Saturday, February 28, 2015

King Narai Fair, Lopburi in February

Sound and Lights
Every February in Lopburi, on dates that shift about, a festival is held to commemorate the deeds of King Narai in an extravagant sound and light show within his 400 year old palace. Long long time ago, in this province far far away, this King, most famous of Ayutthayan kings, boosted the regions commercial and diplomatic .. . . ok this is getting to be boring . You can read all about him on Wiki. Lets talk about the experience.

This was a festival where there were a traditional dances performed, fireworks raining down on your hair, screeching male vocals of I-San male singers, food and then more. There was also a parade reenacting the glory days of Lopburi where royalties who sat high on thrones were carried on the shoulders of their loyal servants. And of course there were the crowds of visitors who came from Bangkok and all moo bans in the vicinity swarming the streets that were turned into night markets.

All Dressed Up
The only difference from all other festivities I had experienced was that for this occasion, visitors were also clad in traditional costumes of all sorts. I myself put on a Chinese coolie shirt. It was sort of out of place yes, but it beats trying to hold on forever onto a Thai Jong Ka Ben. I don’t want to lose my Thai loin cloth to result in un-volunteered indecent exposure within the crowd mayhem.

My friends the ladies, they put on traditional Pha Nueng (Thai skirt). It was easy and convenient. But it was a far cry from many of the other who went all out with a full splendor of glittery costumes and traditional gold pointy headdresses that you could skewer a ton of fish balls and some meat cuts.

Traditionally in Thai culture, Thai woman were naked from the waist up, I was disappointed that none in the crowd don this style I so looked forward to. There was however the more sexy few, they went bare shouldered. Those in the name of traditional village folks called chao ban. Their minimum age was a decade older than mine, and their flabby tummy, about the same extent as mine. Towards the extreme end, were the drag queens. Elaborately dressed in Thai costumes with likely an inch thick of make-up, they mingled with us crowd and welcomed photo sessions. They were true beauty and they confuse foreigners who wondered why Thai women have deep voices.

The Currency
On the fairgrounds were clusters and clusters of vendors selling that much needed sweet cold drink and a multitude of hot Thai delicacies. From the spicy and sour som tam with strong smelling pickled fish to the sweet aroma of caramelized barbequed meats on skewers, everything north eastern was there to fill our hunger. Interestingly we traded cash for seashells which in turn were used to purchase the food from the straw laden stalls. I was told seashell was the currency of old in the Kingdom.

A word of advice for you readers who are thinking of visiting next year. Parking will be hell. The fair actually started from noon, but the bulk of visitors arrived only towards the cool evening. Arrive four-ish or forever give up the idea of finding a spot 2 km in the immediate vicinity. We arrived late in heavy traffic, was coaxed into parking in an empty garage turned car park where all seemed too good to be true. The entrepreneur workshop turned parking area took about 8 cars max at 100 Baht each. Then they also took on about 10,000 bikes and squeezed them into whatever crevices they could find, even under your car if they had to. So, when it was time to go home, we waited the time it took a snail to cross a 6 lane highway 10 times for the attendants to shift the bikes about like a friggin Chinese puzzle.

My car survived the obstacle course out from the parking area without a scratch fortunately. It was after 9, the traffic was still heavy. Fireworks lit the skies as we crawled in heavy traffic out of the fair. On a dark Lopburi highway, cool wind in my hair (from the air con), warm smell of my sweaty foot, rising up through the air.. … Two hours there or so, the return to Bangkok.

Monkey God
And traditionally, they all use cell phones.....
The Old Wall
All Lit Up
Even the Vendors were Dressed
The Guard and the Crowd
He can break glass with his voice.
Men or Women?
High on Something...
Fair Grounds

No comments: