Bikers and Hikers Unite to Help Children in Need
By: Joachim Erkes and David Early
Ban Mai Samakki, a Kachin/Akha community about five kilometers from
the Burmese border, desperately needed a pre-school. The Chiang Mai ToyRide
joined resources with the Chiang Mai Hiking Group to make it happen.
Originally conceived by an NGO volunteer and Chiang Mai Hiking Group member,
the group collected donations to fund teachers’ salaries and the
reconstruction of an old nursery school building. Little children have an
insatiable curiosity and a natural desire to learn more about the world
around them, but not every parent can provide the stimulus and encouragement
a child needs, especially when they have been displaced from another
country, and are struggling to earn a living. The goal is for this
pre-school to be sustained and managed by the villagers after the first
mai kids ride their new wooden motorcycle and goose.
As part of their new “Playgrounds Plus” program which supports poor schools
in the area, the Chiang Mai ToyRide agreed to provide tables and chairs for
the children, a teachers’ desk set, education books, toys and poster, paint
for their toilet block and playground equipment, as well as arrangements for
their teacher to receive further training from teachers at the site of their
previous event at Santor School.
On 12 December 2009, hikers and bikers met at Ban Mai, north of Chiang Dao
near Arunothai, for a festive donation event at the newly opened preschool.
About 20 motorcycles and a handful of cars and trucks arrived to cheers and
applause from the hikers, children and villagers. The hikers and the people
of the village did a splendid job of getting the building in order with the
last minute help from a group of Australian teenage girls, who were in the
area doing other volunteer work and dove in with shovels and paintbrushes.
and kids alike were overjoyed and grateful to bikers and hikers.
After a few warm words from the village headman, the project originator and
a Chiang Mai ToyRider, a hundred children got snack box lunches, stuffed
toys and ToyRide rainproof school backpacks. Cameras clicked while the kids
played on the newly painted equipment and reveled in the antics and balloons
of two brilliant clowns, a Thai couple from Chiang Mai, brought by the
Chiang Mai ToyRide. Then the villagers invited all visitors, more than 60
bikers, hikers and donators, for a great Kachin-style lunch. Everyone —
villagers, children, bikers, hikers and donators — enjoyed this memorable
event to help the sweet children in Ban Mai.
Mark your calendar for Sunday, 21 February 2010 for the annual Chiang Mai
ToyRide charity motorcycle ride/parade starting from Tesco Lotus Khamtien
parking lot at 9:45 am to the party at X-Centre near Mae Rim at noon. Bikes
of all sizes, riders of all ages and all other folks in the known universe
are invited to the party with live music, clowns, magicians, monkey show,
games, drinks and food plus the famous toy giveaway. Admission? One toy, to
be given to a child in need.
Chiang Mai ToyRiders and happy teachers with
their new furniture.
No more cuts and scrapes on the newly painted
Big bikes were a big hit with the whole village.
Backpacks, lunch boxes and toys for Ban Mai
Jokerman may have been the first clown ever to
hit Ban Mai.
The Patterns, Passages & Prayers of Golden Triangle Hilltribes
By Shana Kongmun
Patterns, Passages & Prayers, a photo exhibit by Victoria Vorreiter
a classical violinist and lecturer at DePaul University School of Music,
opened at the Tamarind Village on Monday, December 21. Victoria, who
originally came to the Chiang Mai area to make a documentary on the local
hill tribes’ vanishing culture, customs, music and festivals, quickly
learned that a documentary with a 5 minute vignette on a complex cultural
ritual was not enough.
Vorreiter introduces her work to the audience at the Tamarind Village on
She then spent the next five years photographing and documenting hill tribe
culture and rituals throughout the Golden Triangle. Travelling through
China, Laos, Burma and Thailand, she took photographs of hill tribes people
from all different groups, not only living out their daily lives but
enacting important cultural rituals; from birthing, to courting, marriage
and death. She would re-visit different villages at different times to get
the full gamut of the importance of their cultural practices in their lives.
She also went back to the same festival year after year in order to get a
fuller picture of what the festival was about and what occurred.
Her photos display the complexity, beauty and integrity of people whose
lives have been hard, and whose vanishing culture has been ignored. Akhu and
Hmong hilltribes people performed music at the showing and Victoria told the
gathering, “Sadly, these legacies are being lost. Thousands of years of
knowledge can be lost in a few decades as one generation does not pass it on
to the next. I needed to capture the integrity, virtue, culture and variety
of these people before their cultures disappear.” A series of in-depth
documentary films created by Vorreiter and set for release in 2011 and 2012
will serve to further this goal.
Victoria explained the title of the exhibition to the crowd at the Tamarind
Village, “Patterns refers to the garments that people wear in their daily
lives and at special ceremonies, passages refers to people moving through
space and time as people who live close to the earth survive day to day,
season to season and through the cycles of their lives. Finally ending with
prayers, which refers to the festivals and ceremonies which show the people
as they honor the gods of their world.”
“My journey has been filled with great joy, at times I’ve been humbled other
times I’ve been challenged.” Victoria told the group.
Her exhibit is on show at the Tamarind Village until April 30. Vorreiter’s
traveling exhibition Songs of Memory will open at the Chiang Mai Cultural
February 12-April 30, 2010. A dynamic conference on tribal culture, history,
and beliefs will bring the exhibit to life through a series of concerts,
presentations, demonstrations of traditional practices and a food festival.
Visitors enjoy the
photographs on display at the Tamarind Village exhibit of Victoria
The performers, Victoria,
Ajarn Vithi Phanichpant, Vichien Phongsathorn, Chairman of the Premier Group
of Companies, and Tamarind Village General Manager, Naphat Nutsati. (Photo
by Shana Kongmun)
Silk collectors celebrate
Ra Mata Sirikul offers unique Phrae Wa silk
Story by Shana Kongmun, Photos by Supoj Thiamyoj
Thai silk is famous throughout the world for its lovely textures and
designs but the uniquely beautiful hand made silk of Kalasin province called
Phrae Wa has to be among the silk collector’s prized possession. This hand
woven and hand stitched beautifully crafted, each with their own individual
design, is now available for silk lovers in Chiang Mai at the newly opened
shop owned by Kalasin native Ramida Sirikul and her German husband Andreas
Kru Sunthorn Pattanasith annoints the shop in the traditional ceremony meant
to bring good fortune for the new owners.
Ramida explained that she developed her love of silk, and for Phrae Wa silk
in particular, growing up near Ban Phon, famous as the location of Phrae Wa
silk. She explained that each piece is handwoven and then hand-stitched with
unique designs. The more intricate the piece, the longer it can take to
craft, up to a year for the most intricate and decorative pieces that can
cost as much as 30,000 baht.
Phrae-Wa silk is produced only in Kalasin and by the ‘Phu Thai’ tribe. The
wonderful quality and the unique colorful designs make it the most famous of
Kalasin handicrafts. Shawls made from delicate Phrae Wa silk were given to
the spouses of delegates to the recent 15th ASEAN meeting in Thailand. Her
Majesty Queen Sirikit has promoted Phrae-Wa silk at Bangsai Arts and Crafts
Center since 1977.
Sirikul shows off a magnificent decorative piece of Phrae Wa silk. This
piece was hand woven and stitched and took more than a year for artisans to
complete. (Photo by Shana Kongmun)
The newly opened store, on the main road to Mae Rim in San Sai, is the only
place in Chiang Mai to offer this renowned silk. The store sells not only
pieces of silk but clothes made from the delicate fabric as well as Mudmee
silk and uniquely dyed cotton pieces, done in the incomparable Kalasin
style. Andreas explained that many of the beautiful pieces of silver jewelry
his wife wore were designed by either her or her friend and that
individually designed silver jewelry set with semi-precious stones would be
sold in the beautifully decorated shophouse. Renovated with all natural
materials and decorated with teak antique furniture, they plan to expand
their shop to include freshly made organic juices, teas and coffees for the
discriminating silk and cotton aficionados that will surely flock to see
their distinctive and beautiful products.
Phra Kru Sunthorn
Pattanasith, the abbot of Wat Phra Non temple in Mae Rim district, ties holy
threads on the wrists of the shop owners, Andreas, Ramida and their son
Andrew, so as to bring good luck, happiness and prosperity to their family
Pretty girls perform the
traditional Thai dance Fawn Leb,
or the fingernail dance, famous for the 6 inch long brass fingernail
extensions that the dancers wear while performing.
Ramida Sirikul and Andreas
Schaetze, join guests of honor in front of the newly opened Ra Mata- Sirikul
shop on the Mae Jo Road in San Sai on December 27.