Monday, April 13, 2009

Maehongson 02 April 2009

Wednesday 02 April 2009, the third day of the festival called "Hae Krua Lu Day", by all official and unofficial accounts, there was to be the big parade through town as part of the Loi Sang Long ritual. The parade was scheduled to start at 7:00 A. M. so we got up at 5:00 A. M. to get over to the Wat at 6:00 A. M. to catch the preparations.

We arrived at Wat Jong Kum-Jong Klong just before 6:00 A.M. in plenty of time to witness the preparations for the grand procession. The Wat's grounds were filled with family member in their best clothing. Relatives were going to walk in the procession along with the jewelled princes and their porters. As part of the procession today the families were carrying offerings to be made at the Wats.

In general the offerings were carried by the women and young children. The children carried small decorative bowls, flowers, and small decorative objects such as candle holders. The women carried buckets of toiletries, linens, food items, and pillows suspended from a bamboo pole carried between the two women on their shoulders. It seemed a little ironic that this procession was occurring just before Easter. The parade participants were definitely dressed in the Shan equivalent of their Easter suits.

Just as in the previous procession through town this procession was led by the Shan elders and the fancy horse. The shaman type man, dressed in white, carried a fancy offering bowl that was filled with some plants as well as a bottle of drinking water. Today there were two floats that would be hand carried by four men along the route. One float was a model of a Wat. It was very fancy and about 15 feet tall which required a great deal of focus as well as care to carry it beneath some of the utility lines that crossed streets on the parade route. Fortunately there were no incidents during the parade involving this float. The second float was shorter - about 8 feet high. It was also hand carried by four men along the parade route. It was a sort of pyramid shaped object made out of serving trays, bowls and dishes all topped off by a very fancy white lace umbrella.

Today unlike the previous parade there was a musical float - well actually it was a heavy industrial duty flat bed truck decked out with bunting. On top of the flat bed were four women dancers dressed in fancy outfits. The rear of the flat bed also contained the Shan band - four men - a drum player, a gong player, a stringed instrument player, and A LEAF BLOWER. No not a leaf blower machine to clean driveways but an elderly man who had a branch from a tree that he blew on the leaves to make music (more like squawking sounds). This is similar to the Hmong traditional music and communication technique using leaves that I had previously witnessed and wrote about in an earlier blog. Oddly enough the band put out some pretty good music. I am not sure that someone on the old Dick Clark TV show, American Bandstand", would have rated it very high because "It had a good beat and you could dance to it" but the female dancers had not trouble dancing to it.

Some of the relatives marching in today's procession carried long poles with decorations made out of tied handkerchiefs. I suspect that inside the handkerchiefs were some food offerings. Earlier in the trip I had sampled a Shan treat - a ball of popped rice in a caramel type binder. It was very to the Thai Cracker jacks that I watched being made in Isaan last Fall. Just as the treat was in Isaan, this was very tasty.

The parade got off more or less on schedule. We knew the route so we took a short cut and set up on the sidewalk awaiting the procession. As the procession advanced, elderly women would walk up to the various components of the procession and gently toss popped rice on the participants - including the horse. This was a sort of offering and blessings similar to tossing rice on newlyweds in the West.

One component of today's parade was a group of women who performed traditional dances. They were dressed in very pretty traditional Shan clothing. They were very graceful and like other groups in the parade, received popped rice offerings.

The jewelled princes were much more animated today. They bounced, waved fans in dance movements, and in general thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

After the procession passed by we returned to the truck and headed back to the hotel. We had breakfast, I showered, and we set out for the remainder of the day. The afternoon's activities will be in the next blog.

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