HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Over 1,000 people in Chiang Mai turn out to pay respects to the King Rama V

Tom and Kitty’s house(boat) warming party

Rafting through the rapids of the Mae Taeng

Shaolin - Wheel of Life Martial Arts Show

Thai Folk Puppets

Thai International takes inaugural flight from Japan

Over 1,000 people in Chiang Mai turn out to pay respects to the King Rama V

Pichitpon Tongtuek

October 23 marks the passing, 94 years ago, of King Chulalongkorn (King Rama V the Great), known locally as “Phra Piya Maharaja”. The day has become a national holiday, a day Thai people remember this great monarch.

King Chulalongkorn was instrumental in modernizing the Kingdom of Thailand. His many accomplishments included establishing the Council of State, setting up 12 different ministries, reorganizing the government administrative system, and abolishing slavery.

Other achievements included contact with foreign governments and modernizing the country by introducing revolutionary changes such as police security, a postal system, hospitals, and railroads.

The great King was also instrumental in maintaining the nation’s sovereignty during a critical period when powerful nations were expanding their influence and colonizing neighboring countries.

City officials, people from the business community, members from local charitable organizations, the private sector and many local residents, in all over 1,000 people, led by Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat, came together in the field in front of Chiang Mai City Hall to celebrate this Remembrance Day for King Rama V, all paying homage to one of the greatest and most highly revered Kings of Thailand. Each organization and institute presented wreaths to the King Rama V statue. The ceremony is performed all over Thailand, as October 23 marks the day that the great King passed away in the year 1910.

The King Rama V monument stands tall in front of Chiang Mai City Hall.

Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat spoke about the history of King Rama V, as city officials, people from the business community, members from local charitable organizations, the private sector and many local residents, in all over 1,000 people gathered in the field in front of Chiang Mai City Hall to pay homage to one of the greatest and most highly revered Kings of Thailand.

Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat lit a candle in front of the King Rama V monument, setting off a procession for many organizations and institutes to present wreaths to the King Rama V statue.

Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat spoke about the history of King Rama V.

Students and teachers from Rajabhat Institute Chiang Mai after the ceremony.

Jumpol Chutima (2nd right), president of Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce, was present along with other dignitaries.

Tom and Kitty’s house(boat) warming party

Newlyweds Tom and Kitty (ex-Full Monty Pub owners) unveiled TK’s boathouse, their new venture. The boathouse is situated on the Mae Ngad reservoir in Sri Lanna national park (near Mae Taeng), about 30 minutes north of Chiang Mai and caters for private parties and provides accommodation for short or long stay guests.

The bus/boat trip from Chiang Mai to the reservoir is relatively short, and all guests were met by Kitty, who supplied a refreshing lime cocktail. But after the bar was opened, buffet was served and ‘serious chilling-out’ proceeded.

Most guests were content to just relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings, but a few decided it was too tempting to miss the opportunity to frolic in the lake, to the amusement of everyone except the local fish who resisted all attempts to lure them onto the fishing hooks!

It has taken about six weeks to completely renovate the boathouse to provide ‘western-style’ facilities whilst maintaining the Thai-style building infrastructure. The stunning boathouse survived the first run of people and it looks already as if this is exactly the place to relax and just hang out when the city and the stress of daily work has worn you out.

For further information, contact Tom or Kitty (bookings) telephone 0618 53191 or Rudi for transport on 0621 32713.

A day from a holiday catalogue - sun, surf and sea (almost). Everything is possible with the right people and a good mood.

Tom and Kitty’s aim for the completely renovated boathouse was to provide ‘farang-style’ facilities whilst maintaining the Thai-style building infrastructure.

Exactly how you wanted to spend a day off? No excuse anymore, it exists, just 30 minutes outside Chiang Mai.

The day was all about relaxing and having a good time.

Romantic, neat, holiday-style - just the place to relax.

Rafting through the rapids of the Mae Taeng

Daisy Vogt

It is a well known fact that young adults often seek a ‘thrill’ to give them the necessary adrenaline rush for the day. The other day I had the need for this rush and decided to take a ‘one day trip’ white water rafting.

All ready and excited to get on the boats and tackle the rapids.

Thai Adventure Rafting offered me the opportunity to spend my day outdoors with nature and the promise of a little adrenaline thrill as well.

I was picked up in the morning at eleven, with a one hour drive into the mountains surrounding Chiang Mai behind Mae Rim. After turning off the main road we took a smaller road into a beautiful valley which was green, green and green as far as the eye could see.

The landscape, the challenging bridges and nature made the day worthwhile.

Arriving at the Maetang River Base Camp in Muang Khut, Alex Brodard, director of Thailand Adventure Tours and organizer of our trip welcomed us. He gave us a quick tour of the facilities of the camp and their ability to organize trekking, cycling, kayaking and elephant tours in conjunction with a rafting trip.

Everybody together for a group picture (from left) Jaew, Galare GH; Jonggon Duangsri, Chiangmai Green Alternative Tours; Sampan, trekking guide; 5 helpers from Alex’s team; Wilai, Galare GH; Smith Panichcharoen, Chiangmai Green Alternative Tours; Alex Brodard, director of Thailand Adventure Tours; Noi, Panya and Chai the captains of the rafts.

After a delicious lunch of Thai food and fresh fruits, we were given a briefing on the techniques for sitting on the side of the raft, paddling and safety measures needed to be taken to make our river descent a safe one. Life jackets (flotation vests) and helmets were distributed to everyone and we were introduced to our boat captains before loading up the truck with our equipment for the short ride up river to our embarkation point.

We made it! All are accounted for after the ride.

Our rafting trip consisted of two stages, number one being a kind of ‘warm up’ to get us accustomed to paddling in coordination with some small rapids to test our balance and make sure we knew how to act if we were unsure of ourselves.

Back on land - shaky knees but something to talk about and more than enough reason to come back for a longer trip.

This first stage took us about 20 minutes on the ‘still’ gently flowing, and a bit muddy river and included some ‘Songkran’ activity between the two rafts since we all wanted to get a little wet. But it was perfect to give us the confidence to handle anything that was about to happen.

Between the first and second stage there is a long section of rapids which is too dangerous for beginners to go down. Our boat captain took us off the boat before these rapids started, so we reloaded everything on the truck and drove down to the end of the hazardous part before we boarded the rafts and embarked on the second stage.

All packed up and ready to go.

The second stage was more exciting and I was sitting inside the boat more than on the side while going down the rapids. Thankfully we had some strong men in the boat so the men and captain of our boat got us safely back to base camp and nobody fell in, except those who decided to go swimming at the end. Our full descent took us a little more than an hour and was full of laughter and everybody finished in high spirits.

More scary than expected and one had to hide on the bottom of the boat.

After a quick shower, some coffee and drinks we were taken back to Chiang Mai. It was considerably quieter than in the morning because people were snoozing, tired from the adventurous day. For me, as a ‘first-timer’ with more than enough energy and adventure skills, who loves nature, fun and exercise - it was a more than perfect day.

Still laughing at the face of danger.

Next time I’ll try the two day rafting trip in Pai. Let’s see if I get my parents to sponsor it as a Christmas present for my friends and me? It was a great day for a beginner and it gave me a good taste of what rafting is like and how much fun it actually is - I can’t wait to go again!

More information is available from Thai Adventure Rafting, Chiang Mai Office 053 818 844 or www.Active Thailand.com

Ahh! We’re stranded on the rapids! Help!

Sunshine, holidays, water, nice adventurous people - what else can you wish for? I know, a two day trip!

Oops! We were laughing so hard that we had no time to be afraid!

Shaolin - Wheel of Life Martial Arts Show

Some monks have amazing habits

Michael and Marion Vogt

Shaolin has become synonymous with the finest and most extraordinary feats of discipline, strength and courage. The Shaolin philosophy is a combination of Taoism and Buddhism, and the ‘Wheel of Life’ tells the exciting story of the Shaolin monks’ early struggle to establish and protect their temple deep in the mountain jungles 1500 years ago and a celebration of their history, their religion and their tremendous physical skills.

Chiang Mai Vice Governor Thongchai Wonglienthong, in a short opening speech, expressed his delight that Chiang Mai was host to this world class production. And then the show began, a two hour visual event that was colorful, exciting and dramatic. Monks, demonstrating martial arts, developed from both the need for self-protection and the desire to practice, united with their religious and philosophical beliefs. All this with dramatic lighting, imaginative music, and a stage set representative of a Chinese Shaolin temple.

The group of around 25-30 members, monks and children, showed us Shaolin fighting skills, astonishing somersaults, sparring - bare handed or with traditional weapons such as spears, sticks and swords. The Wheel of Life was on one side a martial arts exhibition and on the other side a historical live Kung-Fu performance.

The skills and the strengths involved were amazing, and showed the intense physical and mental discipline instilled in these men from a very young age. We saw one monk do a handstand balanced solely on his index fingers. Another monk allowed his brothers to break bamboo poles across his head and lower back, and then they took turns breaking iron bars over their heads. It was so different seeing this in a live stage performance; far more impressive than anything any of us had watched on TV before.

It was a show which amazed everybody present, a show which would fit in to Madison Square Garden, as well as in a high class hotel in Las Vegas. A combination of theater; gifted, highly trained performers and the religious faith, paired with the Shaolin way of life.

Breaking an iron bar on his head!

Chiang Mai Vice Governor Thongchai Wonglienthong presented flowers to the senior monks, thanking them for their charity work in Chiang Mai.

Wheel of Life was on one side a martial arts exhibition and on the other side a historical live Kung-Fu performance.

Colorful, exciting and dramatic! Fighting skills paired with physical strength and faith!

Take five razor-sharp swords, one Shaolin monk, a double sided nail board, another monk with a stone on his stomach and then try to break the small stone with a hammer...

In the air, on the ground, with swords, sticks and wooden bars...

Standing motionless like this - why don’t you try?

It looks relaxing, but if you try it, make sure there is somebody on hand to disentangle you.

The stage set left no doubt where this was supposed to happen - at a Chinese Shaolin temple.

Breaking stones with bare hands...

One of the pair of 7 year old twins, balancing with one leg in the air while standing guard on the stage.

Thai Folk Puppets

A matter of hearts and hands

Jacquelyn Suter

Magical is the word for the Thai Folk Puppet exhibition and show currently running at the Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Center. Last Saturday an enthusiastic group of traditional performance aficionados gathered in the elegant courtyard of the Cultural Center to witness an impressive performance of music, dance, and puppetry.

Three of the beautiful puppets that looked like small gems of exquisite costuming with traditional Lanna faces.

The costumes and scenery were stunningly beautiful in this multi-performance piece - the puppets, small gems of exquisite costuming with traditional Lanna faces seen in murals on walls of Lanna’s best preserved wats.

Before the actual show started, the story of Kinnaree was ‘danced’ by a very talented dancer in a stunning costume.

At the beginning of the performance, a sacred space was invoked by an offering of candles and dance, reminding us that dance and music were formerly religious acts and, at least for this magical evening, would be as well. As the performance unfolded, the audience grew silent in awe at the beauty and professionalism of the show. I hoped other members of the audience felt as I did - our senses are fully awakened in the immediacy of a live performance in a way that film and TV cannot fully simulate.

The dedicated puppeteers who brought Vilawan’s art alive “only by the hearts and hands”.

The Hobby Hut Puppet Troupe’s director, Vilawan Svetsreni, is to be applauded for bringing to Chiang Mai a sample of strong tradition of puppetry in Southeast Asia.

Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia are exemplary, but Thailand too has a little-known tradition of puppets called Hun Krabok and small shadow puppets called Nang Talung.

Vilawan is currently a lecturer in Fine Arts at CMU. Deeply loving puppets since she began studying at Thammasat University, she founded Hobby Hut in 1998. Vilawan is fond of saying that “only by the hearts and hands” of dedicated puppeteers can these engaging art works come alive.

There are two more opportunities to see this free show: Saturdays at 6 p.m. on November 1 and 8 at the Chiang Mai Arts and Cultural Center.

Different performances on each date and the story narration in both Thai and English. (See the Community Happenings section for more info.)

Don’t miss these memorable shows!

Thai International takes inaugural flight from Japan

Thai launches direct Tokyo-Chiang Mai service

Marion Vogt

On October 26, Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn presided over a welcoming ceremony to celebrate Thai Airways International (THAI) inaugural flight between Narita and Chiang Mai. To mark this special occasion, THAI invited the Thai ambassador to Tokyo, Kasit Piromya, THAI’s travel agents, as well as the Japanese media to join the first flight and visit Chiang Mai.

THAI aims to promote Chiang Mai as a new destination to accommodate trade, export, tourism, agriculture, education and medical and health care services.

Mayor Boonlert said that Chiang Mai is well suited as the aviation hub of northern Thailand for its effective transportation network linking land and air, as well as having an international airport, connecting the provinces in the north, northeast and major cities in neighboring countries. THAI will operate this new service three times per week between Tokyo and Chiang Mai following the government’s stated policy of turning Chiang Mai into the future northern aviation hub of Thailand.

Flights are every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, utilizing Boeing 777-200 aircraft, with 303 seats in the economy section and 55 seats in Business Class.

Future plans for THAI in this region include expanding its services between Chiang Mai and other countries, such as Singapore, China, Myanmar, Bangladesh, India and Taiwan. This winter THAI will begin flights between Chiang Mai-Luang Prabang, Taipei -Hong Kong-Chiang Mai-Bangkok and Chiang Mai-Yangon.

Welcome ceremony of the first official flight from Narita to Chiang Mai. (Front row from left) Add Boonya-Ananta, THAI general manager of Japan; Prakaidao Hovatanakul, THAI district sales manager of upper-northern Thailand; Mrs. Piromya and her husband Kasit Piromya, the Thai ambassador to Tokyo, next to Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn.

Among the first passengers on the inaugural Tokyo-Chiang Mai-Bangkok flight on October 26 were the Thai ambassador to Tokyo, Kasit Piromya and his wife.

Beautiful northern girls showered the arriving guests with orchid blossoms before entering the arrival hall.