March 31, 2015
When 50 elephants take center stage in this ancient festival
When: Annually 17 – 19 April
Where: The plaza of Chaopho Mueang Dong Monument, Tambon Ban Tuek, Amphoe: Si Satchanalai. Sukhothai Province Northern Thailand
Some 13kms North East from where the festival of Si Satchanalai Elephant Back Ordination Procession is held in the same month, is the shrine and monument built to pay homage to “Muen Nakhon” or “Chaopho Mueang Dong”.
While there is little recorded history on the man, it is believed he was a loyal servant of Somdet Phra Boromma Trailokkanat. (1431–1488) the king of Ayutthaya from 1448 to 1488 and for who he specialized in catching, training and ultimately employing elephants in the wars his king fought successfully against the neighboring Lanna Kingdom.
During the festival 14 local villages will amass approx. 50 of their elephants, which they will lavishly decorate and paint before parading them between the shrine of Chaopho Khao Mung, and the plaza containing the Chaopho Mueang Dong Monument, in order to pay homage to the memory of this ancient local hero.
The herd of elephants are ridden by their mahout, while a few lucky villagers sit in carriages strapped to the animal’s backs. The route the parade takes is lined in places by colourful banners and small parasols, which are placed on top of bamboo poles.
Do note these are working elephants and not tourist elephants were the beasts are expected to ferry passengers on their backs every day of the week.
More things to do and see in the Sukhothai Province
If you are lucky to be in the neighbourhood why not feast your eyes on the wonderful Sri Satchanalai National Park, just under a 2 hour drive due west from this event. Sri Satchanalai literally translates “City of good people”. Founded in 1250 as the second centre of the Sukhothai Kingdom, though not on the scale of its Southern family member it is a wonderful place to visit and can be toured by foot or bicycle which you can rent.
From there it’s just under a 2 hour drive due South to see the marvellous Sukhothai Historical Park. Sukhothai can be translated as “Dawn of Happiness” and was the first capital of Siam, with its numerous sites of historical interest it makes up one of the Five UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Thailand.
Unique food of the province
You cannot visit Si Samrong district without trying its famous Fried peanuts (ถั่วทอด), also known as “200-year fried peanuts”, This ancient treat is a combination of rice flour, wheat flour, eggs, coconut milk, salt, pepper, chopped wild yam, which once mixed together is then deep fried. The result is a mouthwatering sweetish snack that will leave your taste buds wanting more.
The Hae Nam Khuen Hong Festival is not widely known outside of the local area, but is eagerly awaited by the villagers, as this is the time for them to show off their beloved animals, to meet old friends and to share in stories of the past years sorrows and joys. One thing is for sure if you do get to witness this colourful event the local people will provide you with a warm and friendly Thai welcome.
For more on elephants in other festivals across the Kingdom see our posts
To read why boycotting Elephant camps and festivals in Thailand is self defeating click here
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Pictures from sukhothaiphoto