Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Mango Fair

Yesterday was the start of the annual Mango Fair in Non Wai about 20 miles from our home. We drove out to Amphoe Nong Wau Sor, where Non Wai, is located, in the early afternoon not quite knowing what to expect at the fair.


We arrived at the fair around 3:00 P.M. and found many of the booths still being set up. The fair was fairly typical for these types of events throughout Isaan. There were two large stages set up at opposite ends of the fair where elaborate stage shows would be performed. The shows typically start around 8 or 9 P.M. and conclude much later in the night with many shows going on into the early hours of the morning. I learned today that one of the shows for this fair ended at 5 A.M. this morning. There was a small area where children could jump on trampolines, slide down a large inflated multi layered structure, ride on a couple kiddie rides or ride on tiny motorcycles. There were also the ubiquitous "Pop The Balloons With Darts" booths as well as a couple booths where you could fire plastic ball from a rifle to knock down objects to win a prize. One booth was a race track where small radio controlled cars navigated through a series of painted obstacles. Along with the many booths selling local foods and soft drinks, there were some booths selling articles such as clothing and hats. A couple of beer gardens were set up where people could eat and sing karaoke along with their drinking. Best of all, for me, there was an area where local farmers were selling mangoes.

The best mangoes, large, unblemished, and uniform in color were for sale from 30 to 35 baht a kilogram ($0.48 USD a pound). In addition to the sweet mango there were also plenty of the hard green mangoes that are used in cooking as well as for eating either with a chili dip sauce, dry chili along with salt, or just as they are. We ended up with three plastic bags filled with delicious mangoes - $1 USD worth.

During our wanderings about the fair we came upon a small booth where some been were drinking beer. Since, as is often the case, I was one of very few foreigners at these events I tend to attract attention. They invited us over to their booth to have a drink with them. I drank a glass of beer and told them that I could not drink much because I had to drive the truck back to our home. They then showed me and I realized that THEY WERE THE POLICE!

They had a karaoke system set up and were singing. They had me sing some songs in English. After awhile and some more beer, we were singing songs together in Thai or my feeble but earnest imitation of Thai. We were having such a good time that some of the performers from the nearby stage area came over to investigate. They had been putting on their make-up and costumes in preparation for the start of their show.




These were not the typical female singers or Go-Go girls that I photograph backstage. These were female impersonators. They were not Kathoeys (Lady Boys) who strive and for the most part succeed in transforming themselves into appearing as females. These performers were more "campy" with their outlandish makeup and over the top movements. They made no effort to disguise their low voices or to even ensure that they had recently shaved their face. I took several photographs and they were faithful to their representations as performers. They were very photogenic. I viewed the experience as a good opportunity to work with a different type of people under different, if not challenging, conditions to create interesting photographs.

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