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The special Yee Peng (Loy Krathong) in Sansai

European Rotarians Thailand tour stops in Chiang Mai

Hats Off!

The special Yee Peng (Loy Krathong) in Sansai

Not a secret anymore, but still spectacular

Michael Vogt

What used to be almost a secret, or at best only known to a few foreigners living in Chiang Mai, has nowadays developed into a more well known activity. The Yee Peng celebrations and festivities at the Meditation Center of Maejo University have become more and more popular, yet are still dominated by the presence and participation of a vast majority of Thais. And it should stay that way.

Far from the beaten tracks of the more commercialized festivities, the Maejo Yee Peng (Loy Krathong) celebrations in Sansai reflect and emphasize the genuine tradition of Thailand’s most romantic elements of its calendar, those being reflection, meditation, and tranquility. Shown here, hundreds of monks lead the procession to a huge golden statue of the Lord Buddha.

Far away from the beaten tracks of the nowadays quite commercialized festivities, sporting anything from funny hats, fireworks and excessive noise, the Maejo celebrations reflect and emphasize the genuine tradition of Thailand’s most romantic element of its calendar, those being reflection, meditation, and, by far and foremost, tranquility.

Over a hundred monks were seated in a semicircle around a moonlit stage.

Upon arrival, after having successfully completed the parking arrangements, visitors were greeted by traditional and festive dancers, as well as very well-spoken and bilingual (!) Thai students, who escorted the impressed guests to one of thousands pre-arranged sitting areas, complete with an unlit oil lamp.

Shortly after the sunset, local dignitaries were led to their seats, accompanied by hundreds of Thai candle dancers. By that time, thousands of visiting worshipers had assembled around a semicircular stage, where over 100 abbots and monks in their orange robes had illuminated their candles and taken their seats, starting their sermons. English translations were given at almost all times, a fact very much appreciated by all those not overly familiar with the Northern Thai language. Visitors were reminded to turn off their mobile phones, and a peaceful silence, almost supernatural, fell over the area. The gentle words of the Abbot were only interrupted by a few firecrackers from the neighborhood.

The procession was joined by Thais and foreigners alike.

The sermon was completed, and hundreds of monks, dignitaries and visitors encompassed the stage, worshipping the huge golden statue of the Lord Buddha, positioned in a moonlight glow on top of the stage.

Then, the moment everyone had been waiting for arrived, the venerable monk’s voice was heard praying to send all sins and bad luck together with the lanterns into the sky. Loudspeaker voices told people to hold on, to not let go, and to await the signal to release the Komloys simultaneously. When the signal was heard, the sky was filled with thousands of illuminated balloons, drifting off into infinity, taking with them sins and bad thoughts - a truly breathtaking and magic sight. To watch the magnificent and colorful fireworks display, the monks processed from the stage, and joined the clapping and smiling people. An overwhelming and memorable experience came to an end, and won’t be easily forgotten.

The moment had come - the Komloys were about to be released.

Thousands of Komloys filled the sky.


European Rotarians Thailand tour stops in Chiang Mai

Visitors from Giessen Rotary Club Altes Schloss and Aalsmeer-Mijdrecht-Uithoorn outnumber local Rotarians

Marion Vogt

The Rotary Club of Chiang Mai West had the honor to welcome Rotarians from Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland, during their extraordinary fellowship meeting on Monday, November 14, 2005.

Cosima and Ohm entertained visitors and guests during the evening.

The guests from the Giessen Rotary Club ‘Altes Schloss’ and The Rotary Club Aalsmeer-Mijdrecht-Uithoorn had already visited Bangkok, Ayutthaya and Chiang Rai but had brought with them a matching grant of 70,000 euros, for the Huay Tom Village project, a three hour drive from Chiang Mai, which had been visited that day. Five different Rotary Clubs from Europe took the effort to examine ‘their’ helping project to make sure that all goes as per plan, and that the money is well spent. H.J.P. van den Berge, the travel coordinator of the European group, announced during his address to the club that the money for the project had arrived and the whole group feels privileged to have seen the worthy cause which will be the recipient of their largesse. However, he had one request which was that all the clubs involved will be regularly updated on the project’s progress.

Another announcement was made by local President Frank Weicks informing everyone that the Rotary Clubs of Thailand donated enough money to build 276 houses for people in the South which were affected by the Tsunami.

Another highlight of this fellowship were the violin performances of Cosima Schaub from Germany and Ohm Chanteyoon from Chiang Mai. Cosima works as a violin teacher in ‘Santi’s Studio’, and also helps in a local orphanage, while Ohm is a senior student of the music department of Payap University. These two young people gave the Rotary Club of CM West one of the rare moments when charity meets culture, which was very highly appreciated by all participants.

This particular meeting yet again highlighted how small the Rotary world we live in actually is, and that humanitarian efforts for the needy can easily cross borders. Although charity begins at home, Rotarians all over the world unite in the spirit of “Real Happiness is helping others”, wherever this is needed.

The Rotary Clubs of Uithoorn, Aalsmeer (both from The Netherlands), Giessen (Germany), Chiangmai West and all its visitors after the meeting at the Amari Rincome Hotel.

Everyone’s birthday during the month of November was recognized during the meeting.


Hats Off!

Celebrating the joy of the human spirit

Marion Vogt Photos: Michael Vogt

Probably strongest voice of the crew was tenor Pat.

Nakornping Community Production, a non profit ensemble of ‘merry music makers’, showed us last Friday what amateurs with dedication and enthusiasm can come up with.

Their production, Hats Off, marched in with the “Colonel Bogey March”, performed by flautist Ajarn Xavier and pianist Sid Richardson.

The two wonderful narrators made the occasion multi-cultural, with Frank Weicks and Becky Lomax giving the audience an inside look on how we all should feel on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, when Armistice Day, (Remembrance Day), is celebrated. A day the world stops to pay respect to all brave men and women in uniform who served their country in times of war – no matter the country, and to all the brave people who kept the families together at home.

David Hardcastle gave us Waltzing Matilda.

The evening, however, was not a sad happening, but a salute to the joy of the human spirit – the only true winner in any war. This was done with music and song in a sentimental journey through the war years.

The first soloist was Richard Dixon who in his usual charming, professional way interpreted Bob Hope’s standard, “Thanks for the Memories”.

Next on the bill were the outstanding Andrews sisters, Patty, Maxene and LaVerne (a.k.a. Sharon, Becky and Lindy), who invoked memories with the well known “Rum and Coca Cola” lyrics which had the audience humming throughout the filled auditorium of Gong Dee Studio.

Sharon knew how to share “Now is the Hour” with her audience.

To show that war touched many countries, the ensemble went Down-Under with the well known “Waltzing Matilda”, performed by David Hardcastle.

But what a surprise when Sharon entered the stage again and gave us “Now is the Hour”, a hauntingly beautiful song, evoking images of loved ones separated by great distances. Beautiful, trembling Maori gestures accompanied this song, showing part of its origins which include the “Swiss Cradle Song”, the Maori “Po Atarau” and the UK’s Gracie Fields English version.

From Argentina came Tangerine, humorously and vocally perfectly interpreted by ‘Mark’.

It would be too much to list all the wonderful songs which brought back memories of childhood in some and memories of sitting with grandma and grandpa at home for others. But watching and listening to the cast sent the listeners through a plethora of feelings, from highs to lows from sad to cheerful and back to the end of the memory lane.

The unbeatable Andrews Sisters were one of the audiences’ favorites and their Yiddish jingle “Bei Mir Bist du Schoen” could only be topped by the most popular war song of all times, “Lilli Marlene”, written by Hans Leip and set to music by Norbert Schultze in 1938, and sung by Lale Andersen before Marlene Dietrich. This was a song that had certainly crossed all borders, and was sung on this evening by David Hardcastle.

Ajarn Xavier played tirelessly all evening.

Something which many were not aware off, was, that down south in America the war years were filled with a Latin beat, and a great medley “South of the Border” left everybody at the intermission, wanting to know how the first part could be topped.

But it was possible. After Tenor Pat’s “As Time Goes By”, Frank and Becky started reminiscing on the simple facts of life – a kiss is still a kiss, a song is still a song, and a great movie is still a great movie, which led them to Casablanca. From there it became natural to think of the impact of the Glen Miller Orchestra, and “Moonlight Serenade”, once again brought the trio Sharon, Becky, Lindy who gave it their all.

The Andrews Sisters, Patty, Maxene and LaVerne (Sharon, Becky and Lindy).

Part two went from the big band era of the forties to standards in the field of popular music with its popularity continuing undiminished through the years. Billie Holliday’s “I’ll Be Seeing You” (Richard), Doris Day’s “Sentimental Journey” (Frank and Becky) and “Yours” (Sharon) were living proof.

But the sentimental journey was not yet over and it brought us to Argentina to meet a very special lady (?) called Tangerine sung by Mark, and on to some most refreshing history lessons in regard to Rudyard Kipling, the English short-story writer, novelist and poet, remembered for his celebration of British imperialism and heroism in India and Burma. One of his most famous works “On The Road To Mandalay” was the last song of the night and a perfect ending as this ballad is so near our hearts as everybody present had chosen to live here in ‘the jungles of the east’.

Probably one of the few people who heard most of these songs when they first came out was pianist Sid Richardson.

Finally, we must say thank you to everyone including pianist Sid, Khun Xavier and Khun Yo, the inspirational John Smith, the dedicated director and detail specialist John Cooley and every one of the committed singers and actors who showed us the joy of the human spirit which conquers every border and every nationality.

Franck Weicks and Becky Lomax during their “Sentimental Journey”.

“Pack Up Your Troubles” by David and Richard who both looked like they would be there to help you do exactly that.

Sharon, Lindy, and Becky were an unbeatable trio who really looked like the women of WWII.

Dedicated musicians and singers who moved the audience included (left to right) David, Linda, Frank, Mark, Becky, Richard, Pat, Sharon and Sid.