, its shelves overflowing with packages of biscuits, crackers and snacks, jars of coffee and boxes of tea, while huge clear plastic garbage bags filled with thousands of dried mushrooms stand out front.

Further along I pause by a woman selling dried and pickled fruit - luscious sultanas, cherries and cranberries as well as a delightful assortment of other fruits burst from pots and plastic containers. Seeing me stop, she takes out a spoon and gently scoops out a bright cherry, the colour of a maraschino, offering it to me. Unable to resist, I pop it into my mouth, savouring each sweet and sour bite as the juice tantalizes my tongue. The young woman raises her eyebrows as I nod my head and she laughs. She hands me a bag of the delicious red morsels, and I place the bills into her hand, reaching into the bag for another cherry.

Sucking the tart juice, I continue my exploration. Clothes shops selling everything from army fatigues and dresses to jeans and socks abound, but gradually give way to stores selling beautiful textiles. The textiles’ intricate hand-woven geometric patterns shimmer in rich russets, golds and greens. With my non-sticky hand I caress the fabric with my fingertips, the sensation of the soft silk delicious.

Soon, however, my stomach begins grumbling, and I leave the textiles to follow the tempting aroma of grilled fish. My nose takes me to a restaurant only a few shops away. I choose one of the smaller fish beside the grill that has already been cooked, its dark, dry scales covered with coarse white salt.

The woman stirs up the charcoal with a stick, revealing the red hot coals beneath layers of white ash, and lays the fish on the grill above the heat. Instantly the sweet scent of herbs and fish titillates my nostrils and my mouth begins to water. She motions me to sit down and I choose a table overlooking the Mekong River.

The fish soon arrives along with several dipping sauces, a plate of crisp lettuce, mint, basil leaves, chillies and lemongrass, and a small basket of sticky rice. As I wrap a packet of fish and herbs in the lettuce leaf and take a bite, I look across the river and think this is the perfect way to spend an afternoon at Tha Sadet Market.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Story: Marion Vogt Pictures: Michael Vogt

You are what you feel and you need to live your dreams - this is the main moral of this irresistible musical which tells a story of hardship, faith, endurance, betrayal and in the end forgiveness. This message should inspire everybody who watches it to follow his dreams.

There’s one more angel in heaven - There’s one more star in the sky - The Brothers bring back pieces of Joseph’s Dreamcoat to Jacob. Extremely well performed number!

Elvis-Pharaoh, the narrator and Joseph take center stage, while the female chorus praises in the background.

Calypso Sound - Asking for Benjamin’s life after he was accused of having stolen a golden cup which Joseph had planted in the sack: "Save him - Take me - Benjamin is straighter than the tall palm tree".

In the biblical story, Joseph is a handsome young man who is his father’s favorite child and is able to interpret dreams, a sign of power and greatness in ancient times. However, his spiteful 11 brothers weren’t fond of Joseph - or his dreams - and became insatiably jealous when their father gave him an extraordinary multi-colored ‘dreamcoat’. Thus they sell Joseph into slavery to some passing Ishmaelites and explain to their father that Joseph had been killed.

Act 1 unfolds with the curtain opening and the land of Canaan set in the Australian desert. The narrator, Miss Anzie Yangmi, walking down the stairs in a white long ball gown and when she started to sing directly to the audience, they held their breath for the first time that night because nobody expected such a full voice from such a young person who was visibly enjoying her huge contribution in the musical. She is the leader; she wanders around the stage, alive, sad, sparking, her voice full of drama, depending on the scene. An incredible but fantastically achieved task for a 15-year-old girl, who, if she decides to use this in her future, will have a great career in front of her.

The ‘hoedown’ dance, choreographed by Chris Koottatep, a student from CMIS, after the performance, was not connected to ‘Joseph’ but it helped the audience to relax and get ready to cheer everybody back on stage.

Do you remember the good years in Canaan? The reminiscing brothers decide to go off to Egypt for a better life.

‘Any dream will do’ - The reunited family during the final song.

The huge stage fills up with people in the first act and we get to know Jacob and his sons with the opening songs ‘Jacob and Sons’, ‘Joseph’s Coat’ and ‘Joseph’s Dreams’ where we, the audience, get the 2nd surprise of the night. The clear, almost bursting voice of Joseph, played by Daniel Couch, who is clearly, like the rest of the cast, free of stage-fright and convinced of the task still in front of them at this hour of the evening. Everyone, Joseph, the brothers, and the chorus reflect self confidence, with well prepared songs and very dedicated teachers behind them.

After ‘Poor poor Joseph’, when Joseph is already sold into slavery and led away by the Ishmaelites, there seemed to be only concern on Joseph’s part, since he can’t speak Egyptian very well. With this we wander back to Jacob and are perfectly led from ‘Drama’ to ‘Comedy’ with the song ‘One more Angel in heaven’. The audience relaxes again and smiles with solos from Ben Morse, Jeremy Nigh and Joo Eun Son who cannot only sing but also love acting and fooling around. It is a joy to watch and listen to every single one of them.

But now it’s drama-time again and after getting to know Potiphar and his seductive wife, the fall of ‘Butler Joseph’ is shown by the misinterpretation of the advances of the wicked woman.

We made it! Anzie Yangmi & Daniel Couch, the narrator & Joseph look very relaxed after 3 days of performing at Kad Theatre!

It could not have been achieved without those three in the center. Left: Choreographer Sallyanne Wichai who teaches PE and Dance for the last 9 years at CMIS, Middle: Director Jonnell Uptin, combined her love for music with teaching and did a marvelous job! Right: Musical Director Kevin Morse - 5 years after graduating from CMIS he is back in Chiang Mai-this time as a teacher! What a success!

One of the highlights of the night enfolds with the song ‘Close Every Door’, a solo by Joseph who, despite being thrown into prison, still does not lose hope and sings his heart out, standing all alone on the stage, just illuminated by a single spotlight. The heart of the audience reaches out to him, when a 5 second power cut cannot even make him blink. By now it is clear to everybody that the 5 months spent on the production of this musical taught the students professionalism and will help them throughout their lives. It was a truly amazing performance of Daniel Couch alias Joseph.

With ‘Go, Go, Go Joseph’, where more than 40 dancers fill the stage, the first act closes to a 15 minute intermission for a well deserved break for all the performers.

Act 2 opens with a small change to the original musical of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. The stage is set to Thailand for this production, and the narrator, alias Anzie, tells us ‘Pharaoh’s Story’ and introduces the Elvis-like Pharaoh, and his disturbing dreams which cause him sleepless nights. Pharaoh’s butler tells of a man he met in prison who had interpreted his dreams before and therewith Joseph is called at once to help Pharaoh. Joseph does this and is promoted to be Pharaoh’s number two with the song ‘Stone the Crows’ where the (female) chorus praises Joseph for all the great work and how all of Thailand (including themselves) loves him.

In ‘Those Canaan Days’ the play changes back to the brothers who started reminiscing over the good old days, when Joseph was still around. A scene which reflects the amount of acting and singing talent which lays inside each and every single one of this group. It was real fun to watch.

The play changes again to ‘years later’, when Joseph’s now starving brothers arrive in Egypt and ask Joseph, whom they don’t recognize, for assistance. Joseph in turn gives his brothers a scare, but eventually grants them all they desire, reveals his identity, and reunites with the family. The songs, ‘Grovel, Grovel’ and ‘Who’ s the Thief?’ are again dominated by the narrator and Joseph, but nicely arranged with the background chorus and played on stage with almost the whole cast present. They changed back to ‘light music’, Calypso sound, with ‘Benjamin Calypso’, which looked like so much fun that the audience could be heard humming and giggling in between. And this easy going mood was used to lead to the last three songs, ‘Joseph all the time’, ‘Jacob in Egypt’ and ‘Any dream will do’ where most of the time the whole company, both choruses, the brothers, Elvis-Pharaoh, and of course the narrator were present and singing.

To get to the end, I guess I can speak for each and everyone who was there, that CMIS is lucky to have such dedicated teachers with a vision, and that they are able to transfer this vision to their high school students, to have the courage and the incredible spirit to come up with this production. Hopefully, Chiang Mai will see and hear a lot more of them in the future!

New Royal 24 K stamp issued

Nuttanee Thaveephol

The Communications Authority of Thailand (CAT) has produced the first set of "150th Year Anniversary of the Royal King" 24 K gold stamps to commemorate King Rama V’s 150th year anniversary.

Sample of the 24 K gold stamp collection, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of King Rama V the Great.

The director of the CAT office, Boon Chanprapa, said that the stamps are printed with King Rama V’s image within the 4 color frame. His Majesty’s image is embossed and the frame with roses design is printed using 24 K gold leaf. This set is expected to find public favor because of its elegance and style.

This stamp design is similar to the Golden Crown set created on the occasion of King Bhumibol’s coronation 50th anniversary.

The collection is divided into 2 sets, 4 stamps a sheet and 10 stamps a sheet. The former is 400 baht and latter 1,000 baht each.

The special stamps will be available at postal booths up till May 28 this year.