In December of 2009, the Chiang Mai ToyRide traveled to Ban Mai Sammaki, just a kilometer from Arunothai and just 2 kilometers from the Burma border.
I learned of a festival being held there today and tomorrow, but I knew little of what it was about. It’s a nice village, with terrific views and friendly people, so I decided to make it a day trip.
Many of the “hill tribes” are Christian
I’m known for being a little compulsive/obsessive about searching the ‘net for information about some of the events and places I go. These are my photos, but I will unashamedly plagiarize and copy some of the facts into this post.
Kachins are not recognized as an ethnic group in Thailand but many live in Ban Mai Samakki, known as Kachin village, which was established in 1982 under the patronage of the king on land donated by the Royal project.
The Kachin living in Thailand migrated there more than 30 years ago. Apart from Burma’s Kachin State, where most Kachin live, other Kachin communities exist in India and China.
The manau festival is traditionally held to mark various important community events—weddings, funerals, declarations of war and victory celebrations. The Baan Mai Samaki fiesta was organized for no other reason than to keep an ancient tradition alive and to call the Kachin diaspora together—rather like a Welsh eisteddfod or a Scottish highland gathering.
The festival includes music, dancing, contests, and performances of the special Manau dance.
It’s a scene out of the distant past—two columns of dancers loop, coil and weave a sinuous route around a ceremonial arch spanning a circular arena enclosed by a split bamboo fence. The arch is topped by a line of 10 tall boards colorfully decorated with linked linear maze patterns. A crossbeam, decorated with depictions of various birds and other animals, carries the carved head of a hornbill bird at one end and its tail at the other. The structure is called a manau—and that’s also the name of the ritual dance ceremony, performed by the Kachin people of Burma.
More about these Army guys later!
At certain points of the dance the two groups would circle the manau and let out a “whoop” raising their knives or hands in unison.
As at most festivals I have attended near the border areas; the Thai Army make their presence felt.
As the event progressed these guys seem to relax some.
After about an hour of winding around the manau, they took a break for lunch. The usual food stalls at Thai events were all around. They also had a building open with some cultural history and items of interest (if you could read Thai or Kachin).
If you don’t have all the jewelry you need, you can barter for more.
I think that teenagers are pretty much the same everywhere. This group asked me to join them for lunch.
And this deluded young lady asked if she could have her photo taken with me….
Her friend taking the photos was soon handed four other cameras by more of her friends……….(you know I can only hold my stomach in for so long!) .
After a lunch break, the individual ethnic groups posed for photos and performed dances outside the manau ring.
The Army guys had lost all of their authoritarian demeanor and just joined in the fun….
On a serious note; a donation box was passed around by a CMTR member requesting donations to assist the Kachin Pre-School. A contribution was given by every soldier.
There were some interesting groups there that I have not seen before;
I am not sure who these people are.
But, I asked these guys;
The Rawang people are an ethnic group who inhabit far northern Kachin State of Burma (Myanmar). They speak and write in their own language, Rawang (writing system based on Matwang dialect); and have more than 70 sub-clans/dialects within their grouping.
During the Second World War they fought against the Japanese aiding the British and Americans….
Their contribution earned them the accolade “the Gurkhas of Southeast Asia.” In fact, just as the Gurkhas’ kukri forms part of their traditional ceremonial uniform, so the Kachin short sword, or dah, is still carried upright by the male Kachin as part of their ritual costume as they dance the manau.
And the culture says;
The myth accounting for the origin of the manau describes how the sun god summoned to his court the earthly community of birds, led by the hornbill—a “king black bird” (probably a raven)—and ordered them to dance for his entertainment. In later times, the birds are then said to have taught the Kachin the same dances.
Black and white hornbill feathers adorn the elaborate headdresses of the lead dancers, while their costumes also feature images of various birds, including the peacock. The elaborate ceremonial is an art form that expresses the quintessence of the pride the Kachin have in their history and culture.
BUT; As cultures go, they do progress (or in this case regress?).
The crowd pleasers of the show were……
These guys doing Michael Jackson’s ”Thriller”.
On that note it was time to leave. It was late afternoon, HOT (regardless of what they say about the “cold season” here (“coldest in years”)) and at 3:00PM the Manau dance was to begin again. One can only watch people go around in circles for so long………