Exhibition extended at Singapore's ArtScience Museum
By Reinhard Hohler
According to the Singapore Tourism
Board, visitors and residents who have yet to catch the exhibition -
Shipwrecked: Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds - will now have more time to
do so.Originally slated to end its run on 31 July 2011, this spectacular
exhibition at the ArtScience Museum, Marina Bay Sands, has now been extended
until 2 October 2011.
The Shipwrecked exhibition tells the remarkable story of a journey
undertaken by a ninth-century Arab dhow transporting an astonishing cargo
from Tang Dynasty China to parts unknown in the Middle East and Asia.
It offers the first-ever significant proof of the existence of a maritime
silk route. As such, it has tremendous archaeological and historical
significance to Singapore, resonating with the island’s long and
distinguished maritime history and strategic role at the cross-roads of
maritime trade routes. www.stb.gov.sg / www.yoursingapore.com
Lamyai Festival in Lamphun
Longan, known in Thai as Lamyai,is one
of the prize fruits grown in northern Thailand, and the peak of the harvest
season comes in August. The Lamyai Fair is held in the provincial capital of
Lamphun and features a best fruit contest and, of course, this year's Miss
Lamyai. Next year Lamphun will celebrate its 1,440th anniversary with
several cultural and religious events to take place.
Longan are also known as “dragon eyes”
as the husked fruit looks a bit like an eyeball! Native to South East Asia,
the trees grow to about 6-7 m in height and produce fruit only once a year.
So now is the time to go out and buy them!
Venue dates are August 5 - 14, 2011 and will be held at the Lamphun Main
Plan to re-open temple ground again
By Reinhard Hohler
According to the Bangkok Post, the governor of Si Sa
Ket province says he plans to approach his Cambodian counterpart for talks
on re-opening the Preah Vihear temple site to tourists, a Thai news report
Governor Somsak Suwansucharit said he plans to discuss
the matter with the governor of Cambodia's adjoining Preah Vihear province,
which encompasses the ancient ruins, the report said.
The only normal tourist access is through Thailand.
Since July 23, Si Sa Ket provincial authorities have
allowed tourists to visit the Pha Mor I Daeng cliff, close to the Preah
Vihear temple, and Thai tourists are arriving at the cliff observation point
to admire the carvings there as well as the twin pagodas on Khao Phra Viharn
mountain, he said.
The attractions had been closed for over five months
because of the border clashes between Thai and Cambodian troops.
Visitors can enter the cliff area, which is part of the
Khao Phra Viharn National Park, free of charge for the time being. Their
presence is under heavy protection by Thai soldiers.
Visitors must leave their ID cards at the gate of the
national park. Motorists must park their vehicles, including motorcycles, at
the entrance of the park.
Administrators of Kantharalak district, which directly
connects with the disputed area, had talks with officials of the Khao Phra
Viharn National Park on Monday afternoon about measures to supervise local
operators and attract more visitors to the Pha Mor I Daeng cliff.
Bhumiphol Dam International Mountain Bike Race
For more than five years, this Thailand mountain biking event has attracted
both locals and overseas visitors to test their biking skills and enjoy a
bikers race at the Bhumibol Dam in Tak ever year. (Photo courtesy of the
Mountain bikers and their families
gather at the starting line on the crest of the spectacular Bhumibol Dam in
Tak Province. The scenic location provides a variety of race routes that
will both challenge semi-pro mountain bike racers and please recreational
It depends on the participants as to
how far they wish to push their bikes and bodies. If they want the thrill of
dropping down steep slopes through jungle terrain, or the steady pace of
riding along a trail over rolling hills bordering the reservoir, the
organisers have a choice of categories to deliver the right experience.
There are six categories to choose
from: long distance 60 km; family 16 km; tour biking 10 km; cycling-across
on the dam's crest 5 km; international race 39 km; and amateur 24 km. (TAT)
Organic farming a way out of poverty in India
Bismillah Geelani, Andhara Padesh, India
According to the Indian Government more than 200,000 farmers have committed
suicide in the last twenty years due to money problems. With the high cost
of pesticides forcing some farmers to head to the cities for work, a
recently launched pesticide-free program has caught the imagination of
farmers and agricultural experts alike.
A government run organic framing program in the Southern state of Andhara
Pradesh is turning the lives of farmers around.
Thirty-five-year-old Mallesh is just one to vouch for its benefits. Happily
irrigating his vegetable farm in the northern district of Nizamabad as his
wife Parwatamma weeds nearby, he says things are looking good.
“The plants are growing well, they are healthy, have good color and
everything looks perfect,” he says.
Mallesh’s family has been farming for generations, but five years ago he
stopped after he became heavily indebted to a local money lender.
“I couldn’t afford to continue it because the yield was not enough to cover
expenses and I had already taken many loans. I thought it was a waste of
time,” he explains.
Mallesh returned to farming after his neighbor Yadayya introduced him to a
new government program called the Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture
“A village activist told me about the low-cost farming program. I joined
and was given free training in non-pesticide management (NPM). I practiced
it and the results are really amazing. I told other villagers and today 50
farmers in the village are into it,” says Yadayya.
Conventional or chemical-intensified farming costs a farmer nearly 5000
rupees or $110 to cultivate one acre of land, but the NPM reduces the costs
by more than half and also enables the farmers to have multiple crops
It strictly prohibits the use of chemical pesticides while using natural and
locally available materials such as animal dung, urine, crop residue, leaves
and earthworms for fertilizing soil and controlling pests.
B. Rajashekhar heads the government organization, the Society for the
Elimination of Rural Poverty and says the program is 100 percent natural.
“It doesn’t depend on whether you have pesticides or fertilizers in the
market, or even seed availability, everything is local and available in
nature and basically for a farmer the input cost is zero,” he says.
More than a million farmers are currently working on 3 million acres of land
across the southern province of Andhara Pradesh and Rajashekhar says the
results have been excellent.
“The first thing the farmers tell us is that their health is better because
they are not using pesticides. Secondly, many now have a better diet because
they have different types of food crops available on their own land and
thirdly they are able to sell their produce for premium prices because their
crops are really good,” he says.
Local farmer Parwatamma failed to break even from her crops a few years ago
but now earns 20,000 rupees or $450 annually. She says the program has
drastically changed her family’s life.
“We are now relieved from the burden of debt. Now we can pay our children’s
school fees, buy things for ourselves, and also save some money,” she says.
The Andhara Pradesh Government plans to bring 60 percent of the cultivable
land in the state under the program over the next five years. The central
government is so impressed that it has integrated it into a rural employment
policy that will soon be launched nationwide.
India’s strong pro-pesticides lobby, however, is not impressed about the
S Ganes, a member of Indian Pesticides Manufacturers Association says India
simply cannot do without chemical-intensified farming.
“In the 1950’s India was completely organic but the average life span was 32
years old. Now it is 63. It is all very romantic to talk about organic
produce but we now have greater food security thanks to the use of chemicals
such as pesticides,” he says.
According to renowned environmentalist and food security expert Vandana
Shiva, organic farming is the best way to lift farmers out of poverty.
“Across all ecosystems, across all levels of poverty and wealth, if you
measure production in biological, nutritional and financial terms, organic
farms provide the greatest returns. I think it’s time now we shed these
false illusions of industrial chemical agriculture,” argues Vandana.
This article was first broadcast on Asia Calling, a regional current affairs
radio program produced by Indonesia’s independent radio news agency KBR68H
and broadcast in local languages in 10 countries across Asia. You can find
more stories from Asia Calling at
Extra luggage to Yangon
Bangkok Airways will offer its passengers who travel between Bangkok –
Yangon or vice versa an extra 10kg baggage allowance on top of the regular
limit of 20kg. This offer starts 25 July onwards and will end on 31 October
The carrier currently operates two-daily services between Bangkok – Yangon.
From Bangkok - Yangon; PG701 (09.15 – 10.05 hrs) and PG703 (15.00 – 15.50
hrs). From Yangon - Bangkok; PG702 (10.55 – 12.50 hrs) and PG704 (16.40 –
Bangkok Airways started the non-stop service on this route since May 2004.
The airline currently operates this route with 162-seater A320. For more
information and reservation, please contact Bangkok Airways’ Call Center -
1771 or 02-270-6699 or visit www.bangkokair.com. (PR)
Bhutan: where happiness is more important than money
By Reinhard Hohler
Bhutan is more than a sensation. With a population of just less than 700,000
people, the Himalayan Kingdom east of Nepal and Sikkim is some 38,394 square
kilometers large and dominated by steep and high mountains in the north of
the country south of Tibet, while a network of swift rivers form deep
valleys in the central part and drain into the Indian plains of West Bengal
and Assam in the south.
I gladly jumped on the invitation to attend the 4th South and Southeast
Asian Association for the Study of Culture and Religion (SSEASR) Conference
being held in the capital Thimphu from June 30 to July 3, 2011. Under the
theme “Mountains in the Religions of South and Southeast Asia: Place,
Culture, and Power” the international conference was co-sponsored by the
International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR), hosted and
co-organized by the Institute of Language and Culture Studies (ILCS), Royal
University of Bhutan, Thimphu, Bhutan.
With a return air ticket by Drukair Royal Bhutan Airlines (some 20,000Baht)
and a limited visa approval form, I arrived on June 28 somehow at 4.00
o’clock early morning at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok to
check in for flight KB127, which left at 6.50 o’clock on time. There was a
short transit stop at Dhaka International Airport in Bangladesh before
landing at Paro International Airport 10.40 local time. Upon arrival
immigration officers endorse your visa approval form and stamp your passport
for a fee of 20USD.
The Paro valley, some 2,280 meters high and located in the western part of
Bhutan, is more than beautiful. It is visually stunning and an amazing
introduction into a hidden Shangri-La. Dominated by a huge fortress called
“dzong” an abundance of rice fields can be seen, while small hamlets and
isolated fruit farms dot the forested landscape. Bhutan’s official language
is called “Dzongkha” because it is the language spoken in such a fortress,
while the Bhutanese proudly call their country “Druk Yul” or Land of the
Thunder Dragon and themselves as Drukpas.
The distance from Paro International Airport, which is also served from
Kolkata, Delhi, and Kathmandu, to Thimphu is some 50 kilometers. Passing
Paro town, which was only built in 1985, and since 2005 has undergone
unprecedented development, the road to Thimphu reaches the Chuzom
intersection, where the Paro River meets the Thimphu River and the road
splits south to Phuentsholing at the Bhutanese-Indian border.
From a flag-poled bridge, people can see three chortens (pagodas) with
different styles of architecture commonly found in the country, such as
Nepalese, Tibetan and Bhutanese. Seen geographically, Nepalese live in the
sub-tropical south, while Tibetans and Bhutanese live further up north.
The narrow road to Thimphu is embedded in a rather arid and rocky landscape
and ends at a gate of the new expressway, which cuts through the rice
fields, leading to Thimphu town in 15 minutes, which is becoming more and
more urbanized. The altitude is here 2,350-2,450 meters, while the town
counts 100,000 inhabitants.
The best way to explore Thimphu is by foot. Along the main street Norzim Lam
there are the clock tower square, antique shops, art galleries, a policed
roundabout, the Plums Café, a myriad of small hotel-restaurants and shopping
centers. I settled down in the Tandin Hotel, where nice rooms were available
for up to 20USD. Nearby were an Internet place, a cinema, as well as “The
Hub” as a typical entertainment place. Even modern discos are popping up in
the basement of some hotels. There, you can see young Bhutanese in modern
outfit, while during daytime both “Gho” for men and “Kira” for women are the
The people focus very much on responsible tourism to respect and preserve
the culture and traditions within their natural environment. This attitude
contributes to the valuable conservation of the natural and cultural
heritage and improves the well-being of the citizens within the overall
concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH). Actually, Bhutan is known as the
place where happiness is more important than money.
The conference started on June 30 at 9 o’clock with an inauguration ceremony
at the Royal Institute for Tourism and Hospitality (RITH), located in uphill
Motithang, where all the sessions were conducted. Some 220 international
delegates from more than 60 countries participated. The program listed four
keynote addresses about mountains, which give inspirations and are the link
to heaven. After that, some 31 panels followed within the next four days,
just to mention a few outstanding presentations and speakers:
1. South Viet Nam: From That Son Mountain to Hoa Hao Budhism by Professor My
Van Tran, University of South Australia.
2. Myths and Rites of Mount Kassak in Luang Prabang by Dr. Amphay Dore,
Independent Researcher from France.
3. Arunacala, a sacred mountain in South India by Hidenari Nishio, Kinki
University, Osaka, Japan.
4. Mountains and their Spirits in Traditional Lahu Cosmography, Belief and
Ritual Practice by Professor Anthony Walker, Universiti Brunei Darussalam,
5. Mountainous rivers, forests, and a thousand shivalingas: defining sacred
space in India and Cambodia by Dr. Ratna Lahiri, Independent Scholar, New
6. The Hintang Archeological Park, Hua Phan, Lao PDR by Dr. Alan Potkin,
Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois, USA.
Social events included the Welcome Dinner Buffet hosted by Vice Chancellor
of the Royal University of Bhutan, Dasho Dr. Pema Thinley, on June 30,
Dinner and Cultural Show at the Fine Arts Department on July 1, Local Tour
in Thimphu in the afternoon of July 2 including dinner, and last not least,
the Farewell Dance Show and Dinner Buffet around a bonfire at RITH on July
After the successful ending of the conference – the 5th SSEASR Conference
will be at Manila in the Philippines on 28-31, 2013 – there still was enough
time to stay in Thimphu and during sightseeing, the following places should
not to be missed:
1. National Memorial Chorten: The white-washed pagoda was built in 1974 by
Her Majesty Ashi Phuntsho Choden Wangchuk in the memory of her son, Bhutan’s
late 3rd King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, who is regarded as the father of modern
Bhutan. The painting and statues inside the monument provide deep insight
into the Tantric form of Mahayana Buddhism (Vajrayana).
2. Semtokha Dzong: Built in 1629 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, who united
Bhutan as a national state, the impressive fortress is a treasure house of
“mandala” and “thangka” paintings about seven kilometers away from Thimphu.
3. Vegetable Market: Every weekend, many farmers and small business vendors
gather on the bank of the Thimphu River to sell their products and souvenir
4. Tashicho Dzong: Known as “fortress of the glorious religion” the dzong
was rebuilt and redesigned in 1955 after moving the capital to Thimphu from
Punakha further east. It houses the main secretariat building and the
central monk body in the summer months. The dzong is also open to visitors
with a special permit or during the annual Thimphu Tshechu Festival, where a
series of traditional dances are performed by trained dancers and monks.
Time to leave Thimphu came quickly. I took the short time to inspect the
luxury Amankora Resort, a 16-suite lodge close to the capital’s sights,
while remaining a quiet retreat. I met with its American GM Mr. John E.
Reed, who revealed that Amankora offers guided treks and excursions by car
throughout the pristine valleys of Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey
Phobjikha, and Bumthang. Reasons to come back as quick as possible!
On July 5, there was a post-conference tour to Paro, which I could join to
spend the last night in Bhutan there to explore the place more intimately.
The buses left early in the morning on 8.00 o’clock from Thimphu and we
reached Drukgyel Dzong, some two and half hours later. This dzong was
originally built in 1646 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Nmagyal to commemorate his
victory over a Tibetan invasion. The dzong caught fire in 1951 and now only
ruins remain, but the dzong is located at a strategic point, where the trade
route from Tibet enters Paro valley. On a clear day, one can see the
beautiful view towards the majestic mountain Jomolhari, which is more than
7,300 meters high.
The highlight of every visit in Paro is the sightseeing place of the famous
Taktsang Monastery, also called Tiger’s Nest. Built amazingly on a cliff, it
is said that Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava arrived here on the back of a
tigress in the 8th century to spread Buddhism. The monastery built later in
1692 caught fire in April 1998 that damaged the main structure of the
building and some religious objects, but the monastery has been restored to
its former glory and can be reached on a well maintained path some 800
meters above the valley floor. Padmasambhava had died in Nepal but his body
was brought back to Taktsang and is now sealed inside a chorten.
We also made a stop at Kyichu Lhakhang, which is one of the 108 temples
built by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gyampo in the 7th century to subdue the
ogress that lay across the whole of the Himalaya. In the main twemple hall,
one could marvel at a statue of the goddess Tara and Mahakala, the god of
time and death.
Due to a nearby cremation ceremony, we were eager to leave the place very
early to reach Paro town and have a last lunch buffet with cheese and green
chilies at the Holiday Home Hotel. The whole afternoon was then reserved to
visit the National Museum, which was located on a ridge, overlooking the
huge Paro Dzong in the valley.
Unlike the rectangular shape of the Bhutanese dzongs, the museum’s
collection is housed in the conical Ta Dzong built in the 17th century as a
watch tower. Since 1968, Ta Dzong was established as the National Museum of
Bhutan and holds a fascinating exhibition of cultural and artistic artifacts
of Bhutanese civilization, heritage and traditions, such as handcrafted
copper teapots, bronze urns, arms, jewelry, textiles, thankas and Buddhist
sculpture, iron chains and even a gallery of Natural History.
Furthermore, there is a permanent mask exhibition in a building nearby.
There is great merit in viewing the sacred mask dances and even merely
watching such dances is considered a spiritual experience in itself. Another
special exhibition on some royal photographs highlights the past centenary
celebration in 2008, which marks a century of peace and prosperity for the
people of Bhutan under the rule of their “Five Monarchs” and also ensures a
bright and prosperous future.
The current monarch, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk ascended to
the Golden Throne at a very historic moment, when the country had just
adopted a kind of democracy. In October 2011, the King will marry
accordingly and is ready to maintain the precarious balance of social
prosperity among the people of Bhutan in spite of the advancements in the
field of economic development.
The last night in the country I was lucky to spend in the prestigious “Hotel
Olathang Paro” which was established in 1974 for the guests invited to the
coronation of the 4th King of Bhutan His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuk, who
critically acclaimed the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH), which
places happiness of the people above all other development achievements and
is now well received globally.
The architectural heritage design of the hotel within a pine forest on top
of a small hill presents a purely Bhutanese style difficult to forget. At
the same time, the modern “dewa” Spa & Wellness touches on the traditional
Bhutanese art of healing and ensures guests a very comfortable stay. When I
left the Paro valley next morning with Drukair flight KB140 at around 11.00
o’clock via Gauhati in Assam, India to Suvarnabhumi in Bangkok, I really
left an unbelievable paradise behind.
For further information on Bhutan, please contact Mr. Thinley W. Dorji,
Managing Director of Bhutan Tourism Corporation Ltd. in Thimphu by e-mail:
[email protected] or go to: www.kingdomofbhutan.com
Chiang Mai Best Deal
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has launched a “Best Deal” campaign
to attract short-break visitors from regional source markets to Chiang Mai
and the northern Thai provinces.At a press conference here today, Mr Sansern
Ngaorungsi, TAT's Deputy Governor for International Marketing (Asia and
South Pacific), said:
“This project is being organised by the TAT in cooperation with the Chiang
Mai Tourism Business Association and over 180 local tourism partners; such
as, hotels, golf courses, spas, department stores, and food shops. Visitors
can book online through various websites (listed below) and gain access to
special benefits and offers with discounts of up to 50%.”
One highlight of the campaign is a set of special three-day two-night tour
packages discounted 15-20% off the normal price. These are being offered in
three variations to suit different budgets: a) 5,000 Baht package
(accommodation, Thai massage and ticket for playhouse complex), b) 9,000
Baht package (accommodation, food, spa and car rental) and c) 15,000 Baht
package (accommodation, private dinner, spa, and 1 day programme tour).
For independent travellers seeking to design their own tours, the website
also introduces a range of new products and routes like nature guide,
adventure guide, and shopping guide. It also includes a list of events and
festivals, tourist map, currency exchange information and airline timetable.
Mr Sansern added, “TAT is expecting at least 50,000 visitors from Asia and
the South Pacific region to take advantage of this campaign. It is designed
to be easily bookable by the growing number of online-savvy young people,
especially those seeking to get away for short weekend-breaks from cities in
the Asia-Pacific region.”
One key objective of the project is to generate business for the Northern
provinces in the “Green Season”, the monsoon period, when arrivals from the
European and North American markets decline.
“This will help both the airlines get a better return on investment on their
flights but also more importantly, bolster the incomes of the thousands of
small- and medium-sized enterprises and grass root workers who are employed
in the travel and tourism industry.”
He added, “It is also in line with the national development plans to reduce
economic imbalances among different regions of Thailand.”
For further details, please log into www.chiangmaibestdeal.com or web link
www.tourismthailand.org, www.chiangmaigrandsale.com and participating
partner’s websites, or contact the TAT Call Centre 1672. (TAT)
Amazing Offers for Stopover Bangkok Campaign
Over 180 Bangkok-based service providers have offered enthusiastic support
for the “Stopover Bangkok” campaign, a unique effort to attract airline
transit passengers to enjoy a break for a night or two in Thailand’s
exciting capital city.
Organised by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) in cooperation with
MasterCard and numerous Thai private travel industry companies, the campaign
is to run until 31 October 2011. It is targetted at the more than 1.5
million passengers who transit through Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International
Airport every year.
The 58 service providers have offered a range of mouth-watering incentives
to the transit passengers. They include up to 50% discounts, 5,000-9,000
Baht cash off, buy 1 get 1 free and several other deals in 11 categories of
products and services: Adventure and Excursion, Art and Culture, Beauty and
Spa, Ethnic and Local Tour, Fine Dining, Golf Day and Night, Health and
Medical, Shopping, Show and Entertainment, Thai Cooking Class, and
In addition, TAT has received support from 122 renowned Bangkok-based
service providers in 7 thematic tour categories: Amazing Bangkok, Art and
Senses Route, BKK Nightcrawlers, Floating and Exotic Market, Gourmet Route,
Shop, Drop and Spa, and Shopping Route.
MasterCard holders will enjoy special top-up privileges and discounts
starting from 5 up to 20%.
How to get the "Stopover Bangkok" offer?
Browse for offers from the “Stopover Bangkok” website
www.stopoverbangkok.com by selecting from the Suggested Routes and Offers
based on the type of interest.
Click your preferred offer and register your details along with a special
code given to you by your travel agent or airline. After registration, you
will receive a user ID for your next visit.
Once you have submitted your details, the coupon will be sent to your email
or may be printed directly from the website. Present the printed coupon to
the service provider representative/counter with all terms and conditions
For years, Bangkok has been a major transit stop for air travellers
connecting from the Middle East, Europe and Africa to onward flights in
Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia and Australia/New Zealand. This creates an
opportunity to give them a sneak preview of the capital and its surrounding
areas, so that they may return for extended visits in the future.
According to the Airports of Thailand Public Company Limited, the number of
international transit passengers at Suvarnabhumi International Airport
totalled 1.52 million (+5.43%) in 2010 and 612,755 passengers during
January-May 2011, up 11.27% over the same period of 2010.
TAT is hoping that the Stopover Bangkok will be one of our effective
marketing tools that urges tourists to make a decision to come visit Bangkok
before or after their planned destination. (TAT).
International arrivals to SE Asia on the rise
By Reinhard Hohler
International foreign inbound arrivals to eight
Southeast Asia destinations have (collectively) increased by 17.5% during
the months leading up to the half-year mark. All of them, except Indonesia,
reported double-digit performances (see chart). With more than 26-million
arrivals year-to-date, this rate of growth has added almost four million
additional foreign arrivals to the inbound count for the region. Notes:1.
Data sourced from respective NTOs/NSOs. 2. Figures in brackets refer to the
number of moths for which data is available. Myanmar (5) therefore refers to
data for Myanmar for the first five months of 2011 (i.e. Jan-May). 3.
Brunei, Malaysia and Timor-Leste are not included in this count because of a
lack of data. Source: PATA Bangkok
Inaugural flight of new Taiwan airline to Chiang Mai
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) welcomed
the inaugural Trans Asia Airways flight from Taiwan on July 6, 2011. The
Trans Asia Airways Boeing 737 carried 158 people on its inaugural flight and
plants to for charter flights for a total of 14 flights during July 6 -
August 26, 2011. Trans Asia Airways Co is an alliance between four tour
package company charters and will offer flights to Chiang Mai - Chiang Rai
(5 days 4 nights) for Taiwanese tourists.
Unique Khao Phansa Festival
Tak Bat Dok Mai Festival
The Tak Bat Dok Mai floral offering merit-making ritual
is unique to Saraburi province. This ritual stands out from the merit-making
activities conducted in the other parts of Thailand because in addition to
the offerings of cooked rice, food, incense, candles and other conventional
sacred items, the Tak Bat Dok Mai ritual includes offerings of Dok Khao
Phansa flowers that only come into bloom during the Buddhist Lent, hence the
origin of its name. Some villagers call the flower Dok Yung Thong (golden
peacock) or Dok Hong Thong (golden swan flower).
The Dok Khao Phansa is a native species of forested hill-slopes, and is most
commonly found in Saraburi province. A member of the Globba family, the
flower is similar to galingale or turmeric and is just over 25 centimetres
in height. The plant somewhat resembles the "krachai" or aromatic ginger
with flowers in large white, yellow, yellowish-violet, or violet and blue
sprays. The yellow flowers have smaller violet petals that give it a
striking appearance. As the Dok Khao Phansa becomes an increasingly rare
find these days, lotus, jasmine and rose have become acceptable alternatives
for these floral offerings.
The residents of Amphoe Phra Phutthabat have observed this tradition of
making floral offerings since ancient times and it has now become a
significant provincial event.
The "Tak Bat Dok Mai" floral merit-making ceremony is performed at the Wat
Phra Buddhabat Woramahaviharn - Shrine of the Holy Footprint, a highly
revered ancestral place of worship and a national landmark, in the Phra
Buddhabat District of Saraburi province.
In the morning of the first day of the Buddhist Lent, residents of the
community engage in merit-making activities by presenting offerings to the
resident monks at the Wat Phra Buddhabat temple. Later in the morning, young
couples venture out into the forested foothills to gather the Dok Khao
Phansa flowers. Meanwhile in the district area, the candle procession and
the "Tak Bat Dok Mai" procession head towards the temple courtyard.
As a prelude to the floral merit-making ritual which takes place in the
afternoon, a variety of traditional folk games and cultural performances are
featured. Contests such as the long-drum dance, candle and Thai costume
contests keep the audience entertained. In preparation for the "Tak Bat Dok
Mai" merit-making ritual, Buddhist devotees line up along both sides of the
street forming a long line that extends from the "mondop" or seven-tiered
temple spire and trails back along the streets. This forms a passage along
which hundreds of monks and novices file past to accept sacred offerings.
The monks then ascend to the Shrine of the Holy Footprint where the
offerings received are in turn presented as a tribute to the Lord Buddha.
Once the ritual has been completed, the Buddhist devotees pour water over
the feet of the monks and novices in the belief that in doing so, the sins
of the worshippers are washed away.
Wat Phra Phutthabat Ratchaworamahawihan, Amphoe Phra Phutthabat, Saraburi.
July 14 - 16, 2010. For more info: Tourism Authority of Thailand, Lop Buri
Office. (0) 3642 2768-9.
Angkor's Baphuon temple re-openend
By Reinhard Hohler
An ancient Angkor temple in northwestern Cambodia was re-opened to the public on
Sunday following the completion of a decades-long renovation project described
as the world's largest puzzle.
The restoration of the 11th-century Baphuon monument, one of the country's
largest after Angkor Wat, was celebrated with a high-profile ceremony attended
by Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni and French Prime Minister Francois Fillon.
The finished project is the result of half a century of painstaking efforts by
restorers to take apart the crumbling tower's 300,000 sandstone blocks and then
piece them back together.
"The work at Baphuon has been exceptional," Fillon said at the inauguration
event in the northwestern tourist hub of Siem Reap, which drew thousands of
Cambodians waving French, Cambodian and European Union flags.
King Sihamoni expressed his people's "profound gratitude to France" for
completing the 10-million-euro ($14m), French-funded undertaking.
A French-led team of archaeologists dismantled Baphuon in the 1960s because it
was falling apart and laid out its many stone blocks in the surrounding jungle.
Efforts to rebuild the pyramidal structure were interrupted by the civil war in
1970, and the records needed to re-assemble it were destroyed by the hardline
communist Khmer Rouge which took power in 1975.
In 1995, when the area was again safe to work in, the project - by then known as
the world's biggest three-dimensional puzzle - was restarted.
Fillon said French archaeologists would next turn their attention to the
2.7-million-euro restoration of the Western Mebon temple in Angkor, which was
the seat of the medieval Khmer empire.