HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

International Heritage Festival Chiang Mai

“Viva in the Air” Wedding Record Attempt

The future of Asian Elephants


International Heritage Festival Chiang Mai

Uniting foreign residents and showcasing Chiang Mai

World attention focussed on Chiang Mai earlier this month with two unique events happening in the city. One was the “International Heritage Festival” the other “Viva Weddings in the Air” with 14 couples tying the knot aboard 14 hot air balloons. Viva, in the Thai language, means marriage. The festival had the lovely effect of uniting foreign residents, who collectively displayed attractive aspects of their homeland in tented booths with over 20 countries participating. Many of them also entertained an appreciative audience with performances of song, dance and comedy. Local companies enthusiastically joined in, as well as several ethnic restaurants offering tasty specialties including Indian, Italian, Korean, Turkish and Swiss dishes. The Philippines was particularly well represented with three sections featuring food, heritage and the national airline.

Lovely lasses Amy, Lek, Khet, Teya, Dow, Marike, Wow, Tai and Lotte (l/r) enticing guests into the German Tent.
The opening ceremony was attended by local dignitaries, and the Italian and South Korean ambassadors. During the three-day festival much goodwill was created, and new friendships were formed against a thoroughly enjoyable backdrop of marching bands, and foot-tapping concerts by ETC, Calorie Blah Blah and the Groove Riders. The foreign contingent was enhanced by some talented artists, including bagpiper Andrew McRady, the Itinerants Band, the Gypsy Lou Band, the Alchemy Pops, and notably the Fantuzzi Band, whose stirring Puerto Rican-flavoured sound had large crowds dancing joyously on the grass fronting the stage. Children loved the act presented by Bradley Dean Whyte, and spectators of all ages were delighted by the highly amusing tricks performed by “Dr Penguin” the famous magician who is “Just Visiting this Planet”. Added to this came the thrill of microlight pilots doing impressive figures-of-eight low above the festival site, before landing skilfully in the centre.
The festival opened at 4 pm on each day, but the real magic happened after sunset as the booths were illuminated, drawing the visitors in. The biggest booth attraction was the exotic and beautifully decorated Tourism Malaysia section, which enthralled crowds with a traditional wedding ceremony enacted by some of Malaysia’s top models, with spectators eagerly accepting invitations to enter and bless the happy couple. Friday and Saturday evenings brought the most memorable images when fourteen hot air balloons were inflated with roaring gas jets, then illuminated with the flames in time to music from the band in spectacular “balloon glows”. This effectively halted traffic on the Superhighway in both directions as amazed motorists stopped their vehicles to take in the extraordinary sight.
Interviewed at the end of the event, Ramlah Jafri, the PR Director of the International Heritage Festival responsible for promoting the booths, remarked: “I was thrilled by the response of all those people from all over the world who live here and who voluntarily gave up their free time, and made the effort to represent their countries and give something back to the city at this fledgling festival. If, as it is hoped, that this will grow into a major annual event, it will be because of their efforts as pioneers and founders, and the vision of the organiser Yut Wanichanond and his wife Aom from the Earth Wind & Fire Company in Doi Saket, whose unrelenting hard work made this event happen in the space of just a few months”.
The festival’s objectives were to: “Showcase Chiang Mai as a vibrant cosmopolitan city; engender community goodwill; foster amicable and warm understanding between nations; share cultural values and traditions in a pleasing and festive ambiance; attract overseas and local visitors, gain domestic and international media attention, and create a wonderful local festival which is hoped will become an annual event”. It would indeed, seem that these were well served, and we look forward to seeing it happen again, bigger and better, in 2009 and far beyond. Edinburgh - watch out!

Barry, Magnhild and Solvi Marie from Norway,
with Basil, (right) one of the festival’s organisers.

Jafri, organiser of the Malaysian tent,
brought in colourful top models from Kuala Lumpur.

The 1st International Chiang Mai Heritage festival was opened
by the South Korean and Italian Ambassadors to Thailand.

Balloons light up the skies and stop the traffic on the Superhighway!


“Viva in the Air” Wedding Record Attempt

14 couples get married in hot air balloons

On Saturday March 8, 2008, Ripley’s “Believe it or Not” representatives were on hand to record this magical morning, which saw press and television crews assemble expectantly in the pre-dawn darkness in the grounds of Lanna Technical College, also the site of the International Heritage Festival. Later, as powerful fans opened the maws of 14 huge balloons, the exquisitely dressed wedding couples were presented to the media, their faces showing no sign of fatigue despite their 4am wake up call for costume fittings chosen from 9 different styles encompassing the traditional to the trendy.

Up, up and away! The first balloons start their ascent.
Amongst the Thai and foreign brides and grooms, Chiang Mai was represented by Austrian Nikolaus (“Niki”) Prachensky and Indhira Sattayaphan (“Sherry”) who together with the other couples, presented alms to the attending monks, and received reciprocal blessings. By now, the sound of the fans had been replaced by the roar of burning propane gas. Charged with scorching air, the balloons swayed, billowed, and then stood upright, tugging at their moorings, ready and impatient to lift their elegant passengers into the sky. When the signal was given, conversations ceased, and the first cheers were suddenly muted by awe as the huge craft rose majestically, one by one, above all the cameras and upturned heads. For everybody present, this was a day to remember.

Thailand’s famous models Byron and Cindy - wonder who caught the bouquet?
Flown by some of the world’s best and most experienced pilots, many from the UK, all the balloons landed safely and softly about an hour later. In the afternoon, after a further costume change, the still adrenalin-filled couples were escorted to the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi to participate in a traditional Lanna wedding ceremony, and enjoy a sumptuous buffet with a traditional Thai show.
The Festival and the Balloon Weddings were sponsored by Krungthai Card PLC and MasterCard, plus Master Car, Centara Duang Tawan Hotel, Mandarin Dhara Devi Hotel, and Samsung, in association with the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Chiang Mai Province. The organisers were Earth Wind & Fire Co. Ltd., the first and longest-established hot air balloon operators in Thailand, who are committed to showcasing the Lanna Thai capital as a prime destination. Senior Executive Vice President of KTC Leisure Staporn Sirisinha said: “Destination weddings are becoming popular in many countries, but this kind of ceremony is absolutely unique. Whilst making history here, we are also establishing KTC as a pioneer and Chiang Mai as a prime destination for innovative happenings” Yut Wanichanond of Earth Wind & Fire Company added: “We want people to associate these kinds of events with our city. In other words, our objective is to bring “Chiang Mai to the world - and the world to Chiang Mai”.

Yut Wanichanond, organiser of Viva in the Air.

Sherry and Nicolaus from Chiang Mai - such beautiful smiles!

The 14 happy couples, all dressed up and ready to get married!

The future of Asian Elephants

A fashion show with a difference

A press conference was held last week at the Elephant Life Experience camp, timed to coincide with the 10th National Elephant Day on March 13. The subject was a research project, set up six years ago, with the aim of discovering why there are problems with the breeding of elephants in Thailand. It was discovered that Asian female elephants become infertile if they have not produced a calf by the time they reach the age of 20-25 years. Elephants in captivity are extremely hard to mate, as they are very ‘choosy’. In the past, zoos have transported elephants thousands of miles to other zoos - only to find they ‘don’t get on’.

One of the beautifully designed and painted dresses on show.
Retired Prof. Reino Hofmann, previously with the Berlin Life Research Institute, first came to Thailand over 9 years ago, and travelled throughout the northern region investigating ways to preserve the Asian Elephant. He eventually met up with Anchalee Kalmapijit, and found that they shared the same ideals about ensuring the preservation of the Asian Elephant for future generations. She was able to introduce him to veterinarians at Chiang Mai University, and as a result a program was eventually set up, headed by Thai people.
Veterinarian Sittawee Tongtipsiridetch and staff from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Kasetsart University explained at the press conference the progress of the research being carried out, which is centred on improving elephants’ breeding potential by the use of artificial insemination. Elephant semen is very large and also extremely fragile, having a large membrane. The main problem found was the preservation of semen over long periods of time; at present it is only successful for a period of two days. Due to the fact of the temperamental nature of elephants and their reduced numbers in the wild; this work is vital to ‘Save the Asian Elephant’ for future generations.
After the press conference, Anchalee Kalmapijit unveiled a Fashion Show at the Elephant Life Experience. Guests of honour included Dr Mom Chao Duangduan na Chiengmai and TAT Director Junnapong Saranak. The show was conceptualized by the idea of ‘Inspired Creativity’ and involved 7 elephants who created the fabric designs and 22 models who showed the collection of clothes. British designer Lawrence Goldberg and Thai designer Apinporn Kiratibhumidhama collaborated to produce over 40 unique outfits with every colour on the fabric being painted by the elephants. The main sponsors of this event were the ‘Hug Elephant Club’, of which Anchalee is President, TAT, and the Maetaman Elephant Camp. The objectives of the fashion show were to publicize the development of Elephant Art in Thailand and to fund the Thai Elephant Conservation campaign.
Those unlucky enough not to have witnessed this unique event can see this unique designer collection at the Ngan Chang event in the Northern Village Area situated on the first and second floors of Central Airport Plaza, from now until the end of March.

The Press Conference at the Elephant Life Experience, hosted by Anchalee Kalmapijit, (third right), with Sittawee Tongtipsiridetch, (fourth left),
and Prof Reino Hofmann, (fourth right).