Every year around this time our Moo Baan or village puts on a small Buddhist festival involving the village’s wat or temple. These festivals seem to be pretty light hearted affairs with the aim of having time off work, raising some money, gaining merit in the Buddhist system, having a few drinks, listening to music and dancing. A pretty good combination in my opinion.
This is the first time I have been in the village for this occasion so on Sunday we left the cool of our partly finished house, and you can read about why we have set up camp there in my latest post on the build HERE, and joined the crowd for an afternoon of celebration Isaan style.
The central focus to the festival is the transportation of a long piece of cloth painted with a Buddhist story, a lot of it in picture form, from a point out the the countryside around the village and ending up at the wat. The first goal of the afternoon the was to find the gathering spot, which had moved from the previous year.
We started walking towards the gathering area but in true Isaan form, where why walk when you can get a motorised alternative is the go, a passing small pickup was flagged down and Gaun my wife, myself, Yuan and Lud, my brother and sister-in-law and a couple of others climbed aboard.
It is a 35 degrees day, which is why the umbrellas are on full display.
Abandoned by our transport at the small dirt road leading to the meeting point we trudged off through the very dry countryside.
Every celebration is powered by very loud Isaan music and that is provided by huge speakers plus generator mounted on usually extremely old trucks of some sort. Our version caught up with us as we headed down this road with a few extra villagers.
If you come to rural Thailand this time of year expecting the Thailand picture postcard type of scenery you will be very disappointed. We have recently had a couple of weeks of thunderstorm rain in the evenings but other than that it had been totally dry since the beginning of November 2014. This combined with the end of the rice and sugar harvests means that Thailand is a brown parched land.
We arrived at the place where the ceremony to bless the festival was to scheduled happen. We were some of the last to get there as a good crowd of locals were already sitting under the trees.
The monks finally arrived all squashed in a pickup and the ceremony got underway. There is nothing very formal or organised about a Thai Buddhist ceremony. There is usually a group of senior people at the front with the monks and there rest of the group carries on with whatever they feel like doing.
We were mixed with the group of slightly smashed ladies towards the back and it was all laughter, more drinking and lots of photo swaps in our area. There was a slightly more devotional moment when the monks did some chanting but it didn’t stop the consumption of beer, more supplies of which arrived with a lady on a motorbike.
Ceremony over the monks came around to the front of the queue to lead the transporting of the roll of cloth, remember that from the beginning of the post?, to the temple.
I have often told you about the harvesting nature of Isaan people and here it is in action. This guy is breaking small branches off this tree which will form some part of his evening meal. From my experience of this aspect of Isaan food I can predict that the outcome will be a somewhat bitter dish, what Gaun calls “medicinal”! Not on my menu – thank you Gaun.
Needless to say the sound system travelled with us and the dancing got underway on the way back, which was a pretty good effort in the heat. Gaun is a natural dancer and put her anywhere near music and she’s off. No drink required she just can’t stop. It’s not hard to pick Gaun in the following video. Yuan making a contribution too.
Also many of the intersections had young people on motorbikes, who were interested enough to watch but leaving the doing to the elders.
Other family groups and heaps of young children watching what is a big event for the village.
The procession passed our new house and Gaun was prepared with a hose, only to help cool the locals of course.
It didn’t turn out well as you can see from this video:
The festival ended up at the wat to continue into the night but we didn’t. We had an invitation to a Thai housewarming at a Moo Baan close to us starting at 5.00 pm so we packed in one celebration and joined another.
Our invitation was delivered by the lady who owns the resort we stayed at for a few days when the village got too noisy for me during the New Year celebrations. Her brother had just finished building a very small house on one of three blocks of land owned by the family.
Like a Thai wedding you get a formal invitation in an envelope with your names on. The idea is that you return the envelope with your contribution to the event. This will be noted and if you then invite them to your housewarming you will expect to get a similar amount in your returned envelope!
The party was catered with a huge amount of really very good food, most of which I could eat for once! Beer, whisky and soft drinks, the latter in moderation, was also available on each table.
And needless to say a large stage had been set up the front for very loud Isaan music.
I was in the house today, the second day of temple celebrations, and another version of the procession swung by passing Gaun’s family home this time. More collections for money, music and dancing. I loved the local aspect to these couple of days, the fact that I was welcome to join in and it was great to start to see a lot of familiar faces in the crowd. There is a sense of community here that we in the West have lost along the way.
Thanks for reading.