Phi Ta Khon Festival - Dan Sai - 2017

Discussion in 'N.E. Thailand Motorcycle Trip Report Forums' started by DavidFL, Jun 28, 2017.

  1. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member


    4 years since my last Phi Ta Khon & wow, has this festival really taken off.

    Massive crowds on the main parade day & absolutely stunning, spectacular costumes & a colour extravaganza.

    In 2017 Phi Ta Khon went international with ASEAN troupes participating.

    It was branded as The International Mask Festival

    A lot more to come...
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  3. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    If you arrived at the festival on the Sunday for the main parade the crowds made it difficult to get clear photos without having to elbow your way through the masses.
    So the tip for Phi Ta Khon is to get their early - Friday the day before the parades start.
    Then Saturday they have a light introductory parade without he masses & it is a lot easier to get photos.

    The Cambodian International mask troupe




    The GF enjoying herself with the stars from Cambodia

    On stage performing

    more to come.
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  4. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    The Malaysian International Mask Troupe










    But who are these people?

    They are the Mah Meri..

    The Mah Meri (Mah meaning people and Meri meaning forest), originally known as the Besisi, also call themselves Ma Betisek, which means, "people with fish scales". The Mah Meri are one of the 18 Orang Asli people groups designated by the Malaysian government; & are of the Senoi subgroup.

    There is no information on their origin, but the Mah Meri tribe claims to have walked the earth for as long as one can remember. They live in the states of Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Malacca, and Johor, but most of them live along the coast of South Selangor from Sungai Pelek up to Pulau Carey.

    Part of the mystery surrounding their origin indicates they are ‘sea gypsies’ or ‘sea nomads’, the Mah Meri are said to have been a nomadic indigenous tribe that fled from the southern coast of Malaysia to escape attacks by pirates, settling in 10 different villages on Pulau Carey island, on the western coast of Malaysia. Their numbers have dwindled to about 2,000.

    The Mah Mari rely mainly on subsistence fishing supplemented by gathering marine products such as seaweed, shellfish and edible plants that grow on the island, which is separated from the mainland by the Langat river.

    They have an annual festival for ancestor worship, that involves an elaborate ritual with dancers wearing intricately-carved masks who perform the historic Main Jo-oh dance.

    The men don expressive masks carved from wood, which are similar to those made by Polynesian tribes, and wear a costume made of woven pandan leaves. The women dress in skirts, sashes and origami-like tiaras also made of pandan leaves.

    There is a Mah Meri Cultural village + info here
    About Us Mah Meri Cultural Village

    The Sun has a story & some images on their festival
    Stunning photos show the bizarre masks worn by remote Malaysian tribe to call on ancestral spirits during traditional dances
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    Last edited: Jun 29, 2017
  5. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    The Philippines International Mask Troupe

    People from Bacolod city, the capital of Negros Island, who hold a MassKara festival every 3rd weekend in October.


    The festival first began in 1980 during a period of crisis. The province relied on sugar cane as its primary agricultural crop, and the price of sugar was at an all-time low due to the introduction of sugar substitutes like high fructose (corn syrup) in the United States. This was the first Masskara Festival and a time of tragedy; on April 22 of that year, the inter-island vessel MV Don Juan carrying many Negrenses, including those belonging to prominent families in Bacolod City, collided with the tanker Tacloban City and sank. An estimated 700 lives were lost in the tragedy.


    In the midst of these tragic events, the city's artists, local government and civic groups decided to hold a festival of smiles, because the city at that time was also known as the City of Smiles. They reasoned that a festival was also a good opportunity to pull the residents out of the pervasive gloomy atmosphere. The initial festival was therefore, a declaration by the people of the city that no matter how tough and bad the times were, Bacolod City is going to pull through, survive, and in the end, triumph.


    The mask motif of the festival has changed from masks influenced by native Filipinos to those influenced by the Carnival of Venice and the Rio Carnival. Earlier masks were hand-painted and adorned with feathers, flowers and native beads, while contemporary masks feature plastic beads and sequins.


    The festival features a street dance competition where people from all walks of life troop to the streets to see masked dancers gyrating to the rhythm of Latin musical beats in a display of mastery, gaiety, coordination and stamina. Major activities include the MassKara Queen beauty pageant, carnivals, drum, bugle corps competitions, food festivals, sports events, musical concerts, agriculture-trade fairs, garden shows, and other special events organized every year.


    If you want to know more about MassKara in the P.I.

    Masskara Festival Bacolod City Negros Occidental Philippines

    Bacolod MassKara Festival 2008!

    The 2016 Festival Schedule
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    Last edited: Jun 29, 2017
  6. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    The Korean International Mask Troupe

    Korean masks have a long tradition with the use in a variety of contexts. Masks are called tal (Hangul: 탈 ) in Korean, but they are also known by many others names such as gamyeon, gwangdae, chorani, talbak and talbagaji. Korean Mask come with black cloth attached to the sides of the mask designed to cover the back of the head and also to simulate black hair.


    They were used in war, on both soldiers and their horses; ceremonially, for burial rites in jade and bronze and for shamanistic ceremonies to drive away evil spirits; to remember the faces of great historical figures in death masks; and in the arts, particularly in ritual dances, courtly, and theatrical plays. The present uses are as miniature masks for tourist souvenirs, or on cell-phones where they hang as good-luck talismans.


    There are two ways to categorize masks: religious masks and artistic masks. Religious masks were often used to ward off evil spirits and the artistics masks were mostly used in dances


    Masks which use for dance in Korea are about 250 types and they vary in shape. Masks in central district usually look pretty and similar to human face more and in the southern province masks are for satire and Shamanistic.


    The often horrifying or grotesque masks were used in shamanistic practices for their ability to evoke fear, and humour, in ceremonial rites. The masks were often made of alder wood, with several coats of lacquer to give the masks gloss, and waterproof them for wearing. They were usually also painted, and often had hinges for mouth movement.


    Typically one sees the following some of which are designated as national cultural properties.The Hahoe, Sandae and Talchum are all traditional Korean mask dramas of ritual and religious significance.


    Hahoe Byeolsin gut is a kind of exorcist play while performers wear mask such as yangbantal (nobleman), bunetal, seonbital (scholar), gaksital (bride), chorangital, halmital, jujital (head monk), jungital (monk), baekjeongtal (butcher), and imaetal.
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    Last edited: Jun 29, 2017
  7. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    The Indian International Mask Troupe









    Apologies for the lack of Indian mask info.
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  8. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    The Indonesian International Mask Troupe

    Performers from a Reog Ponorogo dance.


    Reog is a traditional Indonesian dance. There are many types of Reog in Indonesia, but the most notable ones are Reog Ponorogo (East Java) and Reog Sunda (West Java). Although both share a similar name, there is no connection nor similar theme among these traditions.


    The Reog Ponorogo seems to be a kind of dance that demonstrates physical strength and extravagant lion-peafowl mask and costumes, while Reog Sunda is a lot more like a traditional musical dance and comedy.



    The Reog dance of Ponorogo involves a lion figure known as the singa barong.


    The Singa Barong is a large mask usually made from a tiger's or leopard's head skin, on the mask is a large fan adorned with real peafowl feathers.



    The Singa Barong mask is notoriously heavy and the dancer of the Singa Barong has to carry the mask of about 30 – 40 kg in weight and is supported by the strength of their teeth.


    A single dancer, or warok, carries the heavy lion mask by his teeth. He is credited with supernatural abilities and strength. The warok may also carry an adolescent boy or girl on its head. When carrying an adolescent boy or girl on his head, the Reog dancer holds weight of up to 100 kilograms in total. Holding the heavy big mask by biting, the warok relies on the strength of his jaws, neck and shoulder muscles. The great mask spans over 2.5 meters with genuine tiger skin and real peacock feathers. It has gained international recognition as the world's largest mask.




    There's an annual Reog Ponorogo festival in Ponorogo city, East Java, in the second half of the year sometime (from what I can gather.)

    Some more interesting info

    Reog Ponorogo, Jawa Timur, Indonesia ~ Tourism Of Indonesia

    Colorful Indonesia: The Trance of Reog Dance

    The Performance of Reog Ponorogo

    Reog Ponorogo, Originate Culture from Ponorogo, East Java - Indonesia

    Reog Ponorogo - Indonesian Cultures

    Reog Ponorogo Dance from Indonesia - History and Development - Facts of Indonesia

    Grebeg Suro Ceremony In Ponorogo - Traditional Event Of Ponorogo
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  9. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    David, the ceremony nowadays seems to bear no resemblance to that of years gone by. It looks to be now simply an 'International Mask Festival'. Where is the buddhist ceremony & blessing marking the beginning of the festival of fertility? I'm lost!
  10. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Rod that spirit ceremonial side of Phi Ta Khon is still there, but having seen it a couple of times starting at 4AM it has lost some of its appeal as I get older.
    Ive got pics of the Thai parade participants coming, but I was very interested in the new ASEAN aspect of the festival this year.
    BTW the crowds are massive now & it aint easy getting photos, plus fighting your way through the crowd to get a few snaps can get tiring, especially if you have seen it all before around 15 times.
    Getting into the spirit ceremonies was easy 15 years ago - hardly anyone there, but it is a real battle amongst the photographers nowadays.
    So I just concentrate on what I thought was easier.
    You should come back for another one.

    • Like Like x 2
  11. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    The Lao International Mask Troupe



    somewhat underwhelming in comparison to the others & I wondered what was & what happened to the budget?

    I thought there would surely be some ghosts from Luang Prabang or Xayaboury as below

    A mystery to me.

    more to come...
    • Like Like x 2
  12. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Phi Ta Khon ...history

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    The legend of the festival is derived from an episode in the Wetsandon Jataka recounting the journey home of Prince Wetsandon (the last former life of the Lord Buddha) and his wife Matsi after years of exile in the forest.

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    The townspeople then celebrating his return were so delightful that the spirits emerged to join them.
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    The event lasts for three days featuring Buddhistic rituals, traditional ceremonies and fun-filled activities.

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    Phi Ta Khon festival highlights the eye-appealing colourful parade of Phi Ta Khon along with local performances.

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    Most Phi Ta Khon carry wooden weapons in the shape of an oversized penis with a splash of red paint on the tip and played with the audience, who are amused by their antics.

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    The use of the phalluses is not considered rude. Indeed, they are a token of power and fertility. Natives believe that these things will satisfy Phaya Thaen, a most revered deity of the northeastern region who is believed to control the well-being of villagers.

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    The Phi Ta Khon / Boon Luang festival is really two festivals combined into one.

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    The two festivals are the Boon Phra Wate festival and the Boon Bung Fai also known as the Bamboo Rocket festival. Merit-making is central to the Boon Phra Wate ceremony with villagers congregating at the temple to listen to a total of 13 Buddhist sermons. It is believed that by participating in Boon Phra Wate, the villagers will be brought closer to Lord Sri-Araya – the future Buddha. The Boon Bung Fai ritual is performed to honor the guardian spirits of the village and to ask for sufficient rain to arrive in time for the coming farming season.

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    The lively Phi Ta Khon procession also includes depictions of Dan Sai life many, many years ago when the village was a farming community.

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    There are villagers wearing water buffalo costumes to recognize the water buffalo’s importance to the farmer in plowing the rice fields and pulling heavy loads.

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    Included also are villagers dressed as the farmers dressed in those days carrying fishing poles or other equipment used to catch fish to represent an important source of food from the Mun River. Some of these farmers are carrying bamboo trays of herbs to represent importance of herbs in treating any illnesses.

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    The date for the Boon Luang festival may change from year to year. The date is determined by Jao Saen-muang a spirit who is regarded as the protector of Dan Sai.
    Each year Jao -por Guan the village spirit leader and male medium along with Jao-mae Nang Tiam a female medium, the Saen a group of male mediums, and the Nang Taeng a group of four female servants hold a special ceremony to learn from the spirit Jao Saen-muang when the Boon Luang festival should be held that year.

    The first day of Boon Luang is known as Wan Home day. Its purpose is to gather the spirits. Activities begin between 03:00 and 04:00 a.m. before dawn.

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    Villagers assemble at the Phonchai Temple and then head for the Mun River led by members of the Saen. There, before the sun rises, an invocation ritual is performed calling upon a revered spirit known as Phra Upakud who is symbolized by white marble. According to local legend, Phra Upakud was a monk with supernatural powers. Having reached the highest level of meditation, he attained eternal life and was endowed with the power to assume any physical or spiritual form he chose. He opted to transform himself into white marble and to live in complete solitude in a peaceful environment in the waters of the Mun River in Dan Sai.

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    With these supernatural powers, the villagers believe that only Phra Upakud is able to protect the village from evil spirits. During the invocation ritual, white pebbles symbolic of Phra Upakud are collected from the river bed, consecrated by the leader of the Saen, and then taken back to Pon-chai Temple where sacred rituals are performed in Phra Upakud’s honor and where later the monks are fed special ceremonial food.

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    A few hours later that morning the local villagers assemble to summon additional spirits at the home of Jao-por Guan which doubles as the most important spirit shrine in Dan Sai. All present participate in a bai sri ceremony which involve incantations, lighting of candles, and then the tying of sacred threads on the arms of Jao-por Guan and Jao-mae Nang Tiam. Members of the Saen and the Nang Taeng tie a single loop of sacred thread around one wrist of everyone present.

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    Last edited: Aug 8, 2017
  13. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Continuing the Phi Ta Khon story...(apologies for the lack of photos related to all the spiritual ceremonies.)

    At the end of the tying of strings ceremony, the Saen men take down bundles of special costuming kept on a high altar, put the costumes on and gather in front of the house. Joining the Saen are two village men who are each wearing a tall bamboo frame covered with cloth and topped with a giant head. One figure is obviously male and the other obviously female. These figures are the phi ta khon yai (big Phra Wate spirits).
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    They are fertility symbols to the Dan Sai villagers. They symbolize abundance in having children, large crop yields, lush and green surroundings, and success in their businesses.

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    The Yai are surrounded by regular phi ta khon figures as well as villagers and others as they lead a procession from Jao-por Guan’s house back to the Ponchai Temple where they circle the temple three times.

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    Later, more local villagers dressed in Phi Ta Khon costumes as well as anyone else who want to join in the celebration gather at a designated location.

    From there they form a parade cheerfully dancing around the village. The participants are celebrating Boon Luang but this procession is a community organized event and not part of the religious activities.

    In the afternoon of the next day, the religious ceremonies continue with the Pra Wate worship procession led by the Saen and some villagers carrying offerings and ceremonial objects.

    Following them are four monks accompanying a statue of Lord Buddha placed on a table in a vehicle. Jao-por Guan follows sitting on a rocket on a colorfully decorated float accompanied by Jao-mae Nang Tiam and the Nang Taeng. Behind them are the Phi Ta Khon figures re-enacting Prince Vessandara’s return to his village by dancing along the way creating joy and excitement. When they reach the Ponchai Temple, they circle the temple three times.

    Jao-por Guan, Jao-mae Nang Tiam, and their attendants enter the temple to perform a ceremony.

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    After they emerge from the ceremony the bamboo rockets are launched into the sky in the hope of bringing rain. Soon after the launch a group of villagers take the phi ta khon yai costumes to the Mun River and throw the costumes into the river. Dan Sai villagers believe this act rids the village of any evil spirits that may have come to Dan Sai. This event marks the end of the Phi Ta Khon, but Boon Luang continues.

    In the early evening Buddhist sermons are begun and continue well into the next morning. Those who want to receive merit will listen throughout the night.

    In the early morning of the third day (the final ceremonial day), the rest of the villagers return to the temple to listen to Buddhist sermons for one last time. This marks the close of Dan Sai’s most important festival of the year
  14. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Some random images from the parade.

    The official grand opening
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    The Dan Sai Phi Ta Khon festival is absolutely fantastic.
    Its certainly on the tourist calendar now, but it still retains it's traditions & history.
    So if you want to see something unique mark it down for next year - the exact date is not known until about 6 weeks before, but it is always on a weekend now (good for business) & is around the last week of June - first week of July (approximately.)
    And the tip off is to get there early - the day before on the Friday.

    Where to stay in Dan Sai
    Dan Sai Accommodation

    Where to eat in Dan Sai
    Dan Sai Restaurants

    Some earlier GTR trip reports on Dan Sai & Phi Ta Khon

    Dan Sai / Phi Ta Khon 2004 Return

    Dan Sai / Phi Ta Khon 2005 Return

    Phi Ta Khon 2006

    Phi Ta Khon 2008 - Dan Sai, Loei Province - 1st Impressions

    Dad'n Dave Go To Dan Sai - Phi Ta Khon 2009

    Chiang Mai - Dan Sai / Phi Ta Khon 2010 Return

    Phi Ta Khon Festival, Dan Sai, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2017
  15. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Thanks Scotty 007 for the photos & coming on the trip.



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