Chiang Mai’s water festival turned on by the PM
Water shortages? What water shortages?
Chiang Mai’s Grand Lanna Civilization six day Songkran
Festival was turned on by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on April 10 at
the Buak Had Public Park. The grand parade was well attended by tourists
from Thailand and overseas.
Thaksin is blessed with good luck and fortune by Ajarn Manee Payormyong
(right), during the grand opening.
Chiang Mai’s Songkran festival is always one of the
country’s largest and began with a spectacular procession partly organized
by Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). The Lanna Kingdom included Chiang
Mai, Chiang Rai, Lamphun, Lampang, Mae Hong Son, Phayao, Phrae and Nan plus
the five neighboring countries located in the Greater Mekong Sub-region
including Laos, Burma, China, Vietnam and Cambodia.
PM Thaksin said that Songkran, the traditional Thai New
Year celebrations, were family days including veneration of the elderly, so
the government has encouraged that the festival time should conserve and
observe Thai culture and promote the significance of family culture among
Thai people nationwide. (Unfortunately, this side of Songkran is largely
forgotten in the aquatic excesses.)
PM Thaksin also thanked the neighboring Mekong countries
for their participation. The festival will help strengthen their
international relations among the countries located along the Mekong river
basin, he said.
Transport stations were over-extended with visitors
coming for the festival, and locals getting out, some to visit relatives in
other provinces. Both the bus stations and the railway station experienced
Tambon Faham residents offered food to 209 monks and novices from Wat
Srisoda, Wat Chetupol, and other temples in Tambon Faham to make merit
during Songkran. As part of the celebration, the Buddha Sihingha image was
floated down the Mae Ping River for people along the river to pay respect.
has many traditions similar to Thailand, as could be seen in the parade.
bird dances through the streets in the annual Songkran parade.
hill tribe men walk tall on their bamboo sticks.
Buddha Sihingha image was floated down the Mae Ping River for people along
the river to pay respect.
had our windows rolled up, as splashing was fierce all along the city moat.
Vietnamese contingent was well represented in the parade.
and pouring water on foreign visitors at the city moat.
ancient Cambodian Buddhist symbol turned a few heads at the parade.
isn’t an elaborate umbrella - it’s the annual dance parade.
celebrations aren’t complete without people dancing the ramwong.
in Tambon Faham offered food to 209 monks and novices from several wats.
The magical Easter Bunny and the Easter Egg Hunt
Even if rabbits don’t lay eggs!
Photos: Michael Vogt
What a relief! Despite bird flu, water shortage and many
Songkran activities, the Easter bunny found his way to the Chiang Mai kids.
He was caught hiding Easter eggs for the American
Consulate community kids and friends as well as for over 60 Rejoice children
(affected by HIV/AIDS) and at least 20 of their caregivers.
Tons of fun and lots of games was the spirit of the day,
with a clown who made balloon hats and balloon animals, and a grand magic
show with a small guest magician.
The older community children helped all morning during
the games and looked like they had as much fun as the participants
themselves. Activities included tossing a ping-pong ball in the bucket,
pinning the tail on the bunny, ringing the peg, catching a fish, tossing the
ball in the bowl, face-painting and drawing and - most important - an
Despite the heat, the kids had smiles on their faces and
the adults were grinning just as much. Of course the Easter egg hunt was the
highlight of the day and after all the eggs had been collected the kids and
adults attacked the huge buffet of snacks and sandwiches to fuel up on all
the lost energy.
The buffet was “a kid’s dream come true” - it started with dessert
and ended with the “serious” food. The children enjoyed the sumptuous
amount of BBQ, sausages, rolls and sweets.
Easter Egg Spoon Race
did the pigeon get in the bag?
finally know that the Easter bunny is a she and called Cherryl
Hesse obviously enjoying the morning with the kids
sure you can do this?
smallest Magic Man in town but his tricks were ‘outstanding’, when he
started throwing umbrellas out of an ‘empty’ box
are all alike, not matter which race, if healthy or not healthy. A magician
day begins like that and you start seeing a bunny with a ‘soap bubble
gun’, it’s either Easter at the American compound or you should consider
to get back to sleep!
me be your assistant...
were just some of the kids who enjoyed the Easter morning, the magician, the
balloon man and lots of food.
Think spa beauty, think Earth
Photos by Michael Vogt
Beauty, health, spa and Chiang Mai seem to be combined in
one sentence more often day by day.
of Chiangmai, Kwanchai Wong nitikorn, and Dr Chao Duan na Chiang Mai during
the official candle-lighting ceremony at the opening of Siam Spa.
Siam Spa has opened a new branch at Hillside Plaza
Condotel 4. It is open seven days a week until 8.30 p.m., which means that
even working people have the chance to relax after a hard day in the office.
Sheehan (3rd from left) in the company of many invited guests and VIPs from
Chiang Mai’s business community.
Many VIP guests, many speeches and a whole lot of healthy
information were provided during the official opening ceremony last Friday.
left: Chitra Klanprayoon, owner of Ban Sabai Spa village and president of
the Thai Lanna Spa Association, Wachara Tantranont, Kwanchai Wongnitikorn
and Ampai Sheehan.
Dr Chao Duan na Chiang Mai addressed the audience,
stressing the increasingly important issues of health, beauty, food and
taking care of your body. Jumpol Chutima, president of the Chiang Mai
Chamber of Commerce, wished Ampai Sheehan, managing director of the Ampai
Institute of Hair Design and Siam Spa, luck and confidence to believe in
Chiang Mai and the high standards of the Lanna culture.
left: Dr Chao Duan na Chiang Mai; vice-governor of Chiang Mai, Kwanchai
Wongnitikorn; Jumpol Chutima, president of the Chiang Mai Chamber of
Commerce; and Ampai Sheehan, the managing director of Ampai Institute of
Hair Design and Siam Spa, watch the beautiful show.
The vice-governor of Chiang Mai, Kwanchai Wongnitikorn,
took the opportunity to congratulate and thank everybody involved in
believing in Chiang Mai to become the health and spa hub of Thailand. He
said, “In Siam Spa, what we see today is the business opportunity of
beautifying others, while teaching the importance of a healthy lifestyle.”
A VCD presentation followed and a show by extraordinarily beautiful
northern girls, who showed the purity and simplicity of water, combined with
natural health products.
The ancient tradition of Songkran - bestowing the water of life
Songkran, the traditional Thai New Year, dates back
dozens of generations and it wasn’t until 1940 before the official New
Year in Thai calendar was moved to fall into line with the Western World.
Chae’ or rice chilled in rose water is an art in itself that requires not
only the best in the recipes but also heart and tenderness in the
However, the true meaning behind Songkran is one of
family and charity. Families would gather at the local temple and present
offerings to the monks or ‘Tamboon’, listen to the teachings of the
Buddha and pour water over the hands of the elders and monks to wish them
health, prosperity and long life, a tradition steeped in religious and local
belief as well as to provide encouragement to the respected elders of the
of the natural aromatic water is essential before being used to bath the
Buddha Statue or poured over the hands the monk or senior family members.
As Thailand celebrates Songkran, in the modern day
calendar from April 12-15, many districts, villages and ethnic groups have
over the centuries come to celebrate the New Year in their own unique way
through activities that are specific to that area, and not how it is
“celebrated” by the masses.
ceremonies believed to bring luck during the Thai New Year festival include
people bathing the Buddha statue as a symbol of cleanliness and purity for
the years to come.
The Mon or Raman ethnic groups around the nation, and in
particular, Prapadaeng, Samutprakarn, on the outskirts of Bangkok the
province of Ratchaburi (famous for its floating markets), Sarmcoke district
in Pathumthani, and Koh Kret in Nonthaburi, each carry out specific
traditions fused with Thai culture throughout the festive period.
younger generations carefully pour water over the hands of senior family
members, bequeathing them wishes of health and prosperity.
One thing does remain at the center of Songkran and that
is the temple or Wat, where just prior to the actual day, families converge
on the temple and build a temporary sala. The ladies of the households
prepare a special table on which to place food that is to be offered to the
monks and deities. Specific summer dishes, now a rarity in most parts of the
country, include ‘Khao Chae’ in Thai, or rice in chilled rose water
called Perng Sangkran in Mon. The food is not only tasty but is an art in
itself specific to the Mon people, who also pride themselves on their
culinary skills down to the very minute preparation details. Rice dishes, a
variety of noodles and fruit are also prepared as part of the offerings to
their ancestors who they believe revisit them each year during Songkran.
It is a time when the family gathers to enjoy the
Songkran festival within the community, games and contests of various types
are held and include sand castle building competitions, spinning tops used
to select dance partners, and the release of birds and fish as a continued
reminder of the merit making activities.
Individual families also gather for the ‘Rumphee’
dance of the spirits in which they call in souls of their fathers, mothers
and or grandparents as a means of communication between the two worlds. The
soul of a loved one is said to enter one family member during the dance and
the spirit bestows and receives good wishes, aids in studies and relieves
suffering to the living. In return, further merit is made for that person in
the form of items made from flour in the shape of what is requested.
Songkran for the Mon, as with traditions for Thais, is
also held to welcome the New Year and remove the clutter and dust from the
previous year. Everyone bathes carefully, puts on clean clothes and cleans
the house in the hope of allowing new things to enter into their lives.
Water used throughout the Songkran festival is a symbol
of cleansing that which has collected on the body over the previous year, as
well as being used to refresh the body and soul in the height of the summer
season. Water is carefully poured over the senior family members as wishes
on health and prosperity are bequeathed in the process.
Over the years, the true meaning of Songkran has been
lost on today’s fast paced society, and many opt for inappropriate methods
to celebrate. The true spirit of Songkran lies not only in the refreshing
water but also in the hearts of the Mon and those who remember the values of
family, charity and community spirit for the betterment of their fellow man.
An ‘Air Show’ with a difference
No strings attached
Photos Michael Vogt
On Easter Sunday, with the Songkran activities in full
swing, there was a dry alternative for people who did not want to get
soaked. Geschwister Weisheit, 14 aerial acrobats from one family covering
three generations with the youngest performer Katja only 11 years old, were
A family enterprise on their three months Thailand tour,
they brought the whole family, even one year old Johanna. Heike Weisheit
said, “The children are allowed to perform with us from four years
onwards, but today, Louise (4), Elisabeth (8), and Max (7) wanted to stay at
the pool. We don’t force them but they love to perform with us.”
The high wire troupe ‘Geschwister Weisheit’ is
internationally acknowledged, but they are also mothers, fathers, aunts,
uncles and just children. They got soaked during their first trip to town,
got stuck in traffic while trying to get around, but were in awe of
Thailand, its friendliness, the even-tempered Thais, their composed, cool
attitudes and the point that everything works out in the end.
The show started with Katja, Jasmin, Nathalia, Katharina,
Katrin, Doren, Heike, Alexander, Andre, Jens, Rudi, Jens number two, Heino
and Peter-Mario greeting the 8,000 folk in the audience followed by
Alexander riding up a pole at 50 km/h and when he reached the top, he stood
up to salute the audience. But that was just the warm up. He returned to
terra firma, picked up Jens, who hung under the car, while Alexander, when
he reached the top did a handstand on top.
But the audience found they were on “terror” firma
watching Peter-Mario Weisheit on the Sway pole. It was one of those ‘I
can’t watch anymore’ experiences, seeing Peter-Mario be drawn up to a
height of 40 metres, climbing up another 25 metres and then performing
death-defying tricks. The finale was ‘Amazing Grace’, while
free-standing. He was greeted with roars of applause and relief when dropped
back to the ground just hanging on to a rope with his teeth from a height of
Part three of the program was the motorcycle show, 10 acrobats on three
motorcycles who showed that they can do much more than drive on steel ropes.
Speed and moto-X on the ropes, plus acrobatic tricks over and under the
machines 40 metres in the air. Strength, balance, agility and nerves of
steel were the order of the day. Especially by the audience who were ready
to scream at any minute! An amazing hi-wire family!
get this show on the rope...
gets into his car.
as if these guys are having fun - and they did!
try this at home, even if your little brother misbehaved.
airline passengers nightmare - midair turbulence.
highlight of the performance was Peter-Mario 65 meters up, performing
without a safety net, playing ‘Amazing Grace’ on the trumpet. 8014
people (8000 audience and 14 family members) were relieved when he returned
Weisheit family reunion after another successful performance!