Monday, October 28, 2013

Banana Roses

Lay Worker Making A Rose From A Banana Leaf

On our visit to Sakon Nakhon to attend the Wax Castle Festival we ended up hiring the same car and driver that we had hired last year.  Upon our arrival at our hotel on October 17th we informed the very helpful people at the registration desk that we would like to hire the same car/driver that we had the previous year.  We gave a description of the man and they immediately recognized who we wanted.  We told them we wanted the car driver for the next day starting at 8:00 A.M.  While I filled out the registration forms and gave them my passport, they called the man.  They spoke with the man and gave me his charges for the day.  The charges were the same as they were last year so we readily agreed.

Gave my passport to the hotel staff?  Yes.  As Duang sometimes explains to me. "Thailand not same as America"  In Thailand as well as other countries in Southeast Asia, you have to establish your identity when renting a hotel room.  Thai nationals in Thailand show their national identity card.  Foreigners have to submit their passport to the reception staff who xerox the relevant pages.  By law the hotels have to have a record of who has stayed in their establishment and confirm that the foreigners are legally in the country - proper unexpired visa.  Private citizens are also supposed to report to local police any foreign guests that are staying in their home but I suspect that this is not fully complied with.

We were a little taken aback the next morning at 8:00 A.M. when a young man showed up rather than the elderly man that we were expecting.   The young man had a nice 4 door pick up truck and he seemed like he had a "good heart"  "Good Heart" is very important here in Isaan.  It means roughly a good and nice person. The young man quickly demonstrated that he was a good as well as safe driver.  After a while in a conversation through Duang, we determined that he was actually the son of our driver from last year.  Now I understood what was going on and everything was fine.

Our first stop of the day was at Wat Suwaneen Gindalam.  We had spent quite a bit of time at the Wat last year - even stopping by on our way back home.  The Monks as well as lay people had been extremely nice and friendly during our visit.  A major component of the wax castle floats are hundreds of small solid wax figurines of mythological creatures of the Himmapan Forest.  Last year the kind people of Wat Suwaneen Gindalam gave us two of the extra figures to bring home.

We were quickly recognized upon our return to the Wat this year.  We found out that the Wat took third place last year and they were striving to win first place this year,  While we were able to watch the completion of the large floats this year, we arrived this year after the two main floats had already been transported into town to a staging area for the night's procession.  Although the main floats were not at the Wat, there was still some work going on.  The tractor trailer truck that would pull one of the main floats still had to be decorated.  A bamboo structure had been erected around the truck but only about 50% of the decorative panels had been attached to the bamboo substructure.

This year the Wat had created a grand wax castle float and a more organic float sort of like a float you see in the Rose Bowl Parade.  It seemed to me that this year there was a different theme for the floats.  Rather than being wax some of the floats were created with fibers and banana leaf materials.

Twisting and Turning A Banana Leaf Into a Green Rose

During our stay at the Wat, one of  the men showed and tried to teach Duang how to make the roses in the float out of banana leaves.

Teacher and Student
Here in Isaan, banana trees are used for many purposes.  I have seen banana stalks used to create a "money tree".  Banana leaves are used to cook food in.  Banana leaves are used as plates.  Banana stalks are used as a substitute for wood to create small houses associated with funeral rites.  Banana leaves are skillfully manipulated to create centerpieces for baii sii rituals.  However this was the first time that I have seen a banana leaf used to create a rose albeit a green rose.

The man quickly created a nice green roses which he presented to Duang as a souvenir of our visit.

Shortly after we arrived, many of the workers left to go into town to freshen up the floats.  We followed them into town to watch them freshen up and repair their floats.

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