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Violins on Chiang Rai hills

The charm of Lamphun

Violins on Chiang Rai hills

Tribes on the fly to Belgium with Geertje Podevyn

The Chiang Rai Youth and Hill Tribes Violin Concert which took place on Sunday August 20 at Insii Thai House, Maechan, was the culmination of a wonderful musical project done in collaboration with Belgian violinist Geertje Podevyn, the Chiang Rai Youth Violin Orchestra and the Rotary Club of Maechan, Chiang Rai.

Belgian violinist Geertje Podevyn (Khun Gerty)

Among the 200 invited guests, H.E. Jan Matthysen, ambassador of Belgium to Thailand, could also witness what Podevyn has achieved in only two months with young students who never played before: The Chocolate sound of Violin Wonderland!
Invited to Thailand by Count Gerald van der Straten Ponthoz, she came to introduce the violin to 23 hill tribes students of Suksa Song Kraw Maechan School during the months of July and August.
Podevyn gave her lessons at Insii Thai House, residence of Count Gerald and Weerapong Boonklieng, a place well known among the local residents for hosting art exhibitions and other exclusive charity events. The traditional Thai-style environment of the property was ideal for concentration and playing violin.

Ajarn Paramet, conductor of the Chiang Rai Youth Violin Orchestra, teaches more than 300 young violinists in Chiang Rai.

The progress of the students towards a perfect musical sound has been astonishing and after only two months they were able to be part of this exceptional concert performed in the beautiful grounds of Insii Thai House together with 40 students of Ajarn Paramet and his Chiang Rai Youth Violin Orchestra.
Violin Wonderland, Geertje Podevyn’s innovative approach to violin teaching, is based on the perfect fifth, the interval of the strings of the violin, and refers to old Flemish music from the medieval period. It is also based on the interval of the Thai violin, the sau duang (two-string violin).
With this method, the sound of the young violinists looked like musical eagles flying over Insii Thai House, very close to the sweetness of the Thai music and the purity of Flemish medieval music from de Machaut and Orlando di Lasso; natural beauty.
Violin Wonderland is like the Suzuki method, first without written music but based on listening, feelings, the right movement, emotion and good food.
As Thailand is a country full of beauty and feelings, Geertje Podevyn explored a new approach, different from the Japanese northern style: more emotion from Southeast Asia.
Violin Wonderland combines Podevyn’s experience and passion for violin with the excellent views of the 19th-century Belgian violin master Charles de Beriot, the teacher of Eugene YSAYE, founder of the Queen Elizabeth competition.
The Maechan children have been the first to fully experience Violin Wonderland and it proved to be very successful.

The 3 students from Suksa Song Kraw Maechan School who will go to Belgium next March: Saithip Bangkomnet, Chudaporn Wichaiya and Somphong Saeleaw.

They not only were eager to learn but they also had a lot of fun, laughing and making jokes with Geertje Podevyn, who speaks Thai “dek dek”, and cooking delicious cookies and pizzas!
Happiness has been the main reward for everyone involved, especially when, at the end of the concert, it was announced that 3 of the hill tribes’ students would fly to Belgium next March to keep learning with Geertje Podevyn.
They will stay in Europe for two months, improve their violin skills and learn the basics of the stringed-instrument maker’s profession.
Knowing that very few people in Thailand are qualified to repair violins and other stringed instruments, it will be an occasion for the hill tribe students to reach a brighter future with what they love: Music.
Pictures of the hill tribes’ violin project and concert can be viewed on the website of Insii Thai House at: www.insiithaihouse.com

The hill tribes violin students with (back row) Geertje Podevyn (left), Suksa Song Kraw Maechan School director Wilaiwan (center), and Count Gerald van der Straten Ponthoz (right) after the concert at Insii Thai House.

Count Gerald van der Straten Ponthoz (left), who invited Geertje Podevyn to Thailand, the 3 students who will go to Belgium and the director of Suksa Song Kraw Maechan School, Wilaiwan (right).

After a successful concert, the hill tribe violin students pose with Geertje Podevyn, Wilaiwan and Count Gerald van der Straten Ponthoz.

The hill tribes violin students pose for a photo with (back row from left to right): Anurak, the music teacher at the school; Valerie McKenzie of “Morning Talk” (Channel 11); Geertje Podevyn; the spouse of the ambassador of Belgium in Thailand; H.E. Jan Matthysen, ambassador of Belgium in Thailand and Wilaiwan, the director of Suksa Song Kraw Maechan School.


The charm of Lamphun

Enter Lamphun at the North gate and a main street lined with Chinese shop fronts leads to a tiny department store - the Jamfar Plaza - four floors of jumbled displays connected by a simple staircase.

The Queen Cham Dhavi monument keeps watch on all that passes by.

There are no traffic jams, cinemas, skyscrapers or hotels in the city and the nightlife comprises one karaoke lounge and a sing-a-song restaurant. Regular eateries are also a scarcity and apart from Laenpae Lamphun Restaurant - down by the river - most diners out can be found at a food centre situated near the Queen Cham Dhavi monument.
Character, charm and cultural preservation make Lamphun - formerly known as Hariphunchai - well worth a visit, as well as its beauty and far reaching history, which is very much in evidence today.
Much of the old wall has been renovated, the gates reconstructed, and the Kuang River winds its way between grassy banks to the southeast, where Wat Phra That Hariphunchai can be found, with its solid gold umbrella, Shan-styled structures, drum, gong, and a sala that houses four of Buddha’s footprints.

This massive gong is a site to see.

Temples are abundant in Lamphun - some of them over 1,000 years old - and Wat Cham Dhavi, Wat Mahawan and Wat Phra Yun shouldn’t be missed.
A useful stockpile of information on the history of the area is available at the Haripunchai National Museum on Inthayongyot Road, where exhibits include historical, developmental and archaeological items. There are prehistoric human skeletons, ancient utensils and artifacts from the Dvaravati, Haripunchai, Lanna and Rattanakosin periods.
A special room is devoted to a collection of inscription stones scribed in Mon and Lanna. This exhibition is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., but is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
When local festivals are compared to Chiang Mai, Lamphun’s Songkran and Loy Krathong are low key affairs, and the principal religious sites of the area are quietly commemorated by Song Nam Phra That Hariphunchai in May. But every August, hoards of visitors flock to see the parades and contests of the Lamphun Longan Festival.

Wat Phra That Hariphunchai has a solid gold umbrella, Shan-styled structures, drum, gong, and a sala that houses four of Buddha’s footprints.

The most famous longan growing area in Thailand is situated 8 kilometres outside the city at Ban Nong Chang Khun; and since King Rama V introduced this fruit to the region, it has become one of Lamphun’s most important trading assets during the 7th and 8th months of the year.
Behind Lamphun’s docile appearance the wheels of industry are kept turning. Pha Mai Yok Dok is a silk elaborately woven at Tambon Wiangyong, Muang district. Originally used for the northern royal court, it became popular during the reign of King Rama VI and is still in great demand for buyers preferring traditional designs.
The market at Pa Sang offers a wide range of locally hand-made cotton products, and softwood carvings are available at Mae Tha district - about 25 kilometres from town on the Lampang Road.
The most significant commercial development for the region has been the Lamphun Industrial Estate. Completed in 1983, over 50 companies currently provide thousands of people with employment on 1,788 rai of land.
One could assume that this injection of industry would alter the social and cultural landscape of Lamphun, but so far there are no signs of this. No demolition or building sites are in evidence and temple chedis are still among the tallest structures in town.

Much of the old Lamphun wall has been renovated.