วันอาทิตย์ที่ 25 เมษายน พ.ศ. 2553

Earthenware Mortar for the Kitchen

The typical kitchen earthenware mortar, i often referred to as krok kabue, is made of clay, which is shaped into a bowl before being fired. With this mortar, housewives can pound cooking ingredients into minute pieces. It is used together with a large pestle, which is made of hardwood to make it heavy enough to pulverize food in almost no time. An earthenware mortar in the ancient style has a large circular rim. Like a cone, the body from the rim to the bottom gets narrower, but it has a wide base, so that it can accommodate the force of the pounding.
Thai people have used mortars as a major household utensil since ancient times. It was during the early Rattanakosin period that the Thai mortar started to change its form, since Thais were engaging in more trade contact with the Chinese, leading to frequent cultural exchanges between them. Then the kitchen mortar changed in both its size and form, and later, many began to be made of stone, which is still popular.An earthenware mortar has several constraints, however. For instance, it cannot contain much food, as it is hard to break a large amount of food into pieces. And if the pounding is too heavy, the mortar may break. However, the kitchen mortar is still used widely in Thailand, because Thais feel that no utensil can grind food as well as a mortar and pestle can.

Within a vast compound on the banks of the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, the Bank of Thailand headquarters stands prominently. It consists of a group of stately, elegant buildings, dating from the early 20th century. Many local people are familiar with the former name of this venue, 'Bang Khunphrom Palace'. In 1899, King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) bought this plot of land for his son, Prince Paribatra Sukhumbhand, also known as Prince Nagara Savara, the royal founder of the Paribatra family. One side of the palace is connected with the Chao Phraya River and the other side with Sam Sen Road. He used his personal funds to buy the plot from several owners. Here is an excerpt from an important document, issued by King Chulalongkorn:
"This letter is to certify that I agree to give this plot of land and the buildings here onto my son, Prince Paribatra Sukhumbhand. The money to buy this plot came from my own personal funds, with no connection with the Government."
It took five to six years to build Bang Khunphrom Palace. Carl Sandreczki, a German architect, and Paolo Remidi, an Italian engineer, made the design of the 'Tamnak Yai', or main building, in November 1901. The responsible structural engineer was Carlo Allegri. After the construction was com­pleted, the building was used as the Prime's royal residence and as the venue for organizing garden parties to welcome foreign dignitaries. It was also used for social functions among members of the royalty. Foreign teachers used this palace to teach various subjects to princesses and ladies of other courts as well. The palace was called in those days 'Bang Khunphrom University'.
The architecture of Bang Khunphrom Palace is in the European style, combining Rococo and Baroque art forms. The Tamnak Yai is a two-story building, and at the end of one of its wings is found a round, three-story tower. The designs also included several magnificent columns that are round, square, and spiral-shaped and decorated with elaborate stucco. The windows, regarded as the most beautiful of that time, are in several forms, such as those in an oval shape, surrounded by stucco designs in the figure of Cattleya orchids, and those in a semicircular shape with figures of creepers and fruits. The windows were constructed on curved walls, so they had to curve, as well. The ceiling is carved in the figure of a gold vine, making it stand out against the white color of the ceiling. The bedroom ceiling, in particular, is carved in a bouquet design. Another magnificent point is the marble staircase in the hall of the lower floor, leading up to the second floor. The iron handrail is beautifully designed. At the foot of the staircase on both sides are female figures holding lanterns. The beauty of Tamnak Yai was known far and wide among the people, as evident in several statements, such as that made by one of the Prince's daughters, Princess Churairat Siriman, who wrote the following statement:
"Initially, father's residence at Bang Khunphrom Palace was similar to the palaces of European royalty. The lower floor consisted of a small living room, a study room, and a dining room for Western guests mainly. There was a private room upstairs for father to have meals with mother. There was also a large bedroom and a dressing room. On the upper floor, there was a large pink living room, next to a small blue room".
Prince Paribatra brought many decorative items and utensils from Europe. Queen Sukhumala Marasri, who was the Prince's mother, prepared some objects for her son, such as ceramic plates, each with a privy seal.
The building facing the Chao Phraya River has a circular, European-style pavilion in front, where a brass band composed of navy and army officials would welcome guests, so it is called the 'brass band pavilion'.
Not far from this area is the 'Tamnak Nam', or Water Building, located on the bank of the Chao Phraya River. Formerly, it was a one-story building, and later another floor was added to accommodate a study room and a bedroom. It was also used as a place for the Prince to embark on board a ship when he performed his duties in the Royal Thai Navy.
While Prince Paribatra lived at Bang Khunphrom Palace, this palace earned itself an excellent reputation as a major venue for organizing receptions. It was famous for its Thai and Western-style cuisine. Many members of the royalty used this venue for their social gatherings. Princess Chongchitthanom, who was expert in cooking, supervised the chefs and the food
preparation herself. The khanom chin (Thai vermicelli) of Bang Khunphrom was a popular specialty. The Prince translated the recipes of Western dishes, so that Thai cooks could learn how to prepare Western food. He also sent some cooks from the Royal Thai Navy to study Western culinary arts. This might be the reason why Thai navy officials have long been famous for catering.
Moreover, Prince Paribatra had a great love and apprecia­tion of music. He could play almost all kinds of Thai musical instruments, as well as the piano. In those days, members of the royalty usually set up their own musical bands for contests with one another. The well-known musical bands at that time included those from Tha Phra Palace, Burapha Palace, Bang Khunphrom Palace, and Ladawan (or Daeng) Palace. The Thai band at Bang Khunphrom Palace, with Chang Wang Thua Phatthayakoson as the conductor, gained wide recognition.
When Thailand changed its administrative system from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional one in 1932, Prince Paribatra moved out of Bang Khunphrom Palace and left Thailand. He took up residence in Java, Indonesia, passing away there in 1944.
The royal quarters of Bang Khunphrom Palace were soon turned into government offices. For instance, it was once the location of the Department of Military Youth, which was later dissolved and replaced by the National Culture Council.
In 1945, the Treasury Department allowed the Bank of Thailand to rent Bang Khunphrom Palace as the central bank headquarters, with a leasing period of eight years, starting from 1 March 1945 to 28 February 1953. In the first four years, the rental fee was 12,000 baht a year. The fee rose to 14,400 baht a year four years later. The tenant was required to pay an electrical guarantee of 200,000 baht, while the Finance Department was the beneficiary.
When the leasing period ended in 1953, the Bank of Thailand continued to rent the building from the Treasury Department until 1959, when Ban Managkhasila was ex­changed for Bang Khunphrom Palace, so that this palace could be the permanent location of the central bank. The Bank of Thailand was willing to pay the differential in cash.Today, Bang Khunphrom Palace has been developed as the Bank of Thailand Museum, which is of great value in architec­ture and art and is of high historical significance. The palace celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2006. The museum is open on Saturdays (except public holidays). Group visitors are welcome between Monday and Friday, but permission must be obtained in advance at the Bank of Thailand, tel. 0-2283­5286, 0-2283-5265, and 0-2283-6273, or on the website


There was little that could have prepared me for my first exhilarating experience of Songkran in Thailand. On the first day of the festival, I stepped innocently out of my Bangkok apartment and stepped into what appeared to be a surreal and watery war zone. The flooded streets were filled with water warriors brandishing squirt guns, super soakers, hoses, buckets, garbage cans and anything else they could get their hands on to disperse their liquid ammunition. Teenagers took cover behind street signs and corners and launched strategic attacks on vehicles and pedestrians. Gangs crammed into the back of pick-up trucks and wildly fired shots at the crowd as they cruised past. There were drive-by squirtings everywhere.
It was Songkran, Thai New Year. I was unarmed and foreign and a hilariously easy target for the youngsters around me. Within minutes of gaping agog at the aquatic frenzy, I was completely soaked by giggling assailants and, wet and bewildered, hurried back to the safety of my
apartment. What on earth was going on out there, I wondered as I watched the madness from my window.
It was mid-April, and as I soon discovered, Thailand celebrates the new lunar year with massive water festivals for several very soggy days. The origins of Songkran date back nearly a thousand years to when the Tai people (ancestors of modern day Thais) in China's Yunnan Province celebrated the start of a new farming cycle during the fifth full moon
of the lunar calendar.
Water is used in Songkran as both a
symbol of cleansing and renewal and, in the past, Thai people would delicately sprinkle scented water from silver bowls on the hands of respected family members. They would also make pilgrimages to temples and carefully bathe Buddha images in a similar manner.
In recent years, however, the humble religious aspects of the holiday have given way to unrestrained water warfare. Youngsters brandish water pistols, buckets and hoses for giddy attacks on pedestrians and each other, day and night. As lunar New Year falls smack
in the middle of the region's hot season, these festivities are a welcome way for everyone to cool down. It's an extremely fun and crazy festival, but for maximum enjoyment, it pays to be prepared.
The next day you can bet I was ready. My wallet and camera, as well as a towel and change of clothes, were stowed safely in plastic bags. I was armed with my newly-purchased, top of the range super­super-ultra-soaker, and I wasn't afraid to use it. I hit the Khao San Road, Banglamphu's popular backpacker haunt and urban centre of Songkran festivities, with a mixture of dread and excitement.
When I arrived, the street was already thronged with drenched revelers hurling water in all directions. People lined the roadside with buckets of water, huge cannons pumped from the back of trucks, snipers squirted from shop windows; the street was awash with man­made showers. Huge water troughs had been positioned at various points along the road so foot soldiers could refuel. Despite the baking hot weather there was clearly no shortage of ammunition here. It was going to be a long, wet battle.
In addition to the wild water throwing, people were also dousing each others' faces with a white powdery paste. Originally this powder was applied to the body of others as a sign of protection or to ward off evil, but nowadays during Songkran it is smeared indiscriminately on anyone within reach. Standing there surrounded by hundreds of shrieking pale faces I wondered for a moment if I had inadvertently wandered onto the set of a low-budget zombie movie.Then the first torrent of water from an unidentified assailant rained down on me in an icy gush and I remembered my mission. Guns squirting, I marched bravely into the mayhem aiming at everything in sight. Although usually the Khao San Road enclave is a haven for foreign backpackers, during Songkran it becomes a multicultural free for all, with Thais and foreigners alike soaked and smiling and high on the festival fun.
And many of them had obviously played
this game before. More savvy Songkraners than I were decked out with rain ponchos, umbrellas and even swimming goggles. Less practically minded characters showed up in costume, with Superman and Spiderman being the favorites - though even superheroes would have had a hard time avoiding a soaking on that particular day.
Music pumped out of bars and loudspeakers along the street, small groups paused to dance madly where ever there was space, and the entire crowd heaved with an energy and enthusiasm that was simply intoxicating. For hours I danced and squirted with the best of them and had more fun than you could shake a water pistol at.
When I finally left for home much later that night, I was in a sorry state. My hair was damp and matted, my face was streaked with gloopy talc, and needless to say I was dripping wet. Were it not for my huge grin I could have featured in a zombie flick myself.
This year I'll be back on the Khao San Road for another water war, but this time I'll be far more prepared. I'm sure people will laugh when they see me approaching in my Wellington boots, swimming goggles and plastic poncho, but I'll be the one dry and laughing at the end of the celebrations and I can't wait.Although Songkran is a uniquely Thai tradition, the fun nature of the festival has a remarkably universal appeal. As I danced along Khao San that day, looking at the smiling paste-covered faces of all nationalities around me, I was reminded that, although we are each unique, in our pursuit of fun we are also undeniably 'same same'.

Huai Mae Khamin Waterfall, Kanchanabun, s Mighty Thi Law Soo

The 200-kilometer drive from Bangkok to
Kanchanaburi province passes through Nakhon Pathom province. From the munici­pality of Kanchanaburi, continue further to Srisawasdi district. Then, take the one-hour ferry ride to the other side of the river before the five-hour journey begins in earnest. This will surely make a worthwhile trip given the sight of the mighty waterfall that looks more like a painting from orre of Thailand's classical literatures. Instead, it is purely the work of nature. The destination is known to tourists as 'Haui Mae Khamin Waterfall' in the Sri Nagarindr Dam National Park.

The great waterfall is breathtakingly beautiful, set in the midst of the rich and lush greenery of countless species, where tons of water from the watershed over the Kala mountain range east of the national park meanders down to Sri Nagarindr Dam. Huai Mae Khamin is made up of seven layers, each at different height and distinct beauty, named separately in the order of Dongwan, Marn Kahmin, Wang Nah Pha, Chatr Kaew, Lai Jon Hlong, Dong Phi Seua and Rom Klao respectively.
Of the seven layers, Chatr Kaew, the fourth layer, is said to be the most spectacu­lar; the name itself means 'a cascade as clear as glass'.

Coupled with the fertile environment of the surrounding watershed, the height and fall of the seven layers of cascade have won the hearts of many a tourist who nicknames it the mighty 'Thi Law Soo Waterfall of Kanchanaburi province'.Tourists can explore the surrounding nature by taking advantage of the trails to each of the seven layers provided by the Sri Nagarindr Dam National Park Authority. For more information, contact the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conserva­tion, at 0-2562-0760, Monday - Friday between 08.30 a.m. - 06.00 p.m.

Raksawarin Hot Spring, Ranong

The first province in southern Thailand, Ranong is on the east coast of the Andaman. Water, therefore, is the province's most prominent natural resource, be it sea, rainwater, or hot spring which is famous among local and foreign tourists.
Because Ranong's hot spring is sulphur-free, it is regarded as the country's best hot spring and is also ranked among the world's top three best quality hot springs. However, Ranong's most popular hot spring is the Raksawarin Hot Spring inside the Raksawarin
Public Park right in the heart of the province. This Hot Spring could be dated back to the reign of King Rama V who, during a visit to Ranong in 1890, named the road to the hot spring the 'Cholra-u' Road. The Raksawarin Hot Spring comprises three natural springs known respectively as Bor PoriBor Mae and Bor Luke. The mineral water in each of the three springs contains therapeutic and healing proper­ties. Yet, the 65-degree-Celsius water in the three hot springs is ideal for boiling and poaching egg. Those who wish to enjoy a relaxing dip in the hot spring are therefore advised to enjoy the body-tempera­ture spas provided by the Raksawarin Public Park and other private spas.uittuaus:uoudsifroinnau niuzflu D'uTkigUnisaout-ujl unwnildiriamiutOouinsita: onduAuthuelturnitiii ci TuuovianAt Raksawarin Hot Springs, make sure you have a taste of the mineral-water coffee which is one of a kind in the world. However, the experience will not be complete without enjoying it with either hard-boiled or poached egg of your choice. Raksawarin Hot Spring is located two kilometers east of Ranong Municipality on Highway 4005. For details, contact the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Southern Office Zone 5, at 0-7728-8818 - 9 or Ranong Tourism and Recreation Center at 0-7782-1071

Ban Ta Klang

At Ban Ta Klang, Kapho subdistrict, Tha Turn district, in the northeastern province of Surin, there is a tribal group of Kui origin, which has existed since the days of the ancient Khmer kingdom. Villagers in this group have lived in harmony with elephants, and the wisdom of elephant raising has been passed on among them for a long period of time. Today, this community has become known as the Elephant Village, which still preserves the culture of elephant raising in the traditional style. This culture remains in the soul of the younger generation of Ban Ta Klang.
The mahout, known among the local villagers as ku yo chiang, is responsible for looking after big and small elephants, which are treated like members of the family. When an elephant becomes two years old, it will be trained to act in accordance with orders from the mahout. For example, it will walk where directed, or help the mahout climb onto its back. The training will enable them to live in harmony with humans. When elephants are trained, they will travel separately from their mahouts to various places separately and will return to the village again for important ceremonies.
On the full-moon day of the sixth lunar month, which marks Visakha Puja Day, usually in May, both male and female elephants from this village take part in a procession of tonsured, white-robed candidates for monkhood (known as the nak). A hundred elephants with painted faces lead the procession to Wang Thalu for the worship of sacred objects. The sound of music in the procession seems to bring elephants and Kui villagers closer together through their bonds of love.During the period from November to December, mahouts usually return to the village for rice harvesting. They will come with their elephants to join the Elephant Round-Up, an annual cultural event of Surin province. This period is the best time to visit the Elephant Village to experience the beautiful lifestyle of villagers'Of the Ban Ta Kiang, a land of elephants in Surin province.

Baan Sueb Nakasatian Memorial

Located in the Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary in Uthai Thani province, the Baan Sueb Nakasatien'Mernorial was erected to commemorate the/death of the celebrated conservationist, Sueb Nakasatian, the former head of the Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary. The memorial, built on the very spot where Sueb Nakasatian lived, worked and took his own life on 1 September 1990, was also designed to help promote his legacy of wildlife conservation.
In the Memorial Compound is a Sueb
Nakasatian Memorial Building, a multi­purpose building for different activities, meetings, seminars, lectures and video presentation on the conservation efforts at Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary. There is also an exhibition with displays on Sueb's life and works and his perspectives of wildlife conservation.
Sueb Nakasatien Memorial effectively reflects the personality of the beloved Sueb Nakasatian as a wildlife specialist who was fond of trekking the wild with his backpack to collect information on the wild, to paint and taking photographs. The compact bungalow-like building, where Sueb lived and worked during his service as head of the Wildlife Sanctuary, is kept with his personal utensils and office equipment intact in the same condition prior to his death.Today, Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary is a world heritage, the first natural reserve in Thailand to be proclaimed by UNESCO on 9 December 1991 following Sueb Nakasatian's essay to UNESCO on his approach toconserving the wildlife sanctuary.

Wat Pho, Thailand's First University

Known officially as Wat Phra Chetupon Wimon Mangalaram Rajjawora-mahaviharn, Wat Pho is a grade-one royal temple built by King Rama I of the Chakri Dynasty following his instruction to make Bangkok's old Wat Photharam of the Ayutthaya Period a royal temple by the Grand Palace.
The name Wat Pho is clearly an abbreviated version of Wat Photharam of the Ayutthaya Period.Evidence in the inscription stones indicates that King Phra Buddha Yodfah Chulalok ordered the ministers and Krom Chang Sip Mu (the organization of the tencrafts) to oversee the repair of Wat Photharam. Seven years later, after the completion of the repair initiative, it was renamed Wat Phra Chetupon Wimon Mangalawas which underwent another change during the reign of King Rama IV when it was called Wat Phra Chetupon Wimon Mangalaram Rajjawora-mahaviharn.
Located west of the Grand Palace, the royal temple was built over an area of approximately 20 acres. The temple is dominated by 'Iuntun', the huge Chinese giant sculptures built to guard all the temple entrances. Each 'Iuntun' has a different feature. By word of mouth, Tha Tien is as flat as it is today because of the fight between the giants of Wet Chang (the Temple of Dawn) and Wat Pho with the giant of Wat Phra Kaew (the Temple of the Emerald Buddha) acting as the referee. A related account suggests that the three giants must have been relative in size. 'Luntun', meanwhile, has been misunderstood for the giant of Wat Pho. In fact, the giant sculptures of Wat Pho, like those at Wat Phra Kaew, share the same characteristic with that of the giantess of the Ramayana. The only difference is that they are a lot smaller in comparison, thus become possible to encase them in the portico to the mondhop of the Buddhist Scripture Library.
The Health Park adjacent to the southern chapel and the 'mound of exercising hermit' - kao ruesee dud don, is yet another point of interest initiated during the reign of King Rama I who ordered the gathering of all the knowledge pertaining to traditional medicines and ancient skills from the Ayutthaya Period at the temple. The founder of the Chakri Dynasty believed the hermits' different exercise poses were relaxing therapeutic exercise that could ease physical pains and aches. Applying them to the indigenous belief which regards hermits highly as teachers of different sciences, he commissioned their sculptures in the tradition of the yoga discipline practiced by the holy men of the Sub-Continent, namely an artistic exercise aimed at maintaining a strong health.

Sam Yot: Former Location of a Gambling Den

Bridge, intersection at the end of Charoen Krung Road, Sam Yot was the name of the Bangkok outer city gate in the early Rattanakosin period. King Rama I (1782-1809) constructed this gate together with city walls and other city gates around the outer area of the capital.
At that time, the Sam Yot gate was the only city gate made of wood. It was built straddling a small road and was given the name 'Phruekthimat' gate by the King.
Later, in the reign of King Rama III, this city gate with one pinnacle on top was in poor condition. The King ordered the construction of a new cement gate with a war tower on top to defend the capital against attacks from enemies. King Mongkut (Rama IV) ordered the construction of Charoen Krung Road passing through this gate.
More and more vehicles ran on this road, and when they arrived at the Phruekthimat gate, they had to stop because the gate was too narrow to pass through. King Chulalongkorn (Rama V)
then changed the single gate to three gates connecting to one another. On top of each gate was an intricately designed pinnacle. Seeing that this gate was quite unlike the others, local people called it PratAam Yot, or the three­pinnacled gate. The area where the gate was found was also called Sam Yot subdistrict.
The Sam Yot area during the reign of King Chulalongkorn was quite crowded, as it was the location of a gambling den, called Huai (lottery) Ko Kho, operated by Khun Banboek Burirat, or Yi Ko Hong (the forefather of the Techavanich family).
An excerpt from the book Bangkok Yesterday, written by Khun Wichitmatra, or Kanchanakphan, says, "The Huai Ko Kho house was adjacent to the palace of Prince Alangkan on Mahachai Road. This kind of lottery was also scrapped 60 years ago and the gambling den has changed so tremendously that many people today do not know where the den was; they simply hear the words 'Huai Ko Kho'."
The Huai Ko Kho gambling den was dissolved in the reign of King Vajiravudh (Rama VI), but the Sam Yot gate had been dismantled earlier, late in the reign of King Chulalongkorn. Traffic on Charoen Krung
Road began to be congested and heavy, so the King ordered the expansion of the road and the Sam Yot gate built over Charoen Krung Road was dismantled.Although the Sam Yot gate has disap­peared, many people still have a vivid memory of this prominent gate. The name Sam Yot has been used for call several important sites in this area, such as Sam Yot district, Sam Yot Crime Suppression Division, and Sam Yot Radio Station.


MAY IS THE MONTH OF THE PHUKET SEAFOOD Festival, an annual event that entertains with music and parades, as well as plenty of palate-teasing dining. The festival promotes the many varieties of seafood found in local waters and gives the talented chefs of the island's many hotels the chance to show off their skills.
The Seafood Festival is centered on Phuket's famous Patong Beach, though other villages host their own concerts and carnivals. Parades honour the marine resources industry and its contribution to Phuket's society and economy, and there are cultural shows to watch and join in.
When the sun goes down, you can wander around the seafood stalls and watch demonstrations of the preparation of regional cuisines. Seek out your favourite dish or sample something new – but beware of the fiery Thai chilli that finds its way into most recipes.
Of course, in typical Patong fashion, once you've had your fill of fine food you can party well into the night at the many bars and clubs that line central Bangla Road and the beachfront.

The cultural and medical treasures of Wat Pho have been recognised

WAT PHO (OFFICIALLY KNOWN AS Wat Phra Chetuphon Vimolmang­klararm Rajwaramahaviharn) is a 200-year-old royal monastery in
Bangkok, just south of the Grand Palace that attracts visitors for various reasons: the temple is famous for its huge gold Reclining Buddha and its 20 acres of beautiful grounds containing over 1,000 more Buddha images. It's also renowned as the centre for traditional Thai medicinal massage, but a recent accolade relating to both its cultural and medical significance is about to make Wat Pho, and Thai massage, even more famous internationally.
PROUD MOMENT Right Try a traditional
massage at Wet Pho Below The significance
of the inscriptions at
Wat Pho have been recognised by UNESCOInscriptions on marble around the walls of Wat Pho's ceremonial hall and nearby pavillions are all that was known about Thai massage dating from the reign of King Rama III. This art treasure has fascinated visitors who flock to the attraction both to see its historic beauty, and also to indulge in a superb Thai massage. The famed inscriptions have just been registered by the United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Memory of the World (MOW) for Asia and the Pacific region. The letter of recognition was presented to Wat Pho's abbot, Phra Thampanyabodi, on March 31 this year, the anniversary of King Rama III's birth.
Wat Pho also held a grand merit-making ceremony in honour of the king who commissioned the 1,360 inscriptions on marble plates in the 19th century. The plates show Thailand's religious and secular knowledge, ranging from Buddhi precepts and literary works, to traditional medicine and Thai "hermit" yoga postures.
Preeda Tangtrongchit, director Wat Pho's Thai Traditional Medic Massage, says Unesco's recognitk the inscriptions will make Thai
traditional massage better knowr
Thai traditional massage scienc either a herbal massage or it folio, the contorted hermit postures.

A traditional massage at Wat Phc costs THB150 for 30 minutes, TE for an hour and herbal massages available for THB350 an hour. It' possible to take courses to learn traditional Thai massage. These for 30 hours, cost THB4,500, ant be-Spread over 10 to 15 days.

the greener side of Thai life

One of the things Thai parents did in the past was to walk into their garden and find some palm leaves with which to make a
"pla to pien", or carp mobile. It's no cakewalk for the origami-challenged, but once you get the hang of it, you'll find that plaiting leaves together to make a fish isn't all that difficult.
For babies, these carp mobiles work wonders as they sway back and forth in the wind to slowly encourage sleep. Older children usually have their bit of fun by tying a carp onto the end of a stick and pretending to walk home with their "catch of the day".Who says entertainment needs to be energy-consuming and expensive? With basic skills – and a bit of imagination –batteries and electricity are a luxury we can do without.


Australian art connoisseur Anita Sinclair
elegantly described the different emotions
that can be transmitted through the art form
of puppetry: "Through puppetry we accept
the outrageous, the absurd or even the
impossible, and will permit puppets to say and do things no human could. We allow a puppet to talk to us when no one else can get us to speak. We allow a puppet to smile at us even when we have not been introduced. We also allow a puppet to touch us when a person would lose an arm for the same offence."
Puppetry takes many forms but they all have one element in common — they share the process of animating inanimate performing objects. Puppetry is used in almost all cultures both for entertainment purposes and ceremonially in rituals and celebrations.
A very ancient art form, which probably originated about 30,000 years ago, puppetry has been used since the earliest times to animate and communicate the ideas and needs of human societies.
Evidence of earliest puppetry comes from the excavations at the Indus River basin. Archaeologists unearthed terra-cotta dolls with detachable heads capable of manipulation by a string dating to 2500BC. Other excavations include terra-cotta animals that could be manipulated up and down on a stick, archiving minimum animation in both cases.
The art form also spread across Asia. Puppets first surfaced in India, then in China with its pi-ying xi, the "theatre of the lantern shadows". There, puppets played to all social classes including the highest courts — yet, despite the intricate and beautiful nature of the art, puppeteers in China were always considered part of a lower social stratum, which was also the case in Europe.
Japan also has many forms of puppetry such as the Banraku, a traditional puppet theatre, which was founded in Osaka in 1864. Indonesia, with its very popular Wayang Kulit (shadow puppetry), showed a strong tradition in puppetry. So much so that, in 2003, UNESCO designated it as a "Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity".
In Thailand, puppetry, known throughout the Kingdom as Hoon Krabok (small-sized, bamboo rod puppets), has a well-established history. In fact, Thai theatrical puppetry is unique among the various forms of puppetry in several ways: in addition to representing a character taken from the Ramakian (the Thai version of the Indian epic Ramayana, each puppet also requires the synchronised efforts of three puppeteers, dressed all in black, to effect its highly nuanced manipulation.
Following what some may call mystical inspiration, a young couple in Chiang Mai, the charming city in the northern part of Thailand, is struggling to establish a different form of puppetry: traditional dance movements used in conjunction with contemporary music.
Clad in classical costumes that represent the typical tailored cut of the reign of King Rama IX, the present monarch, the puppets of Mr Phasakorn and Ms Saphthiwi, his wife, perform their dances, as the tradition imposes, on street corners and in parks. They are often invited to the homes of well-off people to perform at private parties.It has been said that the Muses — the Greek mythological goddesses who inspire the creation of the arts and of literature — call their sons. These two young artists at first endeavoured to establish a small business with flying lanterns, but without success. One day at home, talking about what they could do to earn a living, they stumbled onto an old dolls and puppetry essay that Phasakorn had bought when he was completing his architecture degree in Bangkok. The article was just the flash of inspiration they needed – the Muses had called to them.
Since Phasakorn's mother had made dolls for sale when he was a child, he recalled all the knowledge he had gained as he watched her craft these unique and graceful pieces of art. Full of enthusiasm, he and Saphthiwi began to cut, shape, tailor, paint and assemble the pieces until a pair of exquisite puppets finally came to life in their arms.
Instead of following the traditional Ramakian theatre, they crafted their creations to enable them to dance and bring joy to people with their harmonious movements to music. It took them more than a year to learn how to make the puppets graciously move and glide to the rhythm of the notes. They asked a friend who was a dancer to teach them classical dance movements, which they then practised in front of a mirror until they could pull and push the strings and rods to articulate the puppets properly and authentically. The result of all this hard work and dedication is simply amazing.When Phasakorn and Saphthiwi perform in public places, a large crowd always gathers around the stage. The puppets' life-like movements entrance onlookers, and there have even been cases in which particularly sensitive people had wept. The two puppets dance to both modern music and traditionalnorthern songs – it is stunning to observe how the puppeteers and their
success. One day at home, talking about what they could do to earn a living, they stumbled onto an old dolls and puppetry essay that Phasakorn had bought when he was completing his architecture degree in Bangkok. The article was just the flash of inspiration they needed – the Muses had called to them.
Since Phasakorn's mother had made dolls for sale when he was a child, he recalled all the knowledge he had gained as he watched her craft these unique and graceful pieces of art. Full of enthusiasm, he and Saphthiwi began to cut, shape, tailor, paint and assemble the pieces until a pair of exquisite puppets finally came to life in their arms.
Instead of following the traditional Ramakian theatre, they crafted their creations to enable them to dance and bring joy to people with their harmonious movements to music. It took them more than a year to learn how to make the puppets graciously move and glide to the rhythm of the notes. They asked a friend who was a dancer to teach them classical dance movements, which they then practised in front of a mirror until they could pull and push the strings and rods to articulate the puppets properly and authentically. The result of all this hard work and dedication is simply amazing.
When Phasakorn and Saphthiwi perform in public places, a large crowd always gathers around the stage. The puppets' life-like movements entrance onlookers, and there have even been cases in which particularly sensitive people had wept. The two puppets dance to both modern music and traditionalnorthern songs – it is stunning to observe how the puppeteers and their creations move as one, melding into an attractive and exquisite performance.
But the life of an artist is never easy, and it's no different for Phasakorn and Saphthiwi. There are no state or public organisations in Chiang Mai willing to help or even encourage these street performers. Even private organisations can do very little to support them. They live in the hope someone will someday take care of this form of art so it can be kept alive and establish itself as a new standard. But for now they are working on a new dance routine based on the well-known sad song, Ma Mia, which involves two new characters riding a magic dog – the very complicated figure requires a lot of skill and dexterity to operate properly.Phasakorn and Saphthiwi put all their heart and soul into puppetry. Every Sunday you can see them perform at the Three Kings Square surrounded by a crowd of mesmerised children and wide-eyed adults. And as their puppets move flawlessly, they dream of one day owning their own little theatre where people of all ages could gather to watch them perform – and where they could pass on the awe-inspiring art of puppetry.

วันพฤหัสบดีที่ 8 เมษายน พ.ศ. 2553

Another traveling scene egin­ning with a four-wheeled vehicle and cheerful music throughout the journey temporarily halted the commotion of big cities.Approximately four hours from the point of departure in front of the Agricultural Land Reform Office on Rajdamnoen Avenue, we drove pass the idyllic scene of highway 305 on the Rangsit - Nakhon route. We turned left at Kabinburi juncture into highway 304 and stayed on the road for another 100kilometers to our destination at 'Dong Payafai' the deserted evergreen forest of Nakhon Ratchasima.
For nearly half a century, the evergreen forest was turned into a fertile green belt of vegetable farm and fruit orchards and the site of a new district south of Nakhon Ratchasima called 'Wang Nam Khiao'.Our first stop on this trip was Suchada Garden, a garden that boasts more than 30 species of anthurium including the Tropical Montana. A short distance from there, one can have a magnificent view of an eight-acre vineyard of 'dark purple black Opal' seedless grapes which are almost like the artery of the farm providing it with the main source of income. I took along pause to take in the beauty of Suchada Garden, only awaken by the beckoning of the agricultural sage who reminded us it was time to leave for the next leg of the journey.

By twilight. our car moved slowly on the laterite road through the thick fog. As it came to a halt, it was at the foot of the mountain in front of the Suffi­ciency Economy Settlement of Wang Nam Khiao district. The agricultural sage gave us some background to the place that "This plot of land was estblished by Nakhon Ratchasima Agricultural Land Reform Office in 2003 under the Ministry of Agriculture's policy to address the issue of poverty. The land was allocated to farmers who had no farmland of their own to allow them
to make the most out of the farmland. Today, the scheme under the Agricul­tural Land Reform Office has already benefited 200 households.

Under the scheme, each farmer was allocated one acre of land where they grow chemical-free vegetables and raise cattle. Farmers are also given the opportunity to co-invest or become members of the tourist enterprise where eco-tourism in Wang Nam Khiao Sufficiency Economy Settlement is promoted as another means to raise supplementary income".
With the brief knowledge. it was time to enjoy the scenic views around Wang Nam Khiao.
The name Wang Nam Khiao - the Green Water Palace - is so called because of its topography and the glass-clear water with the reflection of the greenery in the immediate environs. The highand, approximately 200 - 700 meters above the sea level, together with the surrounding mountain ranges are responsible for Wang Nam Khiao's mild climate with year-round rain, fog and fresh air, the very features that make it the world's seventh high ozone region.
When combined with the vegetable belt and fruit orchards, Wang Nam Khiao emerges as one of Thailand's top tourist attractions where tourists can enjoy its natural beauty as much as a rang of activities relevant to eco­tourism in the Sufficiency Economy Settlement.
A trek or a bicycle-ride will give tourists a glimpse of the livelihood of the farmers who work on their vegetable patches, fish from their rowboats and raise cattle which freely graze in the field. On the way, tourists can pick up fresh, inexpensive chemical-free vegetables like carrot, broccoli, tomato and capsicum, all the good things of nature direct from the vegetable patches.
At these vegetable patches, one can easily become oblivious to the fleeting moments even the darkness that shrouded Wang Nam Khiao went on unnoticed. By then, it was time to retire indoors. Wang Nam Khiao Sufficiency Economy Settlement provides tourists with dam-side home-stay accommoda­tion that includes two large bungalows and ten smaller ones, each capable of taking between two to six persons. Camping site is also available to those who prefer to enjoy the night in the open.The light of a new day reminded everyone that it was time to bid farewell to Wang Nam Khiao. I left it with fond memories and let the wind bear my promise to the plants that I would one day return to 'Wang Nam Khiao Sufficiency Settlement'.

The long concrete road ahead, the swaying green grass and the light music were good incentives for a peaceful sleep which the voyagers enjoyed until they were awaken as they arrived at Sai Yok district. The stop was only timely, a welcoming break for them to take advantage of the small but refreshing Sai Yok Waterfall amidst the idyllic surrounding. At the same time, the steam locomotives that have long been the painful reminder of World War II at the Death Railway in the waterfall neighborhood to Myanmar also present an excellent opportunity for snapshots. With photographs taken, the voyagers were ready to be on the road again to their destination in Sangkhla Buri district. The smooth and lone road soon becomeswinding, twisting and steep, By the time we arrived at Baan Mai Pattana in Sangkhla Buri district, it was already 4.00 p.m. The community looks peaceful, people clad in distinct attires; the language sounds different from that spoken by an average Thai. This is the Karen Village.
We embarked a boat immediately upon our arrival. From the boat, we could thoroughly admired Uttamanusorn Bridge, allegedly Thailand's longest and most beautiful road. Bathed in light sunshine, it made a wonderful reflection on the surface of Songkalia Creek.
"From the top of the bridge, we can see the spot where three waters converge in front of the old temple of Luang Paw Uttama which is completely under water. This place is referred to as Sarm Prasold, the three waters of Songkalia Creek, Beklee Creek and Runtee Creek", said the guide while pointing to each of the creeks before they converged.
The boat sailed smoothly across the peaceful water, all the while accompanied by the kind guide's narration. He explained that this was once a land mass accessible via the infamous Death Railway which was built during World War II as a bridgehead into Myanmar from Thailand's Thong Pha Phum district. However, with the construction of Vajiralongkorn Dam, the area and the railway were inundated, Since our trip took place during the dry season, March and June, the water has receded enough to allow everyone to see the land mass and other constructions.
The guide showed us the railway although it is buried under piles of pebbles which helps prevent it from being swept away by the currents since it is completely under water in the rainy season. From there, we continued to the old temple of Luang Paw Uttama which had re-emerged. The remains and remnants of the temple that strewed across the temple compound presented tourists with a rare opportunity for a snapshot or two.
The sun was about to set; a number of Mon women were crossing the bridge as they headed home; children in their birthday suits were enjoying a dip. These laid-back scenes soon disappeared into the darkness of the night.
We left for the two-century-old Karen temple at Baan Mai Pattana the following day to join the 'Aiyara Party', an old tradition dedicated to elephants. The giant animals had already formed a line by the time we got to the ceremonial ground. As it moved, scores of local women performed the
dancing ahead of the procession which was tailed by cattle-drawn carts. The procession moved through the village and came to a stop at a large square where a giant fruitcake for the elephants dominated; the party would begin after the monks sprinkled the holy water and completed the ceremony at which a cord was tied around the foot of the elephants.
"Tying a cord around the elephant's foot is an old ritual that takes place every April, the hottest month of the year when the giant animals have a month-long break. The mahout from each household takes this opportunity to organize a blessing ceremony for the elephants. In Karen, this is called kai krachong jung (kai meaning tie while krachong means elephant and jung is equivalent to hand). When the 'Aiyara Party' was first introduced on 15 April 1997, the elephants from each household marched into take part in this specific event", explained Mr. Somchai Srisuke, the former Director of Baan Mai Pattana who continued saying that tying cords to the elephant's foot is a gimmick designed to appease the giant animals making them obedient and performing their duty well. Today, Aiyara Party takes place_every June.
At the end of the ceremony, we hit the road again; the destination was Wat Wang Viveykararn. Despite the scorching
afternoon sun, an air of devotion in the temple was soothing to both the visitors and worshippers. The distinctively delicate art motifs of the temple are uniquely Mon. We entered the chapel to pay homage to Luang Paw Uttama's unspoiled corpse and paused to say a prayer before we moved on to pay respect to the Buddhakaya pagoda, the tallest building in the compound with its spire piercing into the blue sky. The top of the pagoda, ornate with a 400-baht gold canopy, houses the Buddha's relic that was brought into the country from Sri Lanka.
Looking for souvenirs to take home, we stopped by the shops around the Three-Pagoda Check Point. There, at the top of the road, I spotted some Burmese maidens who were selling traditional Burmese face powder. A modest purchase of a small pack of the face powder was enough to put a smile on the young vendor's face. She waved us goodbye when our bus made the way out of Sangkhla Buri.

khanom khrok pan

Thai sweets have existed in local cuisine since ancient times, and the art of cooking them has been passed on from generation to generation. So they are considered part of the country's cultural heritage. Thai sweets consist mainly of such ingredients as flour, sugar, and coconut milk, with the addition of flavors, scents, and colors to make them even more appealing.
The shapes and sizes of Thai sweets are diverse, depending on the type. Cooking utensils for making them are also important, as they set the typical form of each sweet. These utensils are known among Thais as phim khanom, literally meaning 'molds for sweets'.
These molds can be made of wood, brass, or plastic. The use of molds will make sweets more attractive-looking. For instance, there are two types of pans for khanom khrok (Thai coconut pudding made of rice flour). One is made of baked clay, and the other is made of aluminum, both with holes covered with tiny individual lids.
Traditionally, khanom khrok is regarded as a breakfast treat for people of all ages, starting from babies aged six months and over. Originally, it came without any toppings, but today, such toppings as sangkhaya (Thai custard), shrimp with coconut, pumpkin, and others are popular additions. Khanom khrok is now sold from the morning till late at night, and it has become a daily dish for Thai people.

fa museum

fa museum does not serve the public in the traditional role as a place for displays of objects with captions to provide knowledge for visitors, but offers itself as a 'national treasure house', with visitors as the center of education, do you think it is curious and interesting or not?
Located in the Khlong Ha area, Rangsit district, Fathom Thani province, the National Museum in Honor of His Majesty the King's Golden Jubilee, or Kanchanapisek Museum, seems to be far from the capital city. In 2010, this museum will be combined with other major education and eco-tourism centers nearby, such as the National Archives in Commemoration of His Majesty the King's Golden Jubilee, the Supreme Artist Hall, and the Museum of Geology. Interestingly, it houses national heritage items, which have no single area to keep them in, or which are no longer exhibited in other museums across the country. Deputy Director-General of the Fine Arts Department Somlak Charoenpot, who supervised the operations of the National
Museum in Honor of His Majesty the King's Golden Jubilee at the beginning, came up with the new idea of developing the museum. Working with interior decorators, she began to arrange the collection system and the layout first, unlike other museums, which usually work on interior decoration before arranging the displays.
After great efforts being made for about 10 years, life has been brought to the National Museum in Honor of flis Majesty the King's Golden Jubilee; thanks to the unique the artifacts are organized. The items in 'treasure', or section, are arranged, so that they can be clearly seen in a large panoramic view. Visitors may see them from every corner, with museum staff giving them advice. If they want information about any artifacts, they may find it on computers outside the display rooms. The museum also offers a photocopying service.

The display of artifacts is made in accordance with the age, period, and type of each item. The attractive shelves, designs, and lighting at each spot give visitors a feeling that what they are looking at is not lifeless, but are invaluable and part of the national heritage worth exploring.
The 'treasures' are classified as follows:
Cloth Treasure displays clothes, accessories, and religious items, such as Thai ecclesiastical fans, title fans, shoulder bags, flags, and embroidered fabric.
Musical Instrument Treasure consists of Thai arid Asian musical instruments.
Tool and Technlogy Treasure is divided into various groups, namely wooden tools, carpenters' tools, metal tools, utensils. and glass lamps, and technological equipment, such as cameras.
Religious Item Treasure consists of Thai and Asian Buddha images of various periods.
Fine Arts Treasure displays valuable art objects, such as Buddhist manuscript cabinets and boxes, wooden model castles, and ancient furniture.
Pottery Treasure comprises pre-historic pottery arid antique pottery found in Thailand, as well as objects discovered from wrecked ships in the Gulf of Thailand.
Many group visitors who have had the chance to experience these treasures have told other groups about this museum. They also hope that such a style of object arrangerneni will be adopted by other learning museums as well, so that artifacts and art objects of historical significance will be able to effectively reveal their essence passed on from generation to generation. If they can accomplish that, visitors who will admire these museums and take pride in their land.As the national treasure house, the National Museum in Honor of His Majesty the King's Golden Jubilee has emerged as one of the best venues to help maintain the country's heritage.

siam cultural park

The 'Siam Cultural Park' over 18.8 i acres of land in Bang Phae district of Ratchaburi province is set in the pleasant ambiance of the beautiful park. designed to complement nature. The plants, the flowing brook and artificial cascade provide a wonderful retreat. It is also a research center for people who have a passion for Thai art and culture as well as the study of the traditional livelihood of the Thai people.
On display inside Siam Cultural Park are fiberglass wax figures of such prominent figures as Khru Montri Tramot, Sueb Nakasatian, M.L. Pin Malakul, Mother Theresaand,Vietnam's Uncle Ho, among others.
The space around Siam Cultural Park is clearly earmarked for specific activities. The zone of the Three-era Buddha Statues, for example, features exquisite replicas of Buddha images from three different periods, namely Sukhothai, Chiang Saen and U-thong. Kuti Sangkha, the monks' living quarter, comprises traditional Thai building and wax figures of highly revered monks from different regions including Luang Poo Mun, Somdej Phra Buddhacharn Tho, Luang Poo Wan and Khru Baa Sri Vichai. Tradi­tional Houses from Thailand's Four Regions reflect the ways of life and cultures of each region based on specific religious and culture orienta­tions. Chuchok and Kanha - Charlie (the two royal children), an episode from 'Phra Vejsundorn' is a light and sound presentation in the simulated Chadok Cave; the show is designed to give the audience moral lessons and teachings on the merit of adequacy. Then, there is a large square dedicated to Phra Bodhisat Awalokitaysuan based on the art of sculpturing from China's Song Dynasty.

one kilometer from the Ranong

Located one kilometer from the Ranong Municipality along Highway 4004, the residence of the Governor of Ranong province, which is also referred to as the Governor's Camp, was built in the ancient Chinese architectural style during the rule of Phraya Damrong Sucharit Mahison Phakdi (Kaw Soo Jiang), the first Ranong Governor and the forefather of the Na Ranong family. The Governor's second son, Kaw Sim Kong, was entrusted with supervising construction work,
The construction of the Governor's residence began in 1877 following the rebel of Chinese coolies. The premise covers an area of 33 rai (about 13 acres). It is surrounded by concrete walls, 3.5 meters high and 50 centimeters thick., on a 60-centimeter high stone base. Originally, the wall line was 954 meters long, but today it remains only 722 meters long. The entrance is on the eastern side and a large wooden war tower is found in the front gate compound. The tower has been damaged in the passage of time. There is a fort in the northern corner of the walls in connection with the eastern corner. In the past, this fort was used a guardhouse. Along the walls are found holes to place guns or for people inside to look at the outside. In an emergency, the Governor's residence would be used as shelter for Ranong residents.
The Fine Arts Department registered the residence of the Ranong Governor as a national historical site on December 18,1996. Apart from the mentioned features, another interesting attraction is a shrine of the Na Ranong family with four generations. The signboard in front of the shrine consists of Chinese words, read in Fukien as 'Ko Yang', which means the `supreme sun'. It was given by Prince Damrong Rajanubhab, a son of King Mongkut (Rama IV). Moreover, inside the residence is a collection of historical records of the Na Ranong family, which is as important as the local history and the growth of Ranong province.

Prasat Peuai Noi

Prasat Peuai Noi in Peuai Noi district of Khon Kaen is located some 79 kilometers from downtown Khon Kaen. The charm of traditional rural Thailand still prevails in the area where the prevailing simplicity is so obvious that it is almost hard to believe that more than 1,000 years ago, it was under the influence of Khmer civilization which can still be seen today in the architecture that has survived the ages.
To the local people, Prasat Peuai Noi is Phra Thart Kuthong which stands majestically over an expansive area after an ambitious restoration plan by the Depart­ment of Fine Arts from 1988 - 1994.Prasat Peuai Noi is a Hindu place of temple built during B.E. 1600 - 1700 in the combined architectural styles of Papuan and Angkor Wat based on thescheme of the universe in Hindu tradition where Phra Sumeru, the center principle laterite buildings. The discovery of the 'lingem' inside the temple suggests that it was built as a dedication to God Siva. However, a lintel with the depiction of the Reclining God Narai - Phra Narai Bundhomsindhu graces the top of the entrance to the building. Yet, southeast of the temple is another building called Phobbannarai which houses religious teachings. Prasat Peuai Noi is protected by moats built to represent the ocean that surrounds Phra Sumeru Mount where the God they worship resides.Visiting Prasat Peuai Noi at dusk is an unforgettable experience. Tourists will have the good fortune of seeing the remarkable beauty of the evening sun which reflects upon the sculptures and laterite stones; the impression is as if one were taken back in time to the glorious past of Khmer civilization, a chance to witness the fascination of Prasat Peuai Noi in the ambiance of rural 'sari. Additional information is available from the 9° Fine Arts Office, Khon Kaen,

the sakaekrang river

Uthai Thani is a small province but full with natural resources in term of forest areas abundance with wild life. These make Uthai Thani a tourist attraction for its intact natural environment. In addition, traveler would see the old way of living in the province, especially the natural relationship between men and the Sakaekrang river, the main water way of Uthai Thani that has been the main livelihood of Uthaithani people for many generations. The river flowsthrough communties, temples and market places where once were the trade life line in the past.
Along both sides of the river floated with raft houses that repre­sent the idyllic life style of Uthai people who lives on the river. They bath, wash, grow herbs and culture fishes in `krachang' - the large netting cages. The well known fish species here is 'Pia Rad' which are made into many delicious dishes.Tourist would enjoy cruising along the river to see the way of living of raft house people. You could get on a boat cruise at Larn Sakae pier locating at Tasaban 2 Market in Mueang district, or go to Larn Supanyika boat pier in front of the Provincial Hall on Sri Uthai Road. The cruising route take you pass Wat Thasung temple and end the journey at Thasung sub district where the Sakaekrang river meets with the Chao Phraya river.

Ban Dokmai

Ban Dokmai is located on the bank of ilthe Ong Ang Canal at the back of Wat Saket and opposite Ban Bat in Bangkok. People in this community were engaged mainly in producing fireworks and firework pinwheels. Anyone who needed fireworks and firework pinwheels for major events usually ordered them from Ban Dokmai. Formerly, Ban Dokmai residents were Cambodian immigrants coming to settle down in Thailand during the reign of King Rama I (1782-1809). They built their homes on the banks of canals, east of the capital, and made a living by producing fireworks and fireworks pinwheels. Ban Dokmai was famous for craftsmen in this filed and it has been listed among the 18 old handicraft communities in Bangkok.
It is said that around 1962, a fire accident took place because of a burst in fireworks making, resulting in most houses at Ban Dokmai burning down. Seven or eight persons died in the fire.
After the tragic incident, the Government has no longer allowed fireworks production. In the meantime, a large volume of fireworks were imported from foreign countries, mainly from Japan and China. The imports were convenient and local residents would not have to take a risk of making fireworks.Today, only some houses at Ban Dokmai sell fireworks, but they do not produce them as they did in the past. This old active area has become quiet and its distinctive feature is disappear­ing. It also seems impossible for the old Ban Dokmai to make a comeback.

UP AMONG THE COOL, MISTY HEIGHTS OF THE NORTH perches a little town with an atmosphere and a past unlike any spot in Thailand. It's a place of aging warriors who survived desperate battles, a one-time den of opium traffickers, a community that could have been plucked right out of China. This is Mae Salong, which has emerged from its hard and unsavoury beginnings to flourish as the heart of Thailand's "Tea Country" Here, the brew – a blissful, daily must for millions around the world – is never far away. The town's main road, which twists along a ridgeback like a dragon's tail, is lined with picturesque teashops
serving it in delicate porcelain cups. And as far as the eye can see, hillsides are carpeted with tea bushes thriving under ideal growing conditions – rich soil, cool nights and humid days, and an altitude of some 1;300 metres above sea level.
But perhaps the key to tea's success in these mountains of Chiang Rai, Thailand's northernmost province, are its enterprising, hard-labouring inhabitants. Being ethnic Chinese, world champion tea drinkers and connoisseurs, doesn't hurt either. Take members of Chamreon Cheewinchalerrnchot's family whose lives have been typical of the town's residents ... but first some tea.
It's a wintry morning on the veranda of their Mae Salong Villa, the red Chinese lanterns swaying gently in the bracing breeze as Chamroen's wife Ming orders up three steaming teas to sample.
A grizzled Akha tribal bangs his cymbals nearby while old nostalgic tunes waft from a hotel speaker. Haze blurs the outlinesof surrounding hills. "It has a milky scent, doesn't it?" Ming suggests, as we apply our noses to a cup of Oolong No. 12 much as wine aficionados do before taking a sip. Another is redolent of flowers and the third, Green Jade Oolong Tea, reminiscent of sticky rice. "Tea is a kind of art,' says the charming woman – and medicine, extolling Oolong's efficacy in tackling high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and fatty foods.

The teas come from Chamreon's plantation, among the three largest in Mae Salong, and all started by fighters of Chiang Kai-. shek's Kuomintang (KMT) or their children. Chamreon's father was a colonel, Ming's mother a Captain who joined the KMT at the age of 13. Suffering, the loneliness of exile and deaths of comrades became the staples of their lives for more than a decade. After the triumph of Mao Zedong's Communists in 1949, the KMT's 93rd Division began its ordeal, first retreating out of China's southern province of Yunnan into neighbouring Myanmar. From there, the defeated troops staged futile forays into their homeland
with armed assistance from Taiwan and the United States. The KMT proved unwelcome guests in Myanmar where, in order to sustain their military organisation, they became major opium and heroin traffickers„tafenexpanding into smuggling jade. antiques and consumer goods. Chased out
of Myanmar in the early 1960s, the "Lost Army," as it is often called, moved into northern Thailand with one section of it, including Chamrecn's and Ming's parents, settling in Mae Salong where a village like any other in their native Yunnan was built. Other KMT remnants were relocated to Taiwan, which to this clay maintains close links with the Chinese communities of northern Thailand.
From the start, Chamreon's father and others planted Assam tea, but with little success. Plums, peaches, pears and other fruits were also grown but markets for these perishables were far from their then remote, isolated homes. In the 1970s, projects initiated by His Majesty
King Bhumibol Adulyadej sought to improve tea quality and marketing just as the KMT were once again taking up arms – this time to help fight the Thai government fight, and win, against domestic communist insurgents.
Their wars finally over, the weary warriors turned in their weapons and disbanded the military organisation in the mid-1930s and. in exchange, a grateful Thai government

began to grant them citizenship and land. The town's name was also changed to Santikhiri – Hill of Peace – although Mae Salong is still more commonly used. It was a classic tale of swords (and opium knives) turned into ploughshares, or more specifically tea.
Chamreon, a handsome, energetic man of 50, recalls how in 1989 Taiwanese experts came to Mae Salong to study how tea production could be improved while about the same time a dozen residents of the town, himself included, travelled to the island republic, where they saw how profits could be gleaned from small plots of Taiwan's superb Oolong ("black dragon" in Chinese) tea. But getting the Camellia sinensis into Thailand was a different matter. Cuttings were seized four times by Bangkok customs before officials from HM the King's projects stepped in to let them pass through. Then followed a period of trial and error, with tea quantity and quality improving season after season, bringing growing prosperity, a tea culture and tourism In Mae Salong.

Chamreon got in on pretty much the ground floor of the latter. As manager of the town's first hotel, the Mae Salong Resort (where he also-sang for guests), he realised that more visitors were on their way, so in 1986 he opened a restaurant with 10 simpleadjöining bungalows (Ming recalls some rather hefty German guests crashing through their bamboo beds). The modest enterprise has now expanded into the hillside, 80-room Mae Salong Villa, one of four hotels, six guesthouses and a number of home stays in the town. "The tea plantations are a kind of attraction for tourists. Before people used to come and say 'What's so special about Mae Salong? There are cherry trees but they only blossom briefly once a year,"' Ming relates.Tea plus cool weather amid mountain scenery are attractions, but many also come to Mae Salong for its special Chinese ambience, although Akha, List], 'lac), Shan and other ethnic groups are also found among its 6,000 inhabitants. The original mud-floor huts may be gone, and the mule trains have been replaced by motorcycles, but Mae Salong's streets are still lined with the neatly whitewashed, one-storey houses typical of Yunnan, their fronts emblazoned with scrolls wishing guests good fortune in Chinese characters. In the streets, the language is heard among both old and young, the children attending a Thai government school during the day followed by attendance at a Chinese one from 5 to 7.30 pm. Although Mandarin is taught, it's the Yunnanese dialect that is spoken at home. "We still adhere to the old Chinese traditions arid culture.
42 Sawasdee February 2000We celebrate special days and perform rites, which are already lost in China.' Chamreon says.
Of the first generation of KMT soldiers, Ming relates wistfully, "Time is flying." Not more than 20 of them are still alive, often seen chatting together over cups of tea or heaping bowls of Yunnanese noodles and black chicken soup, clinging to bygone ways. The last of the KMT commanders, Gen Lue Ye lien, is now 91, the honourary head of the community ',dill possessed of charisma and a soldier's ramrod ;Jule. l-lis predecessor and the man who led the KMT's 5th
In Mae Salong, Gen Tuan Shi-wen, lies in a pagoda‑u.; koleum overlooking the town. Below, an expansive Ind houses the Taiwan-financed Chinese Martyr's MJJtil Museum with a vast, austere central shrine containing the inemolial tablets of some 750 KMT soldiers who perished for their cause. Gilt dragons pull sentry duty on the orange-tiled rook, held up by scarlet columns. Flanking halls, narrate the KM I '=-,tort' in faded photographs, documents and sandbox displays of their big battles. Old photographs are also exhibited at the Mae Salong Villa and the Mae Salong Resort, which once served as a military training camp.

Left: A Chinese seiHng teas. plantation in theBesides the shared past and ethnic make-up, which foster cohesiveness, what keeps Mae Salong together and unique is a long-standing deal with the Thai government that outsiders cannot buy land in the town and existing property can only be passed on from local parents to children. Hence, the thankful absence of out-of-scale hotels and other inappropriate development by Thai and foreign outsiders. How long Mae Salong's character can remain intact depends much on the young generation. The town's youth has long been going off for education to Taiwan – both Ming and Chamroen studied there – and increasingly to Bangkok where jobs are much more lucrative and plentiful than back home. Chamreon says Mae Salong's children may spend years away, accumulating experience and savings, but then return to set up businesses.
44 Sawasdee February 2008But Ming wonders about her own, three of who are now at university in Bangkok: "I don't know if they will come back. Children these days like to sit behind computers. They don't want to work hard, and tea is hard work."
Tea, however, is the very thing from which many could make a living. Chiang Rai province now produces some 1,000 tons of it a year, with Mae Salong accounting for about 100 ("But it's considered the finest tea," Chamreon boasts). Tea is a continuous pursuit, harvested six times a year as compared to rice or corn, which yield only one or two crops. And while profit margins aren't great, Thai tea can now be shipped in large quantities to solid markets at home and abroad.
The plantation of the Choke Chamreon Tea Company is situated eight kilometres outside the town while processing takes place at another nearby location in a brand new factory. Chamreon and his twin brother Jathupon also handle marketing, often travelling with government delegations to promote Thai tea in Southeast Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Their own brand – Emerald Thai Tea – is now exported to China, France and Taiwan, which still sends some experts to the top Chiang Rai growers. But perhaps not for long; with growing conditions better than those in Taiwan, the students are now equalling, if not already surpassing, their masters.
Chamreon points to the clean water running from the heights, a soil kept robust through organic rather than chemical fertilizers and marauding insects held at bay by an insecticide of assorted mulched vegetation. Looking out over the thriving, 100-hectare plantation and the sweep of mountains bathed by a gentle afternoon sun, Chamreon talked about the long march of his parent's generation that made what was around him possible. I recalled General Lue's words when we met several years ago. 'We had no money, no food, no guns and no country. We had nowhere to go. The past was a nightmare," the old leader said. "Let us look to the future."

one of the first thai women to study nursing in the early years of the 20th century, her intelligence and hard work earned her a scholarship to continue her studies in public health in Boston, United States. As fate would have it, His Royal Highness Prince Mahidol of Songkhla was studying medicine at the time at Harvard University. When the young prince met the beautiful 18-year-old nursing student, it was by all accounts love at first sight and, after a brief courtship, they were married. Sadly, however, after only a few years of happiness, she experienced the double tragedy of first losing her husband to illness and later her first born son shortly after he was proclaimed King of Thailand. Fondly known by Thais as the Her Royal Highness the Princess Mother, she showed immense fortitude in living a long and fruitful life, much of it devoted to helping the poorest subjects of the Kingdom.On her visits to northern Thailand in the 1960s, she was particularly touched by the plight of hill tribes in the remotest border areas of the country. At that time, many of these people were poorly integrated into Thai society. Although compulsory schooling was the norm in the rest of Thailand, large numbers of hill tribe children received no formal education at all, mainlydue to the isolated location of their villages. Under the Royal Patronage of HRI I the Princess Mother, the Royal Border Patrol Police set up hundreds of schools for hill tribe children :and villagers In the far flung corners of the Kingdom. She also used her own private funds to support the establishment of the Thai Hill Crafts Foundation that promoted arid preserved traditional tribal handicrafts such as fabric and basket weaving to help hill tribe people supplement their meager incomes from farming.At the time. there were very few roads to the remote villages she visited HRH and the Princess Mother was obliged to get around by air force helicopter. To the people of the hill tribes she became known as "The Royal Mother who descends fromthe sky'', or Mae Fah Luang in Thai, which later became the name of the foundation set up to continue her selfless work. The legacy of her charitable work has had profound effect on the lives of the rural people of northern Thailand and many of the projects she started continue to operate for the well being of communities in the remotest areas of the country.One of her more accessible projects is located just outside of Chiang Rai, known as the Rai Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Park. Originally set up in 1973 as an education and development centre for young people from impoverished tribal communities, it has helped hundreds of students gain a formal education and integrate as equals into Thai society. The success of the project and improvements in infrastructure over the years means that most hill tribe children now have schools near to their villages. In 2003, the beautiful 26-hectare grounds were transformed into a centre for the study and conservation of Thailand's Lanna heritage, another area of keen interest to HRH the Princess Mother.Dating from around AD 1296, the Lanna Kingdom encompassed much of northern Thailand, its influence reaching into the Shan states of Burma, Yunnan in China and deep into neighbouring Laos. The Lanna states were only incorporated into Thailand a century ago and remained culturally distinct from the rest of the Kingdom until relatively recently. Although it has been little studied, Lanna culture is much appreciated by connoisseurs of Southeast Asian art especially for its superb religious architecture and artefacts.When word of the efforts being undertaken by the Mae Fah Luang Foundation to develop a Lanna heritage collection became known, it attracted interest and support from local residents who donated a steady stream of Lanna items in their possession. These were added to the items presented to HRH the Princess Mother as gifts and has pre-empted many priceless pieces of Lanna art from being lost forever. Today, the Rai Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Centre holds the finest and most extensive collection of religious and secular art and artefacts to be found anywhere in Thailand and provides an opportunity for northern Thai people to learn about their cultural roots and heritage.Nakorn Pongnoi has been Director of the Rai Mae Fah Luang for nearly 30 years and has been the driving force behind carrying out the vision of HRH the Princess Mother,
first implementing the educational program for hill tribe children and since 2003 developing the Art and Cultural Centre into what it is today. Jokingly he says that he should also be called the chief gardener as he has devoted so much effort into creating the magnificent gardens Mat embellish the centre. Hundreds of trees, shrubs, orchids and flowers lovingly collected and planted over the years have transformed the centre into an oasis of peace and tranquility for Chiang Rai residents and visitors alike.
In Thai, rat means orchard, as the land on which-the centre Stands was originally just that. Under Nakomn's guidance they have become much more, a conscious reflection of the natural landscape in which the Leona culture was nurtured. Indeed, many of the artistic motifs used in Lanna designs and decorations were drawn from nature and the gardens are often visited by local artists as a continuing source of inspiration "Chiang Rai needed a park, a place for the city
dwellers to relax," says Nakorn. More than that, he believes Chiang Rai also needed a place of tranquility where the People cold contemplate their roots and Northern Thai Culture As a result of his efforts, visitors will find the paths and walkways that meander around the landscaped gardens dolled with lotus ponds and rest pavilions an invitation to relaxation -and contemplation.
Set in the grounds are fine examples of Lanna architecture that house both the permanent collections and temporary exhibitions. Chief among the buildings is the magnificent Haw Khan (Golden Pavilion) that was constructed in the -traditional Lanna style as a gift from the people of Thailand on the occasion of the 90th birthday of HRH the Princess Mother. The Haw Kham houses the religious art and artefacts that have been collected over the years by the Mae Fah Luang Foundation. In Thailand it is believed that religious implements, once con ecrated, remain sacred in perpetuity and the objects in the interior of the Golden Pavilion.
Haw Kham are displayed in an appropriate context that allows devotees to offer their respects following the Lanna Buddhist ritual. Of these, a 300-year-old Lanna-style teakwood statue of the Lord Buddha enshrined in the pavilion is of special interest. Each evening, the ritual candelabra placed around the Buddha image are lit to pay respect to the Buddha image in a reverential and spiritual ceremony. In a similar but smaller pavilion, the Haw Kham Noi, are the unique Mang Ta murals that were originally painted directly onto the teakwood walls of a small temple in Phrae province. Dating from the 19th century, the murals depict scenes from daily life and are considered as an invaluable record of northern Thai culture from that time. In addition to these major pieces, in a separate building known the Haw Kaew, the Gallery of Lanna Cultural Arts displays secular objects from the Lanna period, ranging from boats to musical instruments to domestic and agricultural implements. These everyday objects are made with such care and elegance they can be considered artworks in themselves. Among the rare objects is a life-sized teak tiger used in a Laotian royal palace for kneading sticky rice.Today, the Rai Mae Fah Luang is not only a living museum but a vibrant venue for a variety of cultural events, including art exhibitions as well as music and dance performances that take place. in the Sala Kaew, a Lanna-style open-sided pavilion, and the surrounding gardens. A visit to the Art and Cultural Park is a must for anyone passing through Chiang Mai and is the perfect point of departure for exploring the dramatic mountainous landscape of northern Thailand that HRH the Princess Mother held so dear to her heart.

over the hill and far away

Romantically dubbed "The Land in the Mists", Mae Hong Son is Thailand's northwest frontier— it is as far as you can get from the nation's urban hurly-burly

NOT SO LONG AGO, UNTIL AS RECENTLY as the 1930s, you had to ride an elephant to get there – across rugged mountains and through dense forests. Only when an airstrip and the first sealed road were built in the 1960s did the provincial capital stop being a real struggle to reach. Mac Hong Son is Thailand's most inaccessible province, such that until relatively recently it was a kind of Siberia for miscreant government officials who had blotted their copybooks elsewhere; the dreaded message would arrive "You are transferred to Mae Hong Son." Today, with several daily flights from Thailand's northern "capital" Chiang Mai and numerous connections from there to Bangkok, that's not so much of a punishment. For
tourists, it's sheer delight easy access to a sleepy valley in the mountainous Burmese borderlands where modern creature comforts nevertheless ewait.
Four elements combine to give Mae Hong Son its unique'character: mountains, mists, forests and Burma. No other Thai province has so much mountainous terrain or such extremes of temperature and none so much Burmese influence. The result is the distinctive images of silvery multi-tiered temple roofs shrouded in morning mists against forested mountain backdrops. Add colourfui hill tribe peoples, working elephants, fast-flowing rivers, huge caves and high waterfalls and you have a potent touristic brew.
Mae Hong Son town actually began in the 1830s as an elephant corral for the Prince of Chiang Mai, who lived four weeks trek away to the east in his city palace. Up until 1775 the area had been Burmese. In their late 18th century resurgence, the Thais took the faraway territory into the national fold and made it an official province in 1893, but it remains a
place apart in many respects. Ethnically

in particular, Mae Hong Son is a land apart, for only a small percentage of the population are standard ethnic Thai. The vast majority are either Shan or hill tribes. The Shan, also known as Thai Yai, are close cousins of the Thai who are far more numerous across the border in the Shan States of Burma; the Shan are reckoned to make up half of Mae Hong Son's population. The diverse hill tribes are almost as numerous: these are migrant Tibeto-Chinese peoples unrelated to the Thais, mostly of the Karen, Hmong, Lisu and Lahu tribes. The Shan are valley farmers, the tribals are usually slash-and-burn hill farmers.
Mae Hong Son, the provincial capital, is a Thai Yai town and a pleasure in itself – beautiful temples, a serene lake, misty mornings, green hills all around. Two spots draw all visitors. One is Chong Kham Lake --- once the elephant bathing place, now the focus of a peaceful town centre park – with the white and gold stupa of VVat Chong Kiang and the silvery filigree-tiered roofs of Wat Chong Kharn, side by side, reflected in the waters. Within the temples, which date from the 19th century and occupy a common compound, the chief attraction is a collection of antique wooden figures, some as taltAis one metre, brought from Burma in,1857 and depicting Jataka Charaters from stories of the Buddha's previous. lives.The other musl-see is the hilltop temple of Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu, which overlooks the town from a couple of hundred metres up and affords magnificent panoramic views. A winding road leads up to it for the motor-borne while energetic pilgrims can climb the steep path arid steps leading from the town below. From the summit, there are views of the mountain ranges stretching far away into the hazy blue distance and a precipitous view down to thetoy-like town in the toy-like town in the valley. Two titax.i'lihi whitewashed stupas, bells tinkling in tir wind atop their gold-tipped spires, foci, the focus of Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu. Erected side by side along with a chapel containing a revered white alabaster Buddha image, the stupas attract many Buddhist pilgrims who ritually circle them holding offerings. Until mid-morning, mists swirl around the temple structures and statues -- Buddha images and singha mythological lion figures – which eerily vanish within the passing clouds, then reappear in brilliant sunlight.Mae Hong Son is the market centre for the whole province and it is at its liveliest in the early morning. The funky, fresh produce market features cheroot-smoking women vendors and colourfully garbed hill tribe customers and sells exotica like porcupine meat and fresh strawberries, which in Thailand only grow in the far north. The town is relaxed and agreeable, with an extraordinary setting for a Thai provincial capital, nestled in a mountain hollow. In recent years, it has gained many a hotel, restaurant and pub, catering to a tourist boom, but the old heart of this overgrown village, Chong Kham Lake and its surroundings, remains beautifully calm – apart from some dubious music at night coming from

a couple of open-sided restaurants. At dusk, a colourful night market sets up on the lakeside road, selling ethnic clothing, textiles and souvenirs. In front of the old temples, food stalls offer a huge variety of delicacies for consumption sitting cross-legged on reed mats at low tables set out on the grassy verge beside the lake. For sophisticates, who might have feared caffeine cold turkey in this neck of the backwoods, there's even a little cafe offering cappuccino, frappuccino, latte and the like. Coffee culture has now reached its outer Thai limits.
But the real treats of Mae Hong Son – for anyone with the least modicum of adventurous spirit – are the terrific variety of excursions that can be made into the little developed hinterland, which includes vast swathes of splendidly primeval rainforest coating a wild mountainscape.
Remote as it is, Mae Hong Son province offers a wide spectrum of trips in transport to suit all tastes, from tour minibus to self-drive jeep or motorbike. Simpler modes get you really close -- down and dirty even – to the land: trail-biking along distant tracks, trekking to hill tribe villages, rafting down rivers, elephant-back expeditions. For touring this exhilarating landscape, the ideal compromise between ease and involvement is a motorbike, easily hired in the town. The glory of Mae Hong Son these days is that its largely wild landscape is now threaded with sealed roads – never so wide as to spoil the environment, but of excellent surface quality. On a motorbike, the roads are a magic carpet into the back of beyond, the wind in your hair, the forest aromas in your nostrils.Take the west first. It's logical
Burma lies that way and borders exert a magnetic effect, the pull of the exotic, the lure of the forbidden. Just south of the town. a road leads across the Pai River and soon dives into dense forest. Up hill and down dale, the two-lane blacktop twists and turns through a lush green environment, sometimes dipping to a ford where a shallow stream ripples across the way. Suddenly, a yellow sign says: 'Elephant Ahead, Do Not Sound Horn". It can, we can't, is evidently the rule. This forewarns drivers of the base camp for elephant treks: starting from here, two up on a topless howdah, trekkers lurch and sway through the foliage on the ship of the jungle. The great mammal used to haul heavy logs through here; perhaps tourists are preferable, if it could but say.
Eventually the excellent road emerges from tree cover and ends up at the village of Huay Sua Tao created by Karen refugees from Burma in the early 1990s, a rambling wood-built settlement in a narrow valley surrounded by steep, densely forested hills. Here some of the women and girls belonging to the Kayan sub-group have numerous highly-polished brass rings fixed around their necks, elongating them `in accordance with a traditional tribal concept of beauty; perpetuating the custom mostly for financial reasons, the women earn considerable income for the community through the fees charged to non-Thai tourists for entry to their part of the village.
Now let's head north from town, the most spectacular way. This is Highway 1095 to Chiang Mai, completed only in the 1980s. a great mountain ride that might at times fool you that you were in the Rockies if it weren't for the daytime heat. It climbs over rocky forested ridges, dips into deep
green valleys el soya bean fields, soars again Into bille Clad mountains, winds down lnto villages thatched with great thick tongtotri3g leaves, An adventure road, recently converted from a dirt track to a good blacktop, leads off due north to Mae Aw. a Chinese. Kuomintang (KMT) border village founded by remnants of Chiang Kai-shek's defeated Nationalist Army in 1950 after they were chased out of China by Mao Zedong's victorious communists. Tea is a major crop, KMT tea, it you will, in this atmospheric frontier settlement with Chinese characteristics. On the steep and tortuous route, with many spectacular views, a sidetrack goes to the wild crashing waters of Pha
Sua Falls.
And then there's the south road, Highway 108. This winds down the Pai Valley and then ever upwards into forested highlands, with a spectacular viewpoint around Km 17 looking east where the Mae Samat stream cuts a ravine between thickly wooded mountains about 1,500 metres high.
At about Km 30, an eastward road leads steeply upwards, hairpinning and soaring to the high point of Microwave Mountain, named not for handy ovens but a
television relay station on the summit, under which shelters a Hmong hill
tribe village. Children in black trimmed­with-red clothing and cockerels coloured likewise scuff around in the bare soil. The far views across desolate mountains are breathtaking.
In Mae Hong Son, there's a lot to thank the telecommunications industry for. Even better than Microwave Mountain is what shall be dubbed "Transmitter Peak". On the westward road to Ban Nai Soi, another Karen "Longneck" border village, a turnoff leads towards a great forested hill, then proceeds to mount it. Winding ever upward in low gear, dodging pot-holes, wondering how far this extraordinary route can possibly go, and why, you eventually reach two summits capped with transmitters. All around is a magnificent panoply of forested mountains, a 360-degree vision of wild natural beauty, and you seem to be at the very culmination.The combination of a distinctive culture, a multitude of active diversions, largely unspoilt natural splendour and a stimulating climate marks Mae Hong Son out on the Thai tourist map. Long hidden away in Thailand's far northwest corner, Mae Hong Son has emerged to the wider world, but kept its otherworldliness.