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Yee Peng Festival in Sansai

Yi Peng celebrated with light and sound

Kad Suan Kaew celebrates 12th anniversary with classical play

Night Bazaar - the nightlife of Chiang Mai

Yee Peng Festival in Sansai

Festive air for a night of worship

Text by Marion Vogt
Photos by Michael Vogt

Yee Peng 2003 brought the first really cool evenings, while the Ping River was filled to overflowing with little krathong boats. For newcomers it is a festival which cannot be missed and which has to be experienced, getting your own krathong, letting it float, watching the fireworks and watching out not to get run over by motorbikes or cars. For families with children, no matter what nationality, it will always be a festival to sit by the river, watch Nang Noppamas contests, maybe even letting your little girls take part in the contest.

20,000 visitors were welcomed by hundreds of dancers performing a traditional candle dance, which set the mood for the evening.

But what if you have had it all - you have experienced Yee Peng many times? What is there for you? If you are lucky and live in Chiang Mai, there is something else, unknown to many, but an experience which you will never forget.

We had such a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience this year when we went with a group of international friends to the Buddhist meditation center, Tu Dong Ka Sathaan Lanna, near Mae Jo Agriculture University in Sansai, just 10 minutes from the center of Chiang Mai.

Huge krathongs flanked the stage.

Every year during the night of the full moon in November, the land in front of the meditation center is transformed into a meeting space for 20,000 festively dressed people, made up of dignitaries from the region, students from Mae Jo University, visitors, residents and the young and the old - everyone who knew of this secret place. When the portals opened, a procession of beautiful northern girls led everyone in with a candle dance.

Pra Poobej Chana Pinyo gave the lecture and introduction to meditation.

The open stage was so spectacular that everyone in our small group was speechless. Imagine a semi-circular stage set with 100 monks in orange robes leading up to a huge illuminated statue of the Lord Buddha, as the full moon slowly rises behind the setting.

One of the VIPs lit the first candle and then the head monk, the venerable Pra Poobej Chana Pinyo started to speak. His melodic, gentle voice made all foreigners feel as if they could understand him. He even said some words in English for the handful of expats, suggesting gently to repeat silently to ourselves that we want peace and love.

A mesmerizing scene, looking at thousands and thousands of illuminated candles from the stage.

At 8 p.m., hundreds of students dressed in white, the monks in orange, the northern Thai girls, and the dignitaries carrying lighted candles moved in a silent procession, while hundreds of volunteers were busy handing out kom loys (hot air balloons) to everyone. The venerable monk’s voice was heard praying for all sins and bad luck to be sent with the lantern up into the sky.

Then at a sign, everyone with kom loys lit the special candlewick to fill the balloon with hot air. When the next signal was given, the kom loys were simultaneously released and the sky became a sea of illuminated balloons drifting off into infinity, taking with them all our sins and bad thoughts.

At least 3000 hot air balloons, some trailing sparkling flames, sweeping off into darkness, were a magical sight in our materialistic earthly world. It was a memorable experience which will not easy be forgotten. If you have not experienced Yee Peng in Sansai you should look for it next year, just move away from the tourist tracks.

Yi Peng celebrated with light and sound

Staff reporters

Chiang Mai’s Yi Peng (Loy Krathong) Festival drew tens of thousands of Thai and foreign visitors. One major attraction was the Light and Sound presentation about the pandas in the front of the Chiang Mai municipal building. This was similar to the much vaunted show that was seen during the APEC meeting in Bangkok and covered the Lanna cultural heritage of the Loy Krathong Festival.

To present new experiences for the festive crowds, Lanna Folk Music was played during some colorful performances by local students and hill tribes held around the Chiang Mai governor’s residence near Navarat Bridge.

As always the Miss Nang Noppamas beauty contest was held at Thapae Gate, but this year there was also a special candlelight market to introduce visitors to some authentic Lanna food and display the ways folk people live. In addition, there were Buddhist rites at Wat Lok Mo Lee to provide some opportunities for local residents and visitors to show their respect to the Buddha relics brought from Sri Lanka.

A young, beautiful Nang Noppamas surveys all in front of her on this magical night.

Young candlelight marchers were a sight to behold at the parade.

Elaborately dressed in traditional costumes, these dancers performed to perfection.

A beautiful Miss Nang Noppamas and her escort were part of the grand parade.

A mesmerizing scene, looking at thousands and thousands of illuminated candles from the stage.

Kad Suan Kaew celebrates 12th anniversary with classical play

Natchawi Srirat

Kad Suan Kaew Shopping Complex annual propitiation rite was held on November 8 to celebrate its 12th anniversary and ask for business prosperity. This year, Kad Suan Kaew promoted the classical play Rajathiraj Part Saming Phra Rama Asa presented by the Fine Arts Department, Bangkok. It is a musical comedy with the music played by a Thai orchestra.

Rajathiraj Part Saming Phra Rama Asa is about the importance of tactical fighting in war using brain in the battlefield. The principal players were national actors Ajarn Seree Wangnaitham, Ajarn Supachai Jantasuwan, Ajarn Pakorn Pornpisuth, Ajarn Wanthanee Muagbon, Ajarn Jullachart Arannak, Ajarn Duanreudee Thapornrasee and the comedy team from the Fine Arts Department, Bangkok.

The King of Angwa City is ready to fight in the battlefield with his elephant.

Saming Phra Rama (acted by Supachai Jantasuwan) uses excellent fighting artistry to battle his enemy.

Ajarn Seree Wangnaitham acting as a warder inmate.

Night Bazaar - the nightlife of Chiang Mai

Natchawi Srirat and Phornphimon Thimsat

Have you ever wondered how the Night Bazaar was set up? The story began more than 20 years ago on Changklan Road. In those days many tourists came to Chiang Mai, and as a result, many hilltribe peoples came to Changklan Road to sell their souvenirs to the tourists.

As the area’s popularity grew, the local people came as well to sell their goods. Eventually the numbers grew until there were hundreds of vendors every night. This was how Changklan Road became the Night Bazaar.

The Chiang Mai Pavilion has many handicraft boutiques.

Initially there were no stalls, the vendors just put a piece of cloth or mat on the ground and spread out their wares on the sidewalk. There was no electric lighting so they used candles for illumination. However, all that has changed and the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar today has become the largest nightlife center in Chiang Mai.

The Night Bazaar began more than 20 years ago on Changklan Road when many hilltribe peoples came to Changklan Road to sell their souvenirs to the tourists.

There are approximately 850 vendors’ stands in the Night Bazaar, making it probably the largest center for selling Northern Thailand handicrafts. A good place to shop if you are pressed for time - the selection is astounding!

Handicraft shopping, especially for hilltribe products, is excellent in the Nakhorn Ping Night Bazaar Building (don’t forget to visit the artists in the basement level) and the Kalare Food and Shopping Center, which offers an open-air dining terrace with many types of food, shows free classical dancing performances and Thai boxing from 7 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. There are even more handicrafts and hilltribe goods in authentic traditional styles in the Anusarn Market Bazaar.

For many years, working artists have been a big attraction at the Night Bazaar.

The air-conditioned Chiang Inn Plaza (11 a.m. - 11 p.m.) and Chiang Mai Pavilion buildings have many handicraft boutiques. The Chiang Inn Plaza has several good restaurants on the basement floor, as well as Western fast-food outlets. The Sor Karn Kha (12 noon - 11 p.m.) opposite is a fixed-price Thai Department store for clothing and there is a small supermarket at the back.

Remember that in Thailand, anyone who loves shopping must enjoy a good haggle, as bargaining is the norm.

Hundreds of vendors sell their wares every night at the Night Bazaar on Changklan Road.

There are government plans to improve the Night Bazaar to make it the greatest nightlife center in Thailand. “In the future, we plan to improve all the stands in the Night Bazaar to have the same look and quality. The cleanness and organization of the Night Bazaar are the priority goals. We want Chiang Mai Night Bazaar to be one of the most famous tourist attractions in Chiang Mai,” said one municipality official.

Specialized Thai handicrafts are made on the spot.

So what do the tourists think about the Night Bazaar? We took some random opinions and received answers such as these, “I think I like the atmosphere of the Night Bazaar, it is quite relaxing. There are thousands of products in the Night Bazaar to buy. I like to have more options. People here are nice and friendly but sometime I think they sell the products at a high price. I have heard that bargaining is a must for tourists to do in the Night Bazaar. Actually, bargaining is fun for me because in my country you cannot bargain so this is a new experience. About the vendor stands, they are too crowded and too close to each other so there is no way to walk through. Maybe someone should do something with the walkway area leaving more space between stand and shop to improve this area,” was an opinion from an American tourist.

However, the municipality, in all its zeal for organization should not lose sight of the fact that tourists have come here to get away from the orderly ‘sameness’ of the shopping malls in their home countries. Let us not lose the mysticism of the East!