HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Hmong New Year festival

17 Northern provinces’ Tourism Conference held in Mae Hong Son

Hmong New Year festival

Siriporn Laovang

Hmong youngsters(photo by Chawalit Korsamphan)

Amongst the many tribes in Thailand, most are to be found living in the Northern Provinces. One such Hill-tribe is the Hmong and whilst many people will have heard of them, little is known of their origins. However, there is no doubt that one activity the Hmong certainly know how to do well and that is how to throw a party!

Hmong New Year is always organized to coincide with the period of the first waxing moon, which this year this occurred on December
30. On the first day of the Hmong’s New Year festival, Hmong people will conduct some of their belief ceremonies, for example, cooking a meal, with the oldest member of the household or the head of family calling for the spirits of their ancestors to have that meal. Also enjoyed during the celebrations is a snack made from sticky rice, basted and molded into a lump, packed in banana leaf. Chicken eggs are boiled to hand out to the children and family members and the household angel post is renewed and angels are called to bless family and to bring good luck in the New Year. On the first day of the festivities a gun is fired or a firework is let off, the report heralding the start of another year

Children’s performance.

At present, when Hmong youngsters think of the Hmong New Year, they do not think so much about the first day’s belief ceremonies, but, like children everywhere, most think about dressing up in Hmong costume and having fun. Normally, dressing up in your best clothes and taking part in the various enjoyable activities lasts for three days but nowadays some village celebrations go on for five, seven or even ten days. In the past, each village would organize its own New Year party, but nowadays, Hmong people enjoy attending the festivities in other villages, each one taking a turn to host Hmong New Year.

Ornaments and images in Hmong hand made cloth. (photo by Chawalit Korsamphan)

The modern every-day dress for the Hmong young girls is usually a short skirt and sleeveless shirt, but the Hmong ladies spend the whole year making new and beautiful dresses to wear during the New Year’s Festival. Hmong teenagers enjoy tossing or casting black ball. This is activity provides a chance for boys and girls to talk to one another. Other party activities such as spinning tops, where men are separated into two teams, (a male activity only), one team tossing the top while the other team tries to hit the thrown-top with their top. Another favourite is crossbow archery. As time has passed, more activities have evolved by modifying aspects of local lifestyle into enjoyable games and pastimes, for example needlework competitions, water carrying, wooden cart racing and even a Miss Hmong contest and cow fighting in Tak province.

Cage to cool down those who enjoy fighting during the New Year. (photo by Chawalit Korsamphan)

Hmong ladies in Hmong costume and ornaments (photo by Chawalit Korsamphan)

Elder blessing the younger generation (photo by Chawalit Korsamphan)

Merry-go-round and swings set up for children during the New Year. (photo by Chawalit Korsamphan)

Black ball casting between boys and girls.

Watching performances on stage (photo by Chawalit Korsamphan)

A parade prior to starting any activities. (photo by Chawalit Korsamphan)

Temporary food shop set up during the New Year. (photo by Chawalit Korsamphan)

Miss Hmong contest.

17 Northern provinces’ Tourism Conference held in Mae Hong Son

Chiangmai Mail Reporters

The 3rd Tourism Business Association Conference of the 17 Northern Provinces was held at the Golden Pai and Suite Resort Hotel, Mae Hong Son. Organized by Mae Hong Son Travel Association in cooperation with associations from the 17 Northern Provinces, the purpose of the meeting was to discuss tourism issues and negotiate with the government official present.

Suphot Klinpraneet, President of Mae Hong Son Provincial Tourist Association and the host of the conference said that there were several government officials attending the conference, including Junnapong Saranak, Director of TAT Northern office Region 1; Lt. Chaiwat Charoensuk, Director of TAT Northern office Region 3; Chairmen of Tourism Business Associations of Chiang Mai, Lampang, Chiang Rai, and Phayao, and tourism representatives from Northern Provinces.

Direk Konkleep, Mae Hong Son Governor, said “Everybody’s aim should be to cooperate together and think of ways how to achieve the goal of attracting more tourists and encouraging them to stay longer, by increasing the number and variety of things for them to do. Furthermore, we should think about how to encourage the participation of local people to be partners in future ventures and share the benefits that would come from increased tourism. An overall plan should be devised, with people from all 17 provinces getting together to discuss and coordinate their ideas.”

Junnapong Saranak said that in 2006, TAT had devised three main projects, the first being “Northern Rapids Floating”. Northern Thailand has many important rapids in all four regions and a prize and certificate will be offered to any person who could float all rapids. Second, was “Travel Orchards…Travel Northern”, which has 10 interesting routes for agro-tourism in Lanna, such as tea tasting at Doi Wawee, where the quality tea of the north is grown. Also, tasting coffee at Doi Chang, this place growing great quality Arabica coffee. The last main project is cultural tourism such as Yi Peng festival at San Sai district, Chiang Mai; Yong’s Cultural Festival in Lamphun, Klong Poo Je Cultural Festival in Lampang, and Sa Pao Floating in Mae Hong Son.