From the Blog

January 9, 2016

Tha Uthen Chedi Festival

Where the lesser known ethnic people of Isaan get their chance to shine

 

Tha Uthen Chedi Festival

Picture by TAT

 

WhenNormally on the 1st day of March

Where: Tha Uthen district. Nakhon Phanom City. 734 km northeast of Bangkok and 378 km southwest of Hanoi, Vietnam on the Mekong River dividing Thailand and Laos

How to get there: See more

 

Prathat Tha Uthen Chedi

Tha Uthen Pagoda Festival phu-thaiThis annual celebration of the much-revered Prathat Tha Uthen Chedi is normally on the 1st day of March and goes on for a further 3 days. It is a time for Buddhists to help preserve what is a long-held tradition by visiting the district to pay respect to the pagoda and make merit. The pagoda was originally built in 1912 and is believed to contain Lord Buddha’s relic, which is said to have come from Rangoon, Burma.

 

Music and Dance

Around the pagoda during the festivities will be a vibrant mass of colour and music from various native dancers from across this North Eastern provinces. Male and female dancers will perform their unique cultural dances accompanied by their equally unique musicians.

The performances include the traditional Phu Thai Dance (การฟ้อนผู้ไทย) the dance of the Phu Thai people and the “pestle dance” Saek Ten Sak (ประเพณีแสกดต้นสาก) performed by the even smaller ‘Saek’ ethnic group living in ‘At Samat Village’, 4 km from Nakhon Phanom. The Saek  (Thai: แสก) or Tai Saek are a group of about 20,000 (1981) located on both sides of the Mekong River in northeastern Thailand and central Laos.

 

Tha Uthen Chedi Festival 1

The later dance is performed to please the spirits, annually on the 3rd day of the waxing moon of the 3rd lunar month. For the dance to be performed in another period, permission must be granted by the spiritual leader by offering a pig’s head, 20-baht cash, and liquor.

The spiritual leader must pick up a predictive coloured stick from a pile of similar sticks, If the leader picks up a stick of the same colour, it means the spirit will not allow the dancers to perform what is a colourful and fast dance set to the rhythm of drums and striking pestles painted in red and white.

 

Food and Handicrafts

The area surrounding the dance performances will be alive with stalls and booths, displaying the cultural heritage and way of life of people from the surrounding 12 districts (Amphoe), along with a multitude of shops and street vendors selling local hand crafts including ‘Mudmee’ clothes, plus musical instruments such as the Khaen, a local-style pan pipe.

Intermingled with this dazzling sea of colour, will be a mass of food stalls selling all manner of mouth-watering  food and beverages.(It would not be Thailand if it were not)

 

Tha Uthen Chedi Festival 2016

The Chedi of Nakhon Phanom

There are a total of 8 Chedi in the area, all beginning their names with “Phra That”, each represents a day or days of the week and so those born on a particular day can go to their appropriate Chedi to pray and make merit.

For example those born on Sunday would go to Wat Phra That Phanom. Monday – Phra That Renu in Renu Nakhon, Tuesday – Phra That Sri Koon in Na Kae District, Wednesday has two Chedi, one for those born during the day and one for those born at night.  For those born in the day – Phra That Mahachai in Bpla Bpak District and for those born at night – Phra That Marook Khanakon. The Thai people also have a specific colour and Buddha image associated with the day they were born see more.

 

A little about unique Isaan

If you have been fortunate enough to visit the north east of Thailand you will not be surprised to know the region has more than 160,000 square kilometers of land, is nearly half the size of Germany and holds one third of the land mass of Thailand. Further more Isaan is considered by many to be the cradle of human settlement in Thailand, what is strange is that it is the least visited region for tourists.

One of the pleasant surprises you’ll find in Isaan is the bizarre and wonderful assortment of ethnic beverages on offer. Throughout the region you’ll find roadside stalls, full of urn-like earthenware jugs brimming with what appears to be toasted sticky rice. Upon further inspection, you’ll find that by plunging a wooden straw into the jar’s contents, a dark syrupy liquid will erupt from the surface.

 

Tha Uthen Chedi Festival 2

 

This is Lao Hai, a curiously delicious and mildly sweet rice wine that’s dirt cheap and packs a surprisingly powerful punch. Adventurous drinkers will also discover the likes of Kaw Nam Lak, an alcoholic beverage made with orange juice and fresh chilies, and Lao Lao, a strong rice-whisky that’s commonly served as a cocktail named after the Pygmy Slow Loris –a slow moving animal native to the area that partakers of this drink are said to mimic after indulging themselves in it.

 

While this Chedi is not as impressive as that of its close kin the Pra That Phanom, the festivities are both beautifully regal and spiritual, combine this with the warm welcome you can expect come from the very heart of the people of  Isaan and the event is not to be missed.

 

 

See more on the Chedi YouTube

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