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    Tropical Storm Tour: Thailand Video 4

    Shaped exactly like an elephant’s head, Thailand is a vast, sweltering hot tropical kingdom whose landscape ranges from powder white beaches with turquoise water to ultra-green, lush jungles and mountains full of traditional hill tribes. Insanely ornate, gold-splashed Buddhist temples dot the villages and cities, where ramshackle shantytowns nestle up to glitzy shopping malls. Ladyboys, tuk-tuks and picturesque floating markets also await the foreign visitor’s dollars. Welcome to Thailand, one of the world’s top tourist destinations.

    Tropical Storm Tour: Thailand Video 4 takes us way up into the rural Northeast of Thailand to Dan Sai in the province of Isan, which, for 362 days of the year, is a small, sleepy town. Every June, however, Dan Sai plays unlikely host to an explosively colorful, one-of-a-kind, three-day festival and parade called Phi Ta Khon, part of a Buddhist festival called Bun Luang. (Phi Ta Khon is derived from an ancient Buddhist story in which the Buddha, who had embarked on a long trip and never came back, was thought by his devotees to be deceased. Upon his unexpected return, the party was so raucous and loud, it woke the dead.)

    On the second day of the festivities, as the sky alternates between overcast and sunny, the main Phi Ta Khon parade gets underway as a myriad of brightly decorated floats carrying everyone from beauty queens to dignitaries slowly ambles by. Also in evidence are trucks with tricked out sound systems blaring extremely loud music–some carrying live molam bands jamming away into the infinite groove. Other highlights include float after flower-filled float, traditional Thai dance ensembles and, of course, teams of Phi Ta Khon ghost characters jangling and tinkling away as they walk, dance, thrust their wooden phallus sticks as a symbol of fertility, and pose for photos with the crowd.

    Background songs from the Molam: Thai Country Groove from Isan Volumes 1 and 2, courtesy of Sublime Frequencies. For tons of photos and a detailed travel journal, visit the Tropical Storm Tour page.

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