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    Tropical Storm Tour: Thailand Part 23

    Friday, June 26, 2015
    Dan Sai, Thailand

    A Saen man conducts a ritual to summon Phra Uppakut at Wat Phon Chai in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A Saen man conducts a ritual to summon Phra Uppakut at Wat Phon Chai in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    Take off your shoes at Chao Pho Kuan's house in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    Take off your shoes at Chao Pho Kuan’s house in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    The early bird gets the worm, or in this case, the first ceremony connected with the 2015 Phi Ta Khon festival! Commencing at 4:00 am, it was called the Phra Uppakut invocation, which consisted of a Saen man reading from pages of text to summon the spirit of a Buddhist monk with supernatural powers named Phra Uppakut, who is able to transform himself into any object. Uppakut chose to be a white pebble to live a peaceful existence underwater. This ceremony summoned Uppakut from the river to the temple for sacred worship in his honor. (The villagers believe Uppakut is the only entity who can protect the village from evil spirits.)

    A Bo Si or Summoning of the Spirits ceremony at Chao Pho Kuan's house in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A Bo Si or Summoning of the Spirits ceremony at Chao Pho Kuan’s house in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    Some percussionists wail away during the Bo Si or Summoning of the Spirits ceremony at Chao Pho Kuan's house in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    Some percussionists wail away during the Bo Si or Summoning of the Spirits ceremony at Chao Pho Kuan’s house in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    The ritual unfolded in four parts, each occurring at four small shrines set up around the grounds of Wat Phon Chai, with two or three hundred white clad devotees and a couple of dozen foreigners forming a procession–complete with drums and gongs–walking between each one. Then we all circled the temple three times, which was quite surreal in the dark, pre-dawn hours. Not only that, but it was also really fun.

    A wall of speakers at Chao Pho Kuan's house in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A wall of speakers at Chao Pho Kuan’s house in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    A young man plays the kaen during the Bo Si or Summoning of the Spirits ceremony at Chao Pho Kuan's house in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A young man plays the kaen during the Bo Si or Summoning of the Spirits ceremony at Chao Pho Kuan’s house in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    After that, a bunch of foreigners descended upon a nearby cafe around 5:20 am, which seemed to overwhelm the staff. Nearly an hour after I ordered, I still hadn’t received my food. Over a 15-minute period, I let a couple of different servers know three times that I had to leave soon, and they said I would get my food in five minutes. After more stalling and bumbling on their part, I finally gave up and just left. I pedaled back up to my teepee at the Mountain Green Resort, ate a couple of tiny bananas and napped for an hour or two before the next ceremony was due to get underway.

    A dance party gets underway at the Bo Si or Summoning of the Spirits ceremony at Chao Pho Kuan's house in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A dance party gets underway at the Bo Si or Summoning of the Spirits ceremony at Chao Pho Kuan’s house in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    A group of ghosts pose for a photo during the Phi Ta Khon festival at Wat Phon Chai in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A group of ghosts pose for a photo during the Phi Ta Khon festival at Wat Phon Chai in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    Called Bo Si or Summoning of the Spirits, the ceremony was conducted at Chao Pho Kuan’s house just down the road from where I was staying. Starting at 8:30 am, it consisted of another man reading from pages of Buddhist texts to a room packed with devotees. Following that, a small procession of percussionists and two tall Phi Ta Khon demons marched up to the front of Kuan’s house, arriving with a clash and a splash. Then a sound man complete with a mixing console, rack mount units and a huge wall of speakers proceeded to crank at deafening levels a never-ending track of catchy and repetitive Thai molam music, which set the crowd off on a non-stop dance party for over an hour.

    Pee-wee ghosts at the Phi Ta Khon festival at Wat Phon Chai in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    Pee-wee ghosts at the Phi Ta Khon festival at Wat Phon Chai in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    Another man plays the kaen at a market stall selling traditional Thai musical instruments at the Phi Ta Khon festival at Wat Phon Chai in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    Another man plays the kaen at a market stall selling traditional Thai musical instruments at the Phi Ta Khon festival at Wat Phon Chai in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    At 10:00 am, everyone headed over to Wat Phon Chai, where a speech from some dignitaries went down, followed by another procession three times around the temple accompanied by the demons and percussion ensemble, which was, again, super fun to meld in with. Likewise, it sounded so amazing when some of the sprightly molam music blended in with the solemn marching music. Then around 11:00 am, an awards show of some sort went down. Exactly what kind of awards, I’m not sure because I don’t speak a lick of Thai beyond a few words. Following that, a series of performances got underway on a huge stage next to the temple, including a large molam-esque band and various troupes who performed a myriad of adorable traditional Thai dances. It really was a treat for the eyes and ears.

    Some ghosts relax at the Phi Ta Khon festival at Wat Phon Chai in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    Some ghosts relax at the Phi Ta Khon festival at Wat Phon Chai in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    A procession of villagers walks three times around Wat Phon Chai during the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A procession of villagers walks three times around Wat Phon Chai during the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    By 1:00 pm, I was not sure when–or even if–the program would end and I was feeling really beat, so I headed back to the small tent that I was forced to move into from the teepee for a little shut eye, which was difficult due to the suffocating heat inside that little pressure cooker. (There was a fan in the teepee, but not the tent.) The sky had been overcast and grey with patches of sunshine throughout the day, so later in the evening, I decided it was safe to ride my bicycle down into town, even though some dark clouds were looming. That turned out to be the mother of all mistakes, as it started raining right when I got into town, hard enough that I had to seek shelter under a couple of shop awnings. Then the clouds really let loose with a torrential downpour.

    A procession of villagers walks three times around Wat Phon Chai during the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A procession of villagers walks three times around Wat Phon Chai during the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    A group of ghosts dances during the Phi Ta Khon festival at Wat Phon Chai in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A group of ghosts dances during the Phi Ta Khon festival at Wat Phon Chai in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    Usually those downpours only last 10 minutes, but this one went on a while longer. When it finally mellowed out somewhat, I continued down to the market and bought some bananas and apples to have for snacks back at the tent. I waited under a roof for a while for the rain to let up, but it never did completely, so I headed out into the thick of it to return to the Mountain Green Resort. As I pedaled along, snaking through the crowded streets, I soon became utterly soaked from head to toe. I literally looked like I just dove into a swimming pool.

    A parade of little people at the Phi Ta Khon festival at Wat Phon Chai in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A parade of little people at the Phi Ta Khon festival at Wat Phon Chai in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    A women's troupe performs a traditional Thai dance at the Phi Ta Khon festival at Wat Phon Chai in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A women’s troupe performs a traditional Thai dance at the Phi Ta Khon festival at Wat Phon Chai in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    Back at the resort, I was worried that my stuff may have got wet, because San told me the small tents there are not waterproof. And for some strange reason, they had put a cover over every tent except mine. (San later let me know he had told one of his employees to cover mine, but the guy forgot.) The cafe was a madhouse, completely packed with foreign guests in town for Phi Ta Khon, and I could not track down San to put a cover over my tent. Plus, I was still completely soaked, so all of this was really stressing me out.

    Looking toward the stage at the Phi Ta Khon festival at Wat Phon Chai in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    Looking toward the stage at the Phi Ta Khon festival at Wat Phon Chai in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    A women's troupe sings and performs a traditional Thai dance at the Phi Ta Khon festival at Wat Phon Chai in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A women’s troupe sings and performs a traditional Thai dance at the Phi Ta Khon festival at Wat Phon Chai in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    Finally, I found him and we went to check up on my stuff, which was dry for the most part, fortunately. There were two pools of water from a leak on the zipper door, but the rest of the tent looked dry. Then they finally put an Easy-Up cover over it. But, the area in front of and around it was muddy and the whole hillside had been mowed recently, so it was a hassle to avoid tracking mud and grass into the tent. Later, when I went to bed, I discovered that the underside of my pillows and the blankets underneath them were damp from condensation dripping, which was a bummer. What is the point of manufacturing a tent that is not waterproof? The whole idea of a tent is to protect you from the elements!

    A man performs with an explicit wooden prop at the Phi Ta Khon festival at Wat Phon Chai in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A man performs with an explicit wooden prop at the Phi Ta Khon festival at Wat Phon Chai in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    A women's troupe performs a traditional Thai dance at the Phi Ta Khon festival at Wat Phon Chai in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A women’s troupe performs a traditional Thai dance at the Phi Ta Khon festival at Wat Phon Chai in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    Words and photos ©2015 Arcane Candy.

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