November 22, 2014
Thung Si Muang Festival Udon Thani
When: On 1st December each year. Continues for 15 days
Where: Udon Thani City. Northeast Thailand
On 1st December each year the city of Udon Thani hosts the Thung Si Muang Festival, the festival is the biggest of the year and traditionally was an early celebration of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej Birthday. The parade begins at approx. 1.30-2.00pm, at the Rajabhat University, near the Prince Prajak Monument Roundabout, and heads up to the Fountain Roundabout and Clock Tower Roundabout, then heads off towards Nong Prajak Park in the west of the city, covering approx. 5 kms. (A smaller parade is also held on the 5th December to celebrate the actual birthday of the King and follows the same route).
The parade is awash with people wearing and dancing in traditional Isaan clothing, marching bands, floats, flag bearers and local people dressed in traditional costume.
The parade in parts takes on an almost oriental feel, with the introduction of Chinese Dragons, each of which has a team of a dozen or more dancers, who’s job is to manipulate a long flexible figure of a dragon. The dancers mimic the supposed movements of this river spirit in a sinuous, undulating manner, accompanied with the thunderous sounds of drums and crashing of symbols, add to this the almost deafening sounds of large fire crackers and one thing is for sure you will hear the parade long before you see it.
There is a large Thai Chinese community in the city and this can be seen in not only the festival but also through-out the area including the Chinese temple of Sanjao Phuya situated on the southern shore of Nong Bua. At its heart is the Pu-Ya Shrine, which houses small images of the Chinese gods Pu (Grandpa) and Ya (Grandma). There is Free entry during day light hours.
The city comes alive in a carnival atmosphere through-out the day and early evening, there are all manner of activities, including concerts, a traditional Thai ‘Fair’ (with its own roller coaster), a folk singing contest, traditional Thai dancing, a Muay Thai display and contest, plus there will be lots of stalls selling delicious food from all across the country including traditional Isaan food.
A word of warning about Isaan food some of the dishes can be somewhat on the fiery side as they can be packed with red hot chillies. The most common foods (excluding the hot and somewhat stranger dishes that can be found in the region see more ) from Isaan are:
The region’s most iconic dish is this salad made of shredded green papaya, tomatoes, long beans, garlic and chillies in a lime-juice dressing. It’s traditionally pounded in a large stone mortar and pestle (the resulting sound, “pok pok,” is how it is sometimes referred to in Pattaya). Som tum is found throughout Thailand and Laos, with many regional variations but a true Isaan som tum (usually called som tum Lao) is far more spicy than sweet thanks to the huge amount of red hot chillies that are used.
A simple dish of Grilled/roasted chicken – No two recipes are exactly alike, but lemongrass and garlic are almost always involved. Like all the best simplistic of dishes, it’s something you could eat every day.”
Another of the most popular dishes that sets Isaan food apart from the cuisine of the country’s other regions is the rice: instead of Jasmine rice, in this region Thai’s eat glutinous sticky rice with almost every meal be it savoury or simply served with fruit such as mango. The art is to use your fingers in lieu of cutlery and to break off chunks of whatever you’re eating and wrap it within the rice. You will also find it used to make sweat or savoury dumplings filled with all manner of fruit, vegetables, fish or meat.
Dotted amongst the vast amount of food vendors you will also have the opportunity to buy locally crafted silk and cotton goods plus OTOP products, featuring the ethnic culture of the region. All in all a fun filled, cultural day that will fill (and at times assault) all your senses.
The Sea of Red Lotuses
If you are lucky enough to be in the province of Udon Thani in December why not take the opportunity to visit Nong Harn-Known locally as Talay Bua Daeng, ranked the world’s second strangest lake after Jellyfish Lake in Palau by Travel + Leisure magazine. Literally “the sea of red lotuses”, the yearly sprouting of thousands of red flowers covers the entire 22,500-rai of the lake from October to March.
While the city of Udon Thani cannot boast the attractions and the commercialization of its younger cousin Chiang Mai (434 miles to its west) it can boast the enviable title of the gateway to the province of Isan. To the north Vientiane, the capital of Laos and to the North East, Hanoi the capital of Vietnam. It should be a must stop over for backpackers looking to travel through Thailand and to see as much of this wonderful country as possible before moving on to its neighbours.
Pictures and details on the parade, kindly provided by Neil over at Udon Thani Attractions A great site to see what more is happening in the local area of Udon Thani
Directions: See more
A big thanks to the great pictures from Ngorkapong and Jigow
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