Festival of Colors: A Celebration of Thailand’s Indigenous Peoples at Chiang Mai University Art Museum

Thailand is very diverse in terms of the ethnic groups living here. Besides all the falang (foreigners) living here, the country has more than 30 ethnic groups varying in history, language, religion, appearance, and patterns of livelihood. However, the Thai, akin to the Lao of Laos, the Shan of Myanmar (Burma prior to June 1989), and the Thai groupings of southern China , comprise about 75% of the total population of Thailand . The several branches of Thai are united by a common language.

Last Friday, September 7th, I attended an event called "Festival of Colors: A Celebration of Thailand’s Indigenous Peoples" at Chiang Mai University Art Museum (corner of Nimmenhaemin and Suthep Rd. ) The event included cultural performances, concerts, films, games, sports, food, art, and handicrafts from 15 of Thailand ‘s ethnic groups. There was furthermore a very nice (photo) Tribal Citizens Exhibition: Have we achieved equal rights or not?

For more information about the lack of human rights for indigenous and ethnic people in Thailand , please see the following United Nations document: http://www.un.org/democracyfund/Docs/Thailand06.doc

The photo below is from the event.

Thailand's Indigenous Peoples" at Chiang Mai University Art Museum

Video: Wat Umong (the forest temple), Chiang Mai

This video shows you the amazing Wat Umong temple in Chiang Mai.

Scenery: Peaceful land with lots of trees and shade on a hot day. You can feed the fish, turtles, and ducks in a large pond. The Wat is famous for its ancient tunnels and large stupa. Other attractions include a Buddha field of broken sculptures, a fasting Bodhisattva, a spiritual theatre of paintings, reproductions of ancient Buddhist sculptures from India, and a library-museum.

History: The monastery at Wat Umong is one of the oldest in Chiang Mai, dating back to 1300 A.D. The fable goes that a king built the brick-lined tunnels for an eccentric monk named Thera Jan. Once upon a time there were paintings decorated on the wall which dated back to about 1380. You can enter the tunnels to see the small shrines inside (a flashlight is useful). The adjoining stupa was constructed about 1520 over an earlier stupa (1400-1550). The monastery was eventually abandoned, though Japanese troops were said to have a stronghold here during World War 2. Since 1948, the Thai prince Jao Chun Sirorot has been active in rebuilding and reestablishing the monastery. In 1949 he invited Buddhadasa Bhikkhu (founder of Suan Mokkh in southern Thailand) to come and live in the monastery. Obligations kept Buddhadasa Bhikkhu from coming and instead he sent Ajahn Pannananda and other monks to help set up and run Wat Umong.

Tunnels at Wat Umong, Chiang Mai

Getting there: Wat Umong is located 3.5 km west of Chiang Mai. From Suandok Gate (the West gate of the old city) you drive up Suthep road (approximately 2, 5 km West) and cross Canal road. About half a kilometer after Canal road, there is a sign on your left hand side which leads you to Wat Umong. From here follow the signs south 1 km to the Wat. The easiest way is by tuk-tuk, scooter or bicycle.

Here’s a map


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Swimming pools in Chiang Mai, Thailand

One of the great ways to exercise in Chiang Mai is swimming. Most of the year you can swim both in the daytime and in the evening – it is always warm and all the swimming pools I know of are outside. The only time of the year that you may prefer only to swim during the day is the winter (from November to February) when the air temperature may drop to 15 degrees in the evening.

Even for a working woman like myself, I still feel as if I am on holiday all year long when I go to my favorite pool twice a week to swim. The picture below feature my favorite swimming pool. Thomas and I swim here together. It is the pool on the 7th floor in the Lotus Hotel in Central Kad Suen Kaew on Huay Kaew road. The swimming pool which is open from 9-21 costs 100 baht to use per time and with that comes a clean towel (not sour like most laundry in the rainy season they must have the only hot water washing machine in Chiang Mai 🙂 ). In the weekends we like to spend time sunbathing here as well and if you hide yourself you can even sunbath without a top (Scandinavian style).

Tina, Lotus Hotel Swimming Pool

Another pool you might want to consider is the Olympic size pool in the 700 Years Stadium. The entrance fee is 50 baht, but you have to remember your own towel and padlock for the safe. Be warned that the showers and toilets are a bit dirty. To get to the stadium you drive north on the Canal road for about 4 kilometers (from Huay Kaew road). It is on your left-hand side. The opening hours are 9-20.

A third option is the Duangtawan Hotel (although more expensive). The hotel has a sauna and a big L-shaped pool. The cost for using the pool for one day is 200 baht, but monthly and yearly memberships are also available. The Duangtawan hotel is located on Loi Kroh road just off the night Bazaar..Lotus swimming pool, Chiang Mai, Thailand

A cheaper option is the swimming pool at Hillside Plaza and Condo on Huay Kaew road. The pool is fairly small and not really suitable for laps, but it is nice to sunbath there (although topless is not accepted). The entrance fee is 50 baht which includes free refill of ice cold water

Hence you don’t need to stay in an expensive hotel in Chiang Mai to have access to a swimming pool. It’s perfectly affordable and accessible without paying a lot for accommodation. Enjoy 🙂

Traditional Thai massage at Wat Umong, Chiang Mai

Tina, having a massage at Wat Umong, Chiang Mai, ThailandIf there is one thing Thailand is famous for it is definitely their massage parlours both erotic and non-erotic. Now I have never had an erotic massage (Thomas might – but I am sure he would not admit it) but I have enjoyed Thai massage many times. Thai massage is bodywork that is performed on a mat/futon on the floor. No oils are used, as it is performed over loose-fitting clothing, usually provided by the massage parlor. During the massage you are placed into numerous Yoga stretches that flow into one another, the masseuse (usually a woman) kneads and compresses the muscles, while intermittently applying acupressure. You are suppose to be completely relaxed while receiving a massage but that can honestly be a bit difficult sometimes when the pressure on the muscles is too hard. Then you will swiftly have to say "bao bao" which means "soft" in Thai. I usually do that every time in the beginning when I receive a massage – that saves me from saying it after it hurts too much.

My favorite massage parlor in Chiang Mai is located next to Wat Umong (please see directions in the blog A visit to Wat Umong (forest temple), Chiang Mai). When approaching Wat Umong you will see a big yellow sign on your right hand side saying "99". This means that the Thai massage costs 99 baht for one hour and is basically as cheap as you can find it in Chiang Mai. The house itself is open in the front and the roof is made from leaves which helps make the atmosphere very relaxed. There are always around 12 ladies working in this massage parlor, but in the weekend you might have to wait a little while to get a massage as the place is very popular among the Thai residents of Chiang Mai.

Thomas and I enjoy going there on the weekends when we are not working and usually get one and a half hour massage at a time enough to make you completely tranquil and forget about any stress you may have had during the week. It is definitely worth a try!

Thailand sets date for election

Thailand has set a date for the first general election following last year’s coup that ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra from power. The electoral commission said the election would be held on 23 December, just in time for people going on holiday at Christmas – be warned!

Thailand’s military-installed government had promised elections by the end of the year after it won approval for a new constitution.

Nearly 58% voted for the changes in a referendum earlier this month, though many pro-Thaksin areas rejected them.

Podcast: Whirling Dervishes of Rumi from Turkiye

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It was a rainy Thursday evening in Chiang Mai, and we’d heard the day before that at Payap University there would be a free performance by some Turkish ‘Whirling Dervishes’. They’re on a world tour sponsored by UNESCO, to mark the 800th birthday of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi – the 13th century Persian, Muslim poet, jurist, and theologian.

Whirling Dervishes of Rumi from Turkiye

A friend of ours in Chiang Mai told us that this paticular group performed in London and sold out very quickly – so we thought we’d go and check it out. We turned up ticketless & wet at Payap University, waiting about 20 minutes outside, then were presented with our 3 tickets. We were sitting 5 rows from the front, in seats that would surely have cost $100 or more in the UK!

As we waited in the auitorium, the mostly Thai audience fiddled with their bleeping mobiles whilst a Turkish man explained in English some of the history behind the Whirling Dervishes. The performance then began with some music from a 6 or 7 piece group playing traditional Turkish instruments. Living in a musical void – Thailand, where all we ever hear in the way of music is karaoke pop, we were absolutely mesmerised by the beautiful sounds coming from the band (you can listen to a clip of the music below).

After a while the dancers came on, whirled around alot and left us feeling dizzy. They dance as if they are in a trance repeating the poetry of Rumi: “Come, come, whoever you are, come and come yet again, come even if you have broken your wows a thousand times, wanderer, idolater, worshipper of fire, ours is not a caravan of despair, this is the date of hope, come, come yet again, come.”

The show was amazing and if you ever have a chance to go and see “Whirling Dervishes of Rumi from Turkiye” -do go!