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.
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 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.
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
Yut Wanichanond, organiser of Viva in the
Sherry and Nicolaus from Chiang Mai - such
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’.
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
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).