Chiang Mai: Lanna Expo 19
Chiang Mai lies at the heart of the ancient Lanna Kingdom – a realm lasting from the Thirteenth Century to the Eighteenth Century when it then became part of the overall Kingdom of Siam. At times it encompassed parts of Myanmar and Lao and reflects those close associations in its traditions, language, food and clothing. Each year a huge Lanna Expo is held in the new convention centre, just to the north-west of the old city.
When this huge place was being constructed some local wags suggested that it was going to be the alternate parliament when exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra returned. It is a stunning place but for me its name is the best feature.
Most large public buildings in Thailand have a low wall near their front entry giving the place’s name in Thai and English – and occasionally in the old Lanna script as well:
- Suan Prung Psychiatric Hospital
- Chiang Mai Highways District 3
- Faculty of Nursing
This is an accepted custom and architects can usually get it right with a pretty standard three-metre wide signboard. Not at the convention centre.
The Expo runs for about two weeks and is packed with food stalls, furniture and home decorating booths, opportunities to have your blood pressure tested at any of the booths run by Chiang Mai’s many hospitals, or to have a pretty vigorous massage by the kids from the Regional Juvenile Vocational Training Centre – or a more leisurely foot or neck massage by the beautifully dressed staff from the more traditional spas and beauty therapy places.
There is a Lanna Travel Centre, lots of hotels and resorts spouting their merits, a dozen or more speciality coffee stands – there is a lot of coffee grown in the North – over a hundred food stalls offering just about everything from Pad Thai to ice creams to slimy green looking wormy things to the deep fried delicacies made by The Chicken Man.
Wooden backscratchers, wooden chopsticks, wooden blocks that you place under your back to relieve pain, wooden spoons and wooded whatsits are there by the (wooden) bucket load. One stall has things made out of lengths of blue pipe and sticks – but I am not sure what they are for.
There are two main stages for performances, and about five or six smaller ones scattered about for smaller shows – half a dozen kids with drums and gongs, a “mum and dad” duet, a bizarrely dressed cowboy playing an electric guitar with two necks and a few other solo performers. The main stages feature dancers of all ages performing traditional Thai dances and dances with a more modern twist.
One aspect I particularly enjoyed was the range of artisans working their trade – a man crocheting handbags, a wood carver, women making paper-covered decorative umbrellas, quite a few tribal women working their back-strap weaving looms, a silversmith, a man making Lanna lanterns out of very finely engraved and pierced sheets of silver metal, women weaving rattan mats or embroidering clothing, and a young man doing exquisite gold- and silver-thread embroidery on a long strip of fabric. It is wonderful to see so many of the old skills being preserved – and in some cases adapted for more modern times.
The Expo covers a huge area and is worth an extended visit – and you have until Sunday 7 July to get there and enjoy the many spectacles – and varieties of food on offer.
Text and photographs © Christopher Hall 2019.
Journey June 2019
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If a man ascended into heaven and gazed upon the whole workings of the universe and the beauty of the stars, the marvellous sight would give him no joy if he had to keep it to himself. And yet, if only there had been someone to describe the spectacle to, it would have filled him with delight
- Attributed to Marcus Tullius Cicero – On Friendship
One thought on “Chiang Mai: Lanna Expo 19”
Hi Chris and hope all well with you. Our plans are Brisbane Thursday 25th July till 31st and back in Hobart till Thursday 8th August. We hope to see you at either/both. Rob and Carol
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