We're back, after an epic 1500km round trip in 2 days; mother-in-law, aged 90, belting it out with the best of us all the way!
A great drive to the S-E of Chiang Mai, out past Phrae (yep, Myriama stopped to buy the famous & distinctive 'seua maw hawm', an indigo dyed cotton farmer's shirt seen all over). Although we've passed this way before, I am taken aback each time by how different it can look. This time, with the passing of the rain, it is just so GREEN; the mountains magestic in their blue. The area around Phrae is also famous for its teak & its wonderful to see the old farm buildings built from this exceptional wood.
Lovely drive through the mountains from there down to Dan Sai, drawn to a town & festival which Lonely Planet describes as ' for 362 days a year, Dan sai is an innoculous little town.....but for 3 days, its the site of one of the country's liveliest & loudest festivals'.
Phi Ta Khon is certainly unique, certainly colourful! Its a fertility festival, one in which the locals, blessed by the monks, seek the blessing of the 'spirits' to ensure fertility not only of the land (through good rains, a good harvest, & so on) but also of the population (through many children......). After a number of buddhist ceremonies, the locals complete the transfer into spirits through dressing up in the most colourful of costumes, adorned with massive, but unique, grotesque masks (made from rice & coconut husks) in every imaginable colour. Then, fueled by plenty of local rice wine & whisky, the spirits dance their way up through the main street, loud music added to by all sorts of whistles & bells....
The spirits carrying exaggerated sculptured penises, wave them about the place especially at any girls (& tourists) along the route. There are 2 huge 'figures', one male & one female, clearly so, as witnessed by their exaggerated sexual organs. The whole (nice) rabble heads up to the Wat/temple & circumambulate in a continuous motion, all the time getting more & more rowdy. There's plenty of sexual innuendo with older village woman taking turns, amid shrieks of laughter, to shake the lengthy penis of the large male figure.
You can well imagine this event is 'fairly packed'. Many arrive from surrounding villages on their small cc motor-bikes; a great way to see the event & enjoy the country-side.
That should be enough to wet your apetites, or, at least, make you laugh. We drove home through acre after acre of rice paddies (no wonder Thailand is the world's biggest exporter); the colour of growing rice is the most beautiful of greens. We felt blesssed driving through the miles of sun-lit green plains set against the backdrop of the blue-grey sky of an approaching (massive) tropical storm.