Chiang Mai celebrates 3rd Mardi Gras Festival
Numbers down, despite impressive line-up of VIP’s
Phitsanu Thepthong and Saksit Meesupkwang
Chiang Mai’s 3rd Mardi Gras festival was organized by
Chiang Mai Provincial Authorities, the Municipality and the Tourism
Authority of Thailand to mark the opening of the tourist high season for the
north. It was hoped the four day and night event would draw Thais and
foreign tourists to the city.
However this year, numbers were down, especially on the
first evening of February 12. Some of the audience said that they expected
the arts and culture from the Lanna kingdom to be presented, but there was
not much evident.
Chiang Mai governor Suwat Tantipat hoped that more
visitors would come to visit Chiang Mai, but warned that the Chiang Mai
people must help preserve its unique merits, with kindness, goodness, and
generosity by carrying on these type of activities.
Suwat delivers the opening address
The opening evening had the colorful Mardi Gras parade
starting from the front of Krung Thai Bank, going along Charoen Muang Road,
crossing the Navarat Bridge, along Thapae Road, Changklan Road, and ended at
Wat Sridonchai on Sridonchai Road. It was presented by Chiang Mai tourism
and cultural association, with the spectacular transvestites from the Simon
Cabaret Show giving it the real ‘Mardi Gras’ atmosphere.
dancer leading the parade
However, floats were fewer this year, with most coming
from the hotel food and beverage departments, pubs and restaurants, and from
Chiang Mai handcraft groups, and the float with Miss Mardi Gras.
After the parade, Chiang Mai governor Suwat Tantipat
presided over the opening ceremony with VIPs Chalermsak Suranant, director
of Tourism Authority of Thailand, Northern office, Region 1; Dr Ken
Santitham, the permanent secretary of the Municipality and Vorapong
Muchaotai, president of Thai Hotels Association (THA), Northern Chapter.
on Changklan Road during the festival
After the opening session, it was music at the central stage set up at
the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar on Changklan Road, featuring Sanit Pongsanoh,
Jarerk Viriya and Elvis impersonator Ritchie Newton, the Chamberlains and
many local northern bands.
Suwat (centre in blue), at the opening
Chiang Mai cabaret show
Mae Ping Hotel’s float
the Mardi Gras floats
12 couples take wedding vows during jumbo sized Valentine’s Day affair
An event nobody will forget
It was an adventurous event this year, with 12 bridal
couples from Lampang, Sukhothai, Bangkok, Lamphun, Kanchaburi, Prachin Buri,
and foreigners from Austria and Sweden.
of the participants
Lampang province, Tourism authority of Thailand, Lampang
Tourism Promotion association, the National Elephant Institute (under the
royal patronage of HRH Princess Galyani Vadhana) and the Forest Industry
Organization organized the elephantine weddings in Lampang.
Kalaopitchsa, the Hangchat district chief officer, presents a certificate to
the bridal couple.
This was the third year they offered young lovers the
chance of having their wedding ceremony on an elephant’s back on February
14, Valentine’s Day, the traditional day of lovers.
their vows with a kiss on an elephant
This most untraditional Lanna style wedding ceremony took
place at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center, Hangchat District, Lampang
and all eligible couples joined in enthusiastically. The ceremonies were
presided over by Dr. Udomsak Sakmanwong, the deputy president of World
The elephant procession was composed of a Khan Maak
procession, the traditional tray of gifts from the groom to the bride’s
parents, the Shoo Khoe ceremony, the bride begging ceremony, shows, dancing,
the Bai Sri Shoo Khan wrist tying ceremony and even souvenirs for the couple
and 20 invited guests. About 40 elephants joined the procession, but were
not married off during the day’s fun event.
Snacks and refreshments, as well as the marriage
certificate, were given out before the couples were invited to a one night
home stay in Lampang and a Khantoke style feast.
and Matthias Prichzi of Vienna, Austria, (center) dressed in period Thai
costume before boarding an elephant when they participated in Valentine’s
Day ceremonies at the Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang.
couple on the elephant’s back
and a foreign bride
nuptial atmosphere of the event
wedding ceremony chairman
Friendship Night at Saenkham Terrace
Saenkham Terrace Restaurant was the elegant setting for
the ‘Friendship Night’, one of the highlights of Chiang Mai’s social
calendar, always held on Valentine’s Day and hosted by the German Hon.
Consul Hagen Dirksen and his wife Wanphen.
of the Alliance Francaise and Hon. Consul of France Thomas Baude with his
Hagen and his wife personally saw to it that everybody
who came was pampered, enjoyed excellent food and that the mood was as it is
supposed to be on Valentine’s day. Friends were seen talking sincerely,
had fun and enjoyed meeting in the relaxing ambience of Saenkham Terrace.
and Wanphen Dirksen with members of the German community of Chiang Mai, the
Zimpfer family, the Loeschmanns and (far right) Boris Mimietz from the Thai
Horse Farm in Phrao.
Hagen Dirksen officially opened the evening with a very
short ‘Thank you’ to everybody who had taken the time to spend
Valentine’s evening with them, as a symbol of extended friendship.
to R) Hon. Consul of Finland, Dr. Supawat Poowakul, Consul General of the
United States of America Eric Rubin, the wife of the Hon. Canadian Consul
Nit Wangwiwat and host of the evening, Wanphen Dirksen
For the guests, there was another surprise in store.
Instead of long speeches during dinner, the Dirksens had two special guests
to entertain their party. Well known professional concert pianist David
Wilson teamed up with Puk, a most talented singer, to perform the songs from
Ghielmetti (left), GM of Four Seasons Resort and general manager of the
Empress Hotel in Chiang Mai, Khun Kanok (right) with their wives Margret and
After superb food and good wine, the guests strolled on the terrace and
were seen enjoying the easy going party mood and rekindling old friendships
and making new ones.
Magic moments in the mountains of Mae Sariang
New canteens, dormitories, study center and water
collection and purification installation at the primary and secondary
schools in Baan Kapoeang, Baan Mae Sawan Luang, Baan Doi Liam, Baan Den and
Baan Mae Lit, are the cause for smiles in the isolated villages in the
mountains of Mae Sariang District.
old dormitory at the secondary school in Mae Lit
Teachers, children, mothers, fathers, students from
technical colleges and the villagers built them in two months as community
based activities. The 1 million baht for the materials, skilled labor and
the furniture was donated by two Dutch Foundations - the Wilde Ganzen/ICCO
Foundation and the Samsara Foundation, both acting under the umbrella of
FERC (the Foundation for Education of Rural Children). (The monitoring costs
were only 2 percent.)
how the old dormitories looked like, before Samsara and FERC stepped in to
help. The old dormitory at primary school in Mae Sawan Luang
The two foundations received all the assistance they
needed from the school directors of the five schools and the Department of
Education in Mae Sariang. They established a very good working relationship
and if more donations are forthcoming they will continue to build more
facilities for poor schools in this region.
new dormitory at the primary school in Mae Sawan Luang. Everybody is happy
to lend a hand
There are 177 schools under their jurisdiction of Mae
Sariang. Many schools are facing challenges as the obligatory age for school
education will be raised from 12 to 16 years, and there are almost no
secondary schools in the mountains. From May onwards many hill tribe
children will be forced to go to the secondary schools in the Mae Sariang
valley. These schools are lacking dormitories and library/study centers.
Yordwandii director of the Department of Education of Mae Sariang gives a
certificate to Annelie Hendriks and Ratana Kheunkeaw of the Samsara
Foundation at the opening ceremony of the canteen at Baan Mae Sawan Luang.
These pressing needs are some of the reasons why FERC
will organize a fundraising gala on February 28th,to raise money for a study
center/library at the Hoi Singh school which when realized will serve
children from seven schools in that part of the valley.
It will give children an opportunity to study and do
their homework as there are often not enough books for every child. It gives
the elder children the chance to prepare for their entrance examinations
without buying the books themselves.
the Karen children and villagers, (on the left) deputy director of the
department of education Suradet Phahonyoothin and (right) Annelie Hendriks,
Marion Rovers and Renee Vines of Samsara/FERC
The primary schools in the mountains of Mae Sariang are
often lacking basic facilities such as books, clean water, electricity,
dormitories, canteens and medicines, since the annual budget of the Mae
Sariang department of education is very limited. They do whatever they can
but it is never enough to provide the necessities to all the schools in the
mountains. Bare-footed children often have to walk long distances to reach
their schools. Nevertheless, that is what they do every day. But in the
rainy season it is impossible and they need to stay for extended periods at
the school and need dormitories and canteens.
The two Dutch foundations are committed to build those
facilities, and much can be done for relatively very little. For example, a
dormitory for 30 children can be built for 55,000 baht, including furniture;
a canteen or study center will also cost that much, and for 150 children
these can be realized for 150,000 baht, including furniture and kitchen
equipment. Water installations cost between 35,000 and 55,000 baht,
batteries to get the school television or computer working are 12,000 baht
and annual scholarships for one child are between 3600 to 10,000 baht.
The fundraising gala dinner is organized by FERC to raise these amounts.
For more information contact Annelie Hendriks, email