Tag Archives: Chiang Mai

Eating an elephant?

Travelling hopefully with my camera will have to wait for a while as I return from the humidity of Asia to the icy blasts of England! All good things have to come to an end and like Loi Kratong, my trip is over.

I have hundreds of images to consider. A story of human trafficking to better understand. I continue to wonder, how do I share the issue in a meaningful way? What is the purpose of the trip and my photographs?

The old saying is ‘How do you eat and elephant … one bite at a time.’ And that is what COSA is doing. And wthout a doubt, they are doing a wonderful job, but they can only nibble away at a massive problem. There is absolutely no question that a few dozen girls saved is better than none; but what of the millions of others? And we are talking about millions of people, not just young Thai girls. The UN’s International Labor Organisation estimates that worldwide about 2.5 million people are victims of trafficking and over half of these people are in Asia and the Pacific. It’s mind-boggling. They are trafficked for many purposes: labour, farming, factory work and of course, sex.

Every country in the world is affected, people are taken from or transported to almost anywhere. We don’t ‘see’ it, not through lack of compassion I’m sure, more likely through lack of knowledge. It’s hard to believe that so many people are treated as commodities to be bought, sold and disposed of.

But, as with all ‘BIG ISSUES’, there is no point being overwhelmed by the odds against effecting major change … small steps, small bites of the elephant is a start …

So back to the end of the festival … Chiang Mai was a rubbish tip for only a few hours, an army of cleaners hit the streets and things were back to normal. Grudges, sins and regrets consigned to the River Ping and a new year beckoning … and for me, elephant hors d’oeuvres to taste …

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Letting go of grudges …

The idea of floating old grudges down the river, of letting go my sins and looking forward to a blessed future is a beautiful idea. Here people do this every year on the full moon in November. This year if falls on 28th and Chiang Mai is buzzing with anticipation, full of visitors and industry. At every stall on every street and corner are people making the Krathong that will carry those sins away.

Men are sawing bamboo bases, stacks of banana leaves are ready to be folded and stapled into intricate shapes, flowers are in abundance and there are candles and incense sticks standing by, ready to be the final embellishment. There are school kids in a Krathong contest, stallholders making them to sell, in fact everyone is in in the act. They range from small and simple to larger more complex, intricate designs that cost as much as £2!

I am given one by the hotel (the Rimping Village, with the best service I think I have ever experienced) and wander down to the river Ping.

It’s early, the Krathong parade and the launch of thousands of the small offerings is yet to happen, but there are thousands of people already here plus food stalls, a talent competition and more Krathong for sale than you can imagine.

I light my offering a set it free … what grudges and sins am I letting go? In this country there is a sense of peace, a clear intention to live in the moment and to be patient. If I take nothing else away from this trip than learning to ‘be’ instead if ‘do’ then my life will change immeasurably …

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Hot air and more …

I’m in Chiang Mai to celebrate Loy Krathong (one of its many names and spellings) along with thousands of visitors. It’s friendly, noisy, colourful and sometimes spectacular.

The hot air balloon contest is just that. Uniquely designed balloons are first filled with air from a fan, then a kerosene torch is inserted to light it. There are small teams handling each launch and one balloon is released at a time. I’m informed that the launcher used to get inside too, only jumping out at the last minute .. healthy and safety must now be a consideration!

As the balloon starts to lift, a construction of polystyrene gliders draped with explosives is attached … the balloon lifts and as it rises a small pyrotechnic display releases colour streams, glitter, confetti and the gliders. It’s beautiful and explosive. The gliders gracefully land at random, grabbed by small boys who burn their fingers if they grab the wrong part!

The judges crane their necks to watch, rapidly note taking and scoring each balloon for design and display … how they differentiate I can’t imagine. After taking a few shots I just watch the spectacle as balloons soar over the city…

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Yee Peng in Chiang Mai …

My holiday starts today … I’m leaving Baan Yuu Suk for the comforts of a resort hotel in Chiang Mai. Hospitality here has been warm and wonderful, but I do long for my own room, some city bustle and lots of Thai massage!

I’ll certainly have lots to do and plenty of excitement in Chiang Mai this week. The night of the full moon is known as Loy Krathong Yai and is part of almost a week of festivities. Loy Krathong celebrations happen in many towns across Thailand, in Chiang Mai they call it Yee Peng and I’m here to see it …

From the schedule there are lots of events to attend but we kicked off last night near Mae Jo University where a mass release of floating lanterns created a most amazing spectacle of light and excitement. We arrived really early to secure a place, not in the expensive VIP area where the dancing and processions occurred, but further back. It wasn’t going to matter though, the lanterns float and are seen from everywhere.

The crowds grew at an amazing rate and it was only due to the innate courtesy of the Thai people, who don’t push and shove their way past or jockey for position, that I managed to cope. Crowds, big ones, are not my thing! There was a camera, phone or iPad in every hand and some more serious guys armed with long lenses and tripods. It was hot, sticky and intense.

The ceremonies were rather long, there was nothing for us to see for quite a while but lots of chanting and announcements came over the speakers. Monks arrived and we could see a procession of bald heads glinting in the distance. People kept arriving with the massive Khom Loy, paper lanterns with a bamboo interior that are placed on stakes to light them (or for many, hand held). They burn out as they fly away. This ceremony involved a mass release although there were quite a few that floated away early, no doubt people couldn’t wait!

Tensions grew as the announcements (in Thai and English) explained what was to happen, how to release and suggesting that everyone made a wish as the lanterns flew. I was leaning against a pillar, grateful for support as the heat was oppressive … tens of thousands of people were very closely packed together in the humid air. But as soon as it started, the excitement took over and like everyone else I was snapping madly, holding my camera above the crowd and shooting blind. There was virtually no other way!

Leaving took a very long time …. suffice to say that part wasn’t fun and a bad thunderstorm meant the girls from the shelter had to pile into the minibus … it wasn’t the night to be in the back of a pickup! They curled up and slept as we threaded our way back to the shelter, exhausted but happy …

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Baan Yuu Suk …

Morning of Day 4.

Just starting to feel settled in Baan Yuu Suk when “it’s off we go”! Truck is loaded, we’re set .. excited, anticipatory and ready. I think.

No idea when we’ll have access to wifi so I plan to take notes each day and post retroactively.

Here are some images from around the shelter.

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