The 1st of March was the start of a six day festival in Si Bun Ruang, our home town in the north east of Thailand, a region called Isaan/Isan. The event kicked off with a display of traditional Thai dancing involving over 500 ladies both young and older from the surrounding villages as well as the town of Si Bun Ruang itself. After a period of quiet due to the death of the king last year it was nice to see activity on the streets again leading up to the big festivals such as Songkran HERE and Bun Bang Fai HERE.

This is a rural area so the festival includes not only dancing, music and markets but also things like food, chicken and vegetable judging. Held from the 1st – 6th March.

We were told that things started at 6.00 am, which ended up being misinformation because it is still dark then at this time of year. We arrived at the location just outside the local Amphur, a sort of government registry office, at about 7.00 only to be told by a policeman that the dancing wasn’t planned to start until 8.30. Oh well. Home for a coffee and back again.

The dancing was happening in front of the shrine while the markets were on that grassed area in front of the Amphur office.

Naresuan was a king back in the 1500’s and a Thai folk hero. You can read about him HERE. If you see a shrine or statue with lots of roosters, and you’ll find them all over Thailand, then you have most likely found a dedication to King Naresuan. If you want to find out why there’s a connection between the king and roosters then go to the end of this article HERE.

A much larger shrine dedicated to the King in Nong Bua Lamphu.

Roosters galore.

This is inside the grounds of a small shrine that you can see in the background just off the road where the main dancing display was to happen.

A table had been set up in front of the shrine and lots of people were adding incense/joss sticks to the display in a mark of respect. The drifting smoke was making sure the visit was brief.

Waiting.

The dancing starts inside the shrine grounds and………………….

…………….outside on the street.

A pretty impressive turnout.

A short video can be watched here:

The main black and white theme was in respect for the former king. Many of the traditional Isaan dances have rural activities as their base and you’ll see this in the dance moves they make. The group only had the one fairly short routine, which was good because they were asked to perform it three times for newcomers who had missed out on the previous performance. Thankfully it was a cooler day and early morning because the full makeup and costumes aren’t the best for hot days. The big festivals later are held in the full heat in the high 30’s and the dancers are on the street for literally hours, an impossible ask of a farang in the same situation. In these cases the dancers have a support group following with cool water and towels.

A group of ladyboys, part of the Bun Bang Fai festival, are offered water to keep them going.

Not all black and white. These dancers are from my stepdaughter’s school.

A pleasant change to see a break from the endless black clothes. Government employees have to wear black for 12 months after the king’s death.

All captured by this camera drone. A sign of the times. Having said that I have a drone on my to-buy list to add some different types of photos to the blog.

Boys and girls involved. Things like dressing up, dancing, flowers and lipstick are totally accepted and not seen as less “manly” in Thailand.

Always a pleasure to see these graceful Thais in dance mode.

Simple but very smart.

Ladyboys are much more self-absorbed than their female role models. You probably wouldn’t pick her as a ladyboy. Some try hard but can’t overcome the challenges 🙂

Not a bad effort…………..but………….

……………….. this ladyboy towered over the females.

A big police presence but mostly very busy taking photos of each other.

This aspect of the festival was over in about an hour and then the serious part got underway – photos and food.

You won’t see happier Thais than when in a group photo. This group of school kids was so pleased to have the sole westerner take their photo.

A smaller group. You might note the guy in the middle has lipstick. Doesn’t necessarily mean anything other than part of dressing up for a display like this.

With their teacher I think.

And free food. Can life get better? This group serving is from one of the traffic accident rescue services you see rushing around with their lights flashing. Probably just going to lunch.

The offering of free food and drink is pretty standard at some festivals connected with Buddhism, although a slightly weak link here being an event celebrating an ancient king. The idea is that the people providing the food get merit points that go towards the plus side of their life “balance sheet”. Rebirth as an Isaan dog is not a preferred option so keep that food coming 🙂

Popular.

Isaan people LOVE dancing and that was obvious when a mor lum/lam band started playing (just music and no singing in this case) and the party was on. Heavy on percussion and a simple foot tapping beat demonstrated in the video I took below to celebrate the initiation of a new monk in our moo ban. If I ever had to move from Isaan the sound of a lum band would bring my heart right back:

There’s no age restriction to having fun.

You can watch a brief video of this part of the morning below:

The ladyboys were out in force this day.

The chance to dress up is pretty irresistible. One more.

The photos and food out of the way the next option is to hit the markets across the street. More food of course (you’ll have to part with money) and all the usual clothes, phone accessories and cheap homewares stalls.

The kids grabbing some food or drinks before heading back to school.

Mostly food stalls in the main street.

Clothes, shoes and homewares.

The Thai lottery is drawn on the 1st and 16th of each month. This day being the 1st of March the sellers were out in force.

A market fair is usually part of these events.

And music every day in the evenings.

Not much overhead required with a sitdown Isaan restaurant! You pay for the drinks on offer if you open them. They are warm so you buy the ice as an extra. Pretty standard protocol.

Fish baked in salt to keep them moist. Delicious. Usually about 150 baht (A$6.00) per fish, which does two people.

Now that’s serious. All the ingredients for the Isaan signature dish – a pappaya salad (som tum). At local levels this is a super sour and extremely hot dish. You can find a western recipe HERE.

As well as the stalls a couple of competitions were underway. Some of the villages (moo bans) had entered teams to be judged for the preparation and presentation of Isaan food. The rooster judging was happening as well.

A stall for each village.

Preparing fish.

Just a touch of chillies!

More setting up.

And on the agricultural side of things:

The rooster judging.

Gaun taking only a very modest interest in the roosters with “My Dog”.

Two judges making the assessment.

A proud owner.

So there you have a great way to start the day mixing with the locals.

Thanks for reading.