Hmong And Sunflowers Festival

Discussion in 'Touring Northern Thailand - Trip Reports Forum' started by Jurgen, Mar 4, 2017.

  1. Jurgen

    Jurgen Moderator

    Oct 23, 2009
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    #1 Jurgen, Mar 4, 2017
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2017

    In January 2016, the Chiang Mai province’s Hmong New Year celebration included a traditional “Formula Hmong” soapbox cart racing (see GT-Rider trip report Formula Hmong cart racing) [1]. With the passing of King Rama IX, many popular amusements where suppressed in 2017, or reduced in their scale, thus, the “Doi Pui” Hmong meeting did not feature a wooden cart competition. However, the Payao province’s “Sunflower Festival”, which is scheduled to be organized every year on January 8th [2] included such a race, for the first time, together with other popular Hmong presentations.

    The playground for these festivities is Pasang village, on the Dok Kam Thai hill, in a large sunflowers plantation which, at the end of the year is open to visitors (Pasang Village Dokkhamtai – The Montana Sunflower Field Pasang) [2].

    From Route 118 (between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai), at Mae Kachan’s intersection, Route 120, an enjoyable trail, links to Payao where a short twenty kilometer sector, on Route 1021, leads to Dok Kham Tai and to Pasang Village. This is a central location, easily reached from Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai or Nan; it is also near to the popular Phu Chi Fah mountain range.

    The Montana Sunflower Field (Mount Tan Tawan Dok)

    The Pasang Village is in Dok Kam Tai district, Chiang Rai province; now-a-days, it features a 400 acres (1’000 rai) scenic hillside sunflowers plantation.

    As local farmers begun to cultivate yellow flowers, they nicely illuminated the mount, a sight which could be a tourist attraction. With the help of the district development founds, more land owners were encouraged to grow this crop and to cover a wide area, providing an appealing visitor’s destination.

    Unfortunately, in 2016, the rainy season was late and abundant, hindering the growth of the sunflowers. The sight, nevertheless, remained spectacular, despite the flowers’ shorter size. The field can be visited in December but, on January 8th [2], there is an additional incentive with the Hmong cart race and festivities.

    After an early arrival, visitors can tour the Sunflower field while sitting on a chariot trailed by a farm tractor, for a modest forty Thai Bath fee (1 US$) per passenger.

    Chariot trailed by a farm tractor

    The Montana Sunflower Field, in Pasang Village, affords a spectacular and colourful sight

    Despite this year’s shorter size, the flowers in Dok Kham Tai were still magnificent

    The bright Montana sunflower fields are a “selphy” paradise

    The sunflowers cover the whole mountain and can be seen everywhere. Areas near to the festivities place are particularly appreciated for self-portraits and people’s pictures.

    Selfy in the Pasang Village sunflower flower field

    A unique opportunity to combine vivid colors

    A Hmong family photographed inside the Pasang Village Montana Sunflower field

    Hmong costumes and flowers make enjoyable sights (and pictures)

    Hmong ladies populating the Montana Sunflower flower field

    Young Hmong kids waiting to be portrayed by their parents

    Hmong festival

    A small berm, at the mountain’s flange, is transformed in a Hmong festivities corner for pageantry, traditional dances and music. Some activities are displayed on a stage, which is also used for notifications and to congratulate competition winners.

    A stage showcasing traditional dances

    Groups of Hmong ladies in traditional clothing are great pictures themes

    In their traditional costumes, the Hmong folks are happy to be portrayed

    Tossing a ball (pov pob) a traditional Hmong game

    Hmong people stand in two opposite lines and toss cloth balls (pov pob)

    Hmong lady in traditional dress

    Hmong ladies performing a traditionl dance

    Hmong spectators watching traditional dances

    Hmong dance in traditional dress

    Hmong girl performing a traditional dance on stage

    Traditional Hmong dance

    Traditional Hmong dance

    Group of Hmong ladies performing a traditional dance

    Selfy sticks, also good tool to make a movie of the pageantry

    Formula Hmong race

    In Chiangmai province, the “Formula Hmong” wooden cart racing is already a twenty years old tradition. This type of tournament, however, in Hmong villages and during New Year festivities, is a hundred years old. In Pasang Village, on the Dok Kam Tai hill, it was organized this year for the first time, with the intention to establish it as a tradition on every 8th of January [2].

    The racing track is a steep downhill trail, build inside the Sunflower field, just next to the festivities playground.

    The racing track on Dok Kham Tai hill

    While I was waiting for the race to begin, I heard the TV commentator mentioning “Jang Sae Lee’s” name, the “Formula Hmong” champion from Mae Ki, near Chiangmai. Right near to the finishing line, I spotted his iconic yellow cart and met my friend who, with two other drivers from the same village, had registered to participate to the competition.

    Jang Sae Lee’s iconic yellow cart

    Jang Sae Lee – the multiple “Formula Hmong” champion, smiling before the race

    After some trial runs in the morning, the “Formula Hmong” race was officially opened, with a ceremony on the finishing line, at one o’clock in the afternoon.

    Official race opening.

    As “Formula Hmong” is a gravity sport, the wooden carts have to be trailed uphill, to the starting blocks; nowadays this burden it taken by all-terrain vehicles.

    The main rules, for the Formula Hmong soap box carts are to respect a maximum length of 100 centimetres (between the axes) and a maximum width of 80 centimetres. The wheel’s diameter should not be over one foot with a standard thickness of one inch. Depending of its design, the vehicle’s weight is between thirty and forty kilograms.

    Carts are trailed uphill to the starting blocks

    The competition itself is divided into qualifying leaps opposing pairs of drivers. In Pasang Village, the contestants were also split into three categories levels.

    Leaving the starting blocks and full speed down into the race

    “Formula Hmong” racing is a rough sport and not for the fainthearted. On the shaky trail, the speed is quite high
    and crashes are frequent. They are fortunately not too serious, as, nowadays, the participants wear helmets and, sometimes, motorcycle crash gear.

    The first fifty meters are treacherous and many accidents occurred straight at the race’s beginning

    A capsizing cart overtaken by his challenger

    Lonely race to the finishing line

    Straight down, after the only strong curve of the racing track

    Tri wheelers are allowed, but keeping their stability is a challenge

    Straight down on three wheels

    Acrobatic exercise


    Competitors rushing after the first curve

    Passionate spectators agglutinated all along the track support the racer; while loudspeakers broadcast comments about the events.

    For the spectator’s full enjoyment

    On the shaky trail, a lot of concentration is required to maintain the cart’s line

    The cart is directed with the feet while the hands wield a breaking shaft

    A front position, not without risk to be overtaken by the pursuer

    Straight down!

    Passing encouraging spectators

    Every run involving Jang Sae Lee, the confirmed multiple champion, is an adrenaline raising event. No victory is granted and even the best make mistakes seeing them capsizing and rolling “wheels overhead”.

    Jang Sae Lee just let his chaser rolling in the bales of hay.

    Speeding straight to the victory

    Jang Sae Lee concentrated and cheered by spectators

    Jang Sae Lee … a close up view

    Competitors crossing the finishing line

    This year the whole race as well as the Hmong festivities were covered by Thai PBS television (YouTube movie available [3]).

    TV interview with the champion

    Group pictures of the winners and price distribution

    The champion Jang Sae Lee getting his price.

    Cash money was 10’000 THB (about 300 US$) for the winner of each group. There were also cash rewards for the second and third of each category.

    The winner of group B, Chatchai Chairakwari (Khun Poo) is also from Mae Ki

    This is the end of a great event, well worth to be kept in mind for a tour to Pasang Village in January 1008 (see, however, my endnote [2])



    [1] Formula Hmong racing in Nong Hoi Mai (January 2016), see GT-rider trip report:
    Formula Hmong cart racing

    [2] For 2018, it is recommended to search for updated information before paying a visit to the Dok Kham Thai sunflower field. I was told that this festival and race should become a tradition and be held on 8th January every year, other comments, however, mentioned that the authorization to organize this tourist venue is not granted. So, be cautious and informed, before making the trip.

    [3] A complete YouTube video from Thai PBS television (…) can be seen here:

    The complete photo illustration collection can be viewed in original size a the following address:
    Hmong_Pasang - Bikinghobo
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  2. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    Jan 16, 2003
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    That's a cool event Jurgen.
    Sorry I missed out on that one.

    It seems to me as if nowadays they Hmong really are putting on a good show & becoming more proud of their culture.

    I really liked hese Hmong shots

    THis one a stunning line up in full costiume
    Were you able to ascertain what vilage they were from - somewhere Chiang Kham way? R1155?

    The dancing gals in costume

    THis neck & neck race to the line
    exciting stuff & a load fo fun.

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