Kachin Manau Festival

Discussion in 'Touring Northern Thailand - Trip Reports Forum' started by SilverhawkUSA, Nov 26, 2010.

  1. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    Date: November 26, 2010
    Destination: Ban Mae Sammaki
    Total Distance: 220km (round trip)
    Rider: Dave Early (Solo)
    Bike: Yamaha TDM 850

    In December of 2009, the Chiang Mai ToyRide traveled to Ban Mai Sammaki, just a kilometer from Arunothai and just 2 kilometers from the Burma border.
    Click Ban Mai Sammaki Pre-School Project

    I learned of a festival being held there today and tomorrow, but I knew little of what it was about. It’s a nice village, with terrific views and friendly people, so I decided to make it a day trip. I would have loved to stay overnight but tomorrow is the “Simon and T.J. Memorial Ride”.






    Many of the “hilltribes” are Christian




    I’m known for being a little compulsive/obsessive about searching the ‘net for information about some of the events and places I go. These are my photos, but I will unashamedly plagiarize and copy some of the facts into this post.

    Kachins are not recognized as an ethnic group in Thailand but many live in Ban Mai Samaki, known as Kachin village, which was established in 1982 under the patronage of the king on land donated by the Royal project.
    The Kachin living in Thailand migrated there more than 30 years ago. Apart from Burma’s Kachin State, where most Kachin live, other Kachin communities exist in India and China.

    Kachin Women

    The manau festival is traditionally held to mark various important community events—weddings, funerals, declarations of war and victory celebrations. The Baan Mai Samaki fiesta was organized for no other reason than to keep an ancient tradition alive and to call the Kachin diaspora together—rather like a Welsh eisteddfod or a Scottish highland gathering.

    The festival includes music, dancing, contests, and performances of the special Manau dance.

    It’s a scene out of the distant past—two columns of dancers loop, coil and weave a sinuous route around a ceremonial arch spanning a circular arena enclosed by a split bamboo fence. The arch is topped by a line of 10 tall boards colorfully decorated with linked linear maze patterns. A crossbeam, decorated with depictions of various birds and other animals, carries the carved head of a hornbill bird at one end and its tail at the other. The structure is called a manau—and that’s also the name of the ritual dance ceremony, performed by the Kachin people of Burma.
    More about these Army guys later!


    At certain points of the dance the two groups would circle the manau and let out a “whoop” raising their knives or hands in unison.

    As at most festivals I have attended near the border areas; the Thai Army makes their presence felt.

    As the event progressed these guys seem to relax some.

    After about an hour of winding around the manau, they took a break for lunch. The usual food stalls at Thai events were all around. They also had a building open with some cultural history and items of interest (if you could read Thai or Kachin). :wtf:

    If you don’t have all the jewelry you need, you can barter for more.

    I think that teenagers are pretty much the same everywhere. This group asked me to join them for lunch.

    And this deluded young lady asked if she could have her photo taken with me….
    Her friend taking the photos was soon handed four other cameras by more of her friends……….(you know one can only hold their stomach in for so long!) :(

    After a lunch break, the individual ethnic groups posed for photos and performed dances outside the manau ring.

    The Chinese(?)

    Traditional Thai Umbrella Dance

    The Akha

    The Lahu Children (go see them on Lahu New Year)

    By now……..

    The Army guys had lost all of their authoritarian demeanor and just joined in the fun….
    On a serious note; a donation box was passed around by a CMTR member requesting donations to assist the Kachin Pre-School. A contribution was given by every soldier. :clap:

    There were some interesting groups there that I have not seen before;
    I am not sure who these people are.

    But, I asked these guys;
    The Rawang people are an ethnic group who inhabit far northern Kachin State of Burma (Myanmar). They speak and write in their own language, Rawang (writing system based on Matwang dialect); and have more than 70 sub-clans/dialects within their grouping.

    During the Second World War they fought against the Japanese aiding the British and Americans....
    Their contribution earned them the accolade “the Gurkhas of Southeast Asia.” In fact, just as the Gurkhas’ kukri forms part of their traditional ceremonial uniform, so the Kachin shortsword, or dah, is still carried upright by the male Kachin as part of their ritual costume as they dance the manau.

    And the culture says;
    The myth accounting for the origin of the manau describes how the sun god summoned to his court the earthly community of birds, led by the hornbill—a “king black bird” (probably a raven)—and ordered them to dance for his entertainment. In later times, the birds are then said to have taught the Kachin the same dances.


    Black and white hornbill feathers adorn the elaborate headdresses of the lead dancers, while their costumes also feature images of various birds, including the peacock. The elaborate ceremonial is an art form that expresses the quintessence of the pride the Kachin have in their history and culture.

    BUT; As cultures go, they do progress (or in this case regress?).
    The crowd pleasers of the show were......

    These guys doing Michael Jackson’s ”Thriller”

    On that note it was time to leave. It was late afternoon, HOT (regardless of what they say about the “cold season” here) and at 3:00PM the Manau dance was to begin again. One can only watch people go around in circles for so long……… :roll:

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  3. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    First class. :thumbup:
    Sorry I did not go now. :(
  4. Jade64

    Jade64 Active Member

    Fantastic pictures, and really good information!! Thank you!

    That festival is definitely added to my "must see" list. Maybe next year?!

  5. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    Excellent informative report.
  6. Kiwi Cruiser

    Kiwi Cruiser Ben Kemp Staff Member

    Dang, Dave - you certainly got the scoop on that one! Did anyone else even know that it was happening?

    The report, with its extensive explanatory content and photographic coverage, ranks right up there with the best Trip Reports I've seen!!!
  7. Jurgen

    Jurgen Moderator

    Very lovely and colorful festival! Feeling tickles in my finger to get this event once in my own box.

    Thank you for sharing your pictures and the informations.

  8. Franz

    Franz Ol'Timer

    Dave, congratulations to this educating report & the perfect fotos. Until now all the hilltribe people seemed the same but with your explanations & pictures one can start to distinguish them. Thanks & keep 'em coming, rgds, Franz
  9. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    Thanks Ben. It's pretty hard to get a 'scoop' on anything around here. :shh: Yeah, a couple others knew of it :mrgreen:. Actually, it was just a date I had put on my calendar quite some time back. I didn't really know what to expect, but thought it was worth having a look because of the Chiang Mai ToyRide connection.

    I was just hoping to equal the post by "The Goddess" (and that "other guy" that added all the photos). :happy5:
  10. ronwebb

    ronwebb Ol'Timer

    I was at Mai Sammakhi yesterday and the teacher in the primary school said there was no festival planed for this year. It didn't look like it either as the place was as dead as a door nail. As she was the only person I could find, I will take her work for it but if anyone finds out anything to the contrary, please post it. Thanks.
  11. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    To the best of my knowledge, this is not an annual event at any one location. I believe they move the celebration around, and more often it occurs in Burma.
  12. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    The 2012 Kachin Manau festival is on again in Mai Samakhi 3-4 December 2012.
  13. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    A bit late & still catching up.

    A busy time November - December

    Dave Early & I attended this year, & we were a bit late getting away = I'm responsible.
    We missed the grand opening, but did catch a few dance performances plus the afternoon's grand dance procession (which I think is probably the main attraction.)

    Anyway a few happy snaps

    There were a series of dances from various village & school groups, all displaying different costumes & dances from around Mai Samakkhi / Arunothai.



    Onto the main dance parade

    Prayers / a blessing start the event



    Then the troupe dances around the grounds






    there are two lines of dancers going in opposite direction, continually weaving in & out, alternately in increasing & decreasing circles often intertwined with each other, but some how they never lost the thread & always knew which way to go.









    Thanks Dave E for the earlier research info with the 2010 event.
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2018
  14. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    From yesterday's New York Times:

    Myanmar Military Admits to Airstrikes on Kachin Rebels


    Published: January 2, 2013

    BANGKOK — Myanmar admitted on Wednesday that it was using aircraft to attack rebels near the border with China, a development that the United States described as an “extremely troubling” escalation of the conflict.


    Ethnic Kachin rebels, who are battling the government for control over the northern areas of the country, have in recent days reported being attacked by helicopters and other aircraft, but until Wednesday the government denied using such tactics.

    A report by the state-run Myanmar News Agency on Wednesday, which was published on Thursday in the state newspaper, New Light of Myanmar, said the military used aircraft to clear rebels from a hilltop not far from the Chinese border. “Air cover was used in the attack,” the report said. “Weapons and ammunition were seized.” The Myanmar Army’s goal was to keep supply lines open, the report said, adding that the army “did not launch offensives.”

    Fighting between government troops and the Kachin Independence Army has tarnished the reform efforts of President Thein Sein, who is leading the country’s transition from a military dictatorship to a democracy.

    The Kachin, like Myanmar’s other ethnic minorities, have long sought greater autonomy from the central government. They are the only major ethnic rebel group that has not reached a cease-fire agreement with Mr. Thein Sein’s government, which came to power in March 2011 after almost five decades of military rule.

    His government has been praised for instituting changes that include liberalizing the economy, abolishing most media censorship and opening the once-isolated country to foreign investment. He has also led reconciliation efforts with the political opposition, led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s leading democracy advocate. But friction with ethnic minorities is seen as a danger to the fledgling democracy.

    Although Mr. Thein Sein is a former general himself, his public appeals for an end to the army’s offensive in the borderland areas have gone unheeded, leading diplomats to voice concerns about a possible rift between the military and his civilian government. Peace talks between government negotiators and the rebels have foundered.

    The military’s objective appears to be the capture of the rebel base at Laiza, a town on the border with China. Tens of thousands of refugees have fled the fighting, some to China. The current round of fighting began in June 2011 when a 17-year cease-fire ended. Capturing the rebel base at Laiza would be a victory for the military of Myanmar, formerly Burma, but it is unlikely that it would stop the fighting.

    The Kachin specialize in guerrilla tactics honed over decades: their warriors were allies of British and American troops against Japanese soldiers during World War II.

    Myanmar’s state news media have given few details about the fighting and until now rarely offered casualty tallies. The Myanmar News Agency’s report listed a series of clashes in which “soldiers were injured and lost their lives.”

    A State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, called the use of air power “extremely troubling.” At a briefing in Washington on Wednesday Ms. Nuland said, “We are continuing to urge the government of Burma and the Kachin Independence Organization to cease this conflict.”



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