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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Krathong festival in Chiang Mai

We returned to Chiang Mai just as the Loy Krathong festival proper was beginning. The streets in the evening were full of people celebrating and lighting hot air balloons until the sky was absolutely full of them and you wondered why the entire city hadn't caught on fire.

Compare with the Boun Ok Phansa festival in Luang Prabang.

The next morning there were a series of parades of pipe bands and all manner of civil societies including various professional associations from caterers to rickshaw drivers.

We drove out to Doi Satep, a golden shining stupa on the mountain overlooking Chiang Mai on a rental motor bike.

Hmong girl posing for coins

Small Hmong girls singing "We have no money"

We then drove through the forest over the back of the mountain to a Hmong refugee village, where Christine bought some second-hand traditional Hmong textiles. Its hard to know what has happened to these people since, perched on forest land on the outskirts of Chiang Mai, because the Thais have been in the habit of forcefully repatriating many Hmong to Laos where they end up in 'reeducation' camps in dire conditions as a result of punitive actions against the Hmong that go back to them supporting the CIA in the Vietnam war.

Yesterday we made a concerted effort to hold the monastery to account for the dog biting and managed with the help of the guy who first helped us out when the incident happened to get the curator of the museum there to 'donate' 200 Bt about a quarter of our current costs and 40% of our insurance excess. The monks, who care for the dogs however remained shifty and tried every way to write themselves out of the picture, forcing us in exchange to sign a document waiving them of any responsibility for the injury, which we think is an utterly self-serving double standard on their part, hypocritical and irresponsible.

The river by the temple with Krathong celebrations

Old traditional wooden houses on the other side of the river

In the evening the parades completely choked the city centre, so I took of on the motor bike doing a long circuit around the edge, coming into the central area through the back streets south of town so I could get into the central swing. There were illuminated boats on the river, the sky was full of hot air balloons, there were marquees along the river bank with people offering Krathongs, the floating flower and candle offerings, to dispatch the negative energies out on to the water so the life force can be renewed. The parade wound along the street beside with glowing elephants, girls seated in a giant lotus petal, bands and drummers swordsmen and so on in a series of floats. Then there was a fireworks display and people everywhere throwing bangers into the crowd.

There were also heaps of gift stalls with all manner of stuff from marionettes and samurai swords to giant beetles and preserved bats, stalls with comfort chairs offering people foot massage, a little Hmong girl dancing to a ghetto blaster for money, comedians, a woman dressed as a butterfly, and a great variety of street food stalls, from banana pancakes to black Chinese herbal jelly.

Today is a rest day prior to taking the night air con sleeper to Bangkok where we will file a police report and try to see some of the canals before taking a second sleeper to Surat Thani in the south where we will try to reach Phuket by noon in time for Christine's next rabies shot.

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