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    Tropical Storm Tour: Thailand Part 24

    Saturday, June 27, 2015
    Dan Sai, Thailand

    Color-splashed chaos at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    Color-splashed chaos at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    The front of the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    The front of the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    Demons stalk the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    Demons stalk the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    I heard from a fellow traveler that the Phi Ta Khon festival was going to begin an hour early at 9:30 am instead of the officially announced 10:00 am. I’m not sure why. Maybe the officials checked the weather forecast and found out it was supposed to rain later. At any rate, I had to hustle finishing up my morning chores to even try to make it down there on time. As I cruised down highway 2013 on my bicycle toward Dan Sai, it looked like I was heading into Woodstock, as traffic was backed up nearly a mile, almost to the Mountain Green Resort.

    An elegant lady walks in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    An elegant lady walks in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    A procession of brightly clad young men walk in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A procession of brightly clad young men walk in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    A tourist poses with a group of ghosts in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A tourist poses with a group of ghosts in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    After locking up the bicycle at Wat Phon Chai, I weaved my way through the thick crowd that teemed all over every inch of the street. The idea was to make my way up to meet the front end of the parade, which was about a half mile or so north. As soon as I saw the leading banner and float, I found a spot on the side just one person back! Although I missed the procession in which four Buddhist monks were carried by on chariots, I was just in time for the beginning of the main parade. As the sky alternated between overcast and sunny, a myriad of brightly decorated floats carrying everyone from beauty queens to dignitaries slowly ambled by.

    Just a small part of the parade route at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    Just a small part of the parade route at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    Some military boys join the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    Some military boys join the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    A close-up of a ghost mask in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A close-up of a ghost mask in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    Also in evidence were trucks with tricked out sound systems blaring extremely loud music–some carrying live molam bands jamming away into the infinite groove. Other highlights included float after flower-filled float, traditional Thai dance ensembles and, of course, teams of Phi Ta Khon characters jangling and tinkling away as they walked, danced, thrusted their wooden phallus sticks and posed for photos with the crowd. Several times, just when I thought I’d spotted the final float at the end of the parade, even more would appear on the horizon.

    Young ladies dance in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    Young ladies dance in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    A primitive tribe marches by in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A primitive tribe marches by in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    A group of ghosts poses in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A group of ghosts poses in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    At one point, I thought the end of the parade was nigh when a huge float bearing a giant Phi Ta Khon ghost head appeared in the distance. But, no, as it approached, more and more floats came into view behind it. The whole line-up from start to finish took at least three hours to pass by. Holding it up considerably were various and sundry audience members stopping the parade to shoot photos with the Phi Ta Khon ghosts and other assorted characters. You would think the parade organizer would have had some kind of big, splashy float to close up (and shut down) the parade with, but no, it just kind of petered out with nothing special.

    Demons stalk the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    Demons stalk the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    Young ladies dance in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    Young ladies dance in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    A lady and a ghost in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A lady and a ghost in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    After the parade ended, I headed back to Wat Pon Chai to shoot photos of the colorful cast of characters within the carnival-like atmosphere that was going on over there. At one point, the sky started sprinkling, so I stood under a roof. It’s a good thing I did, because a few moments later, a torrential downpour appeared so suddenly and dumped so much water on everyone, it caused a bunch of girls to shriek.

    A fanciful float in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A fanciful float in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    Young ladies dance in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    Young ladies dance in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    A ghost brandishes a huge phallus in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A ghost brandishes a huge phallus in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    A demon stalks the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A demon stalks the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    A beauty queen and her king walk in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A beauty queen and her king walk in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    When the rain cleared up, I continued shooting photos until my camera’s battery ran out of juice, which forced me to head back to the Mountain Green Resort to recharge it. That gave me time to catch up on some journal writing, especially since I couldn’t do anything on the web because the wi-fi tends to cut out a lot there anyway. A couple of hours later, I coasted back down to town brandishing a newly charged camera battery and a refreshed zeal for snapping shots.

    The mud men arrive on the scene in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    The mud men arrive on the scene in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    A group of ghosts walk in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A group of ghosts walk in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    A demon stalks the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A demon stalks the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    My subjects ranged all the way from grotesque demon effigies propped up on the side of the road to a man selling photo ops with two little dogs all dolled up in myriad colorful trinkets. I also shot my fair share of photos of a never-ending stream of Phi Ta Khon ghosts and their masks laying in formation all over the street. Reaching the opposite end from Wat Pon Chai, I encountered a huge stage set up with a rock band blasting away over a very loud sound system and scads of people sitting in long sets of bleachers.

    Older ladies dance in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    Older ladies dance in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    A group of ghosts walk in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A group of ghosts walk in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    Air Asia blasts some tunes in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    Air Asia blasts some tunes in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    At that point, my stomach beckoned, so I filled it with dirt-cheap street food in the form of egg, noodles, vegetables and spices in a tiny styrofoam box for only 10 baht (30 cents!). But, they’re so small, I pretty much had to buy two to even make a dent in my hunger. After haggling with some vendors, I also bought two different Phi Ta Khon t-shirts–a red one with three crude little mask drawings, and a black one with one big, bright orange one. I also spied a stall selling t-shirts bearing silly slogans printed in gaudy florescent colors with techno music blaring away.

    Lady boys dance in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    Lady boys dance in the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    A mud man takes a break after the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A mud man takes a break after the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    A demon aims his wooden phallus toward me at Wat Phon Chai after the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A demon aims his wooden phallus toward me at Wat Phon Chai after the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    Not long after I returned to the Mountain Green Resort, it started pouring rain again, and the wi-fi was down as usual, which meant that I could not post a new installment of this journal for the second day in a row. Instead, I just spent a couple of hours transferring the 350 photos and five gigs of video that I shot at the festival and weeded out the bad ones. As I crawled in my tent to sleep, I could hear a couple of different molam bands down the road going off until well past midnight.

    The sparse crowd between downpours at Wat Phon Chai after the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    The sparse crowd between downpours at Wat Phon Chai after the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    Some flame-filled ghost masks in front of a shop after the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    Some flame-filled ghost masks in front of a shop after the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    A garish demon propped up on the side of the street after the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A garish demon propped up on the side of the street after the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    I wanted to ride my bicycle down there to check them out for a few minutes, but it would have been too much of a hassle to get dressed and deal with all of the mud around my tent, etc. So, after the music ended, I finally drifted off to sleep amid a cacophony of frogs, insects, occasional roaring clusters of motorcycles and a guy snoring in the tent right next to mine. And so came the end of one of the most amusing days of my life. Along with the Balinese royal cremation ceremony and the Burmese Nat Pwe, the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand is one of the most brilliant spectacles I’ve ever witnessed. I highly encourage you to attend it if you ever have the chance.

    A man and his dogs work the crowd after the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A man and his dogs work the crowd after the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    A pair of brightly clad ghosts say goodbye after the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A pair of brightly clad ghosts say goodbye after the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    The gate of Wat Pon Chai gets lit up by the setting sun after the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    The gate of Wat Pon Chai gets lit up by the setting sun after the parade at the Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    Words and photos ©2015 Arcane Candy.

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