Sunday, May 21, 2006

Chiang Rai 2005 - 04 municipal market

[ almost all photos in this post by YK ]

[121205] just about every Thai provincial capital seems to stick to this default clock-tower-in-middle-of-roundabout-beside-municipal-market format:


& by default too there will be an unofficial songthaew terminus somewhere around e market. here e market sprawls an entire block to e left, & songthaews park somewhere further down e street past e white building. local markets are interesting places to explore, & they can tell you a lot about local lifestyle & cuisine =)

bucketful of crabs for sale in e wet section of e market:


doing e biologist thing:


there were stalls selling live fish & frogs & some animal species dried/chopped up beyond recognition, fruits, dried seafood, cooked food, bamboo rice (which we tried - nice!), fresh flowers, dried herbs, bark & roots of unknown plants, etc.

e dry section, with clothes, shoes, toiletries, basketware, household items, crockery & cutlery, altar offerings, wellington boots & gloves, etc:


in this section you can even find e whole range of e different types of knives & machetes used for cutting firewood, chopping tree trunks, splitting bamboo, slicing banana trunks (to make pig feed), chopping meat & bones, cutting vegetables & fruits, carving wood, etc....essential for many many aspects of hilltribe life. every Akha house we stepped into during last year's expedition had a whole set of about 5, with blades of different lengths, shapes & curvatures to suit their purpose. our host family kept their set on e wall directly behind e main door on e men's side of e house (traditional Akha houses are partitioned into e men's & women's halves). many a times e cat found itself facing them as it ate dinner on e floor nearby =P when going into e fields & forests (or even just trekking with e expedition team), both e men & women will carry a knife along in a woven bamboo cover with a string to sling it across e shoulder or tie it to e waist.

e section of Thanon Uttarakit outside e municipal market & Wat Mung Mueang is where villagers from e countryside come to spread their wares on e pavements, selling mainly vegetables & fruits.

Akha women unloading their produce at e corner of Thanon Trai Rat & Thanon Uttarakit (left) & setting up stalls (right):


at this corner is a shop that sells Akha handicrafts as well as e seeds, beads, silver ornaments, old silver coins, cowrie shells, buttons & other bits & pieces that Akha women buy to use in making their elaborate costumes & handicrafts. one can still check out Akha handicrafts at this shop (& also at e PDA hilltribe museum shop along Thanon Thanalai) when e night bazaar is closed during e day.

checkered headscarf, blue 'work jacket', heavy duty woven bamboo basket with headstrap, ability to carry enormous loads, shoulder bag, petrol containers recycled as water bottles - it isn't too hard to spot hardworking Akha women here:


onions, cabbages, potatoes, gingers, garlic cloves, water chestnuts, limes, chillies, groundnuts, yams, turnips, oranges, etc for sale:



Wat Mung Mueang (left) & whiskey boxes recycled as hats (right)....100 Pipers seems to be a popular brand here.

lunched at one of e ubiquitous noodle shops, e first of e many many kway2 teow2/ba4 mii3 muu2/neua2 sup2/haeng4 (flat rice flour noodles/thin yellow egg noodles pork/beef soup/dry) meals on this of e cheapest (max 25 baht/SGD 1, lowest price encountered was 10 baht) & safest (everything is boiled & ingredients are all familiar & predictable) options especially in rural areas, where it may be e only thing available.

back in Baan Bua Guesthouse, all packed up & ready to leave for Phu Chi Fah:


our spotlessly clean 300 baht/night double room with fan, hot water shower & bath towels provided. you can pay extra for use of e air con but who needs that in e cold season ;)

Chiangrai 2005 - 03 Chiangrai - Wat Klang Wiang

[121205] on our morning walk to e municipal market in Chiangrai night, e night bazaar area comes to life, but it is otherwise a quiet sleepy town very much like any other small Thai provincial capital, just that it happens to have more than its fair share of tour buses zooming by on their way to Mae Sai at e Burmese border, & Sop Ruak in e Golden Triangle.

[ photo credit: 1, 2, 4, 6 by YK ]

[1] Baan Bua & other guesthouses, tour companies, laundromats, Thai conversation schools, & bars & restaurants catering to backpackers are concentrated along Thanon Jet Yot

[2] along Thanon Jet Yot

[3] watching e world go by while soaking up e morning sunshine

[4] beautifully painted shutters of a wooden handicraft shop at e corner of Thanon Jet Yot & Thanon Pahonyonthin

[5 & 6] all is quiet at e Chiangrai Provincial Livestock Office, e bird flu surveillance centre for this province....once they start looking busy, it is time to get out!

[ photo credit: 2-6 by YK ]

[1] e beautiful Wat Jet Yot (temple of seven jet spires yot)

[2] trekking tour company along Thanon Jet Yot

[3] T-shirt printing shop next door that lays out freshly-printed shirts on any available horizontal surface (including e pavement) to dry

[4] โคมหูกระต่าย khom1 hu2 gra3 tai3 lanterns, leftover from e last Loy Krathong/Yi Peng celebrations? e 'tails' of e lanterns are called rabbit's (gratai) ears (hu)

[5] one of e 3 Top Charoen Optical outlets in e small city (more like a town) that we walked past - yet we hardly saw anyone wearing glasses

[6] even this has made its way into this farflung corner of Thailand


[ photo credit: 1-5 by YK ]

[1] blue songthaew turning at e junction of Thanon Pahonyonthin & Thanon Prasopsuk, where restaurants (Swensens, pizza places, Italian restaurants, etc) & shops (Boots, Adidas, Puma, etc) catering mainly to tourists have sprouted up

[2] da Vinci pizzeria, where we had a great pasta dinner with a free flow of warm bread fresh from their oven with wonderful dips for just 200 baht (~SGD8) per person. YK's choice of e smoked salmon pizza when we returned on another night was great =)

[3] e night bazaar in daytime, when all e stalls have vanished without a trace

[4] e concrete shophouses that make up most of e urban areas across Bangkok they rise up to 5 storeys, usually with a fenced up open rooftop area for plants & sunning laundry.

[5] Adidas mannequin supervising e drying of banana leaves

[6] bookstore at e corner of Thanon Banphaprakan & Thanon Rattanakhet, one of e landmarks that e cat uses to find its way around this city

stumbled upon Wat Klang Wiang at e corner of Thanon Rattankhet & Thanon Uttarakit:


e beautiful chedi:


cat love profile of Thai temple roofs:


this is a Thai Phuan(?) handicraft - there is a shop in Bangkok's Chatuchak that sells them as decorations:


coloured threads are tightly wound around a crucifix-shaped wooden 'frame':


Wat Klang Wiang has beautiful intricate wood carvings painted gold everywhere:

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gold lacquered windows - e design on e left & right panes are mirror images of each other:


on to e market....

Saturday, May 20, 2006

chiangrai 2005 - 02 night bazaar

[111205] never fail to gravitate to this place, despite having been here more than enough times last year to remember e layout & location of specific stalls & notice which ones have changed....this time there was no hurry to rush back to Ban Apa, so more time could be spent talking with e stallholders =)

handicraft stall @ Chiangrai night bazaar, run by an Akha lady from Ban Ruammitr, a Karen village that has secured its place on e tourist map for its elephant camp & location by e Kok river that flows all e way from adjacent Chiangmai province:

[ photo by YK ]

is this (below) by Hmong people?

[ photo by YK ]

think these dolls are supposed to be attired as Lisu, judging from e tops they are wearing:

[ photo by YK ]

but Lisu ladies' headdresses look more like this ;)

hats for babies & young kids:

[ photo by YK ]

Lomi Akha adult lady's headdresses with e characteristic silver spheres (two on left) & kid's headdresses (middle two):

[ photo by YK ]

Akha design blankets - cross-stitch patterns (left) & e more traditional patterns (right):

[ photo by YK ]

Akha shoulder bags (below) Fangus, this is where your bag came from ;)

[ photo by YK ]

e one at bottom left is a 'vintage' bag, made from cloth woven from threads spun & dyed indigo using traditional methods, & patterns put together by stitching tiny pieces of coloured cloth - much harder & more time-consuming than cross-stitching. e rest are made from factory mass-produced black cloth that doesn't fade easily & feels smoother. ironically e Akha think that e 'vintage' bags are worth much less (because they feel 'rougher'?) & price them lower than what they are really worth....

some of e traditional patterns:


above bag was bought from a young guy who sells Akha handicrafts made by himself & his mum at e night bazaar - e only Akha guy we have met who has such an interest in sewing & takes real pride in his handiwork =)

e Akha may not have a written language, but e many types of applique shapes (referred to as butterfly's tongue?) & patterns of stitches speak volumes, symbolising various things important to their lives e.g. animals, houses, fertility, water, drums etc:


e Akha have their own names for e various types of stitches (centipede, flower, snake stripes, moon & sky, etc), like e 4 rows here that have each 'forward slash' crossing over two 'back slashes':


some of e Christian-ised Akha include crucifixes in their designs, while some of e younger ones have started including 'modern' symbols like hearts ;)

this mother & son pair add little extra touches like sewing on zips for e shoulder bags that they make. e lady owner of a nearby well-established handicraft wholesale & retail store told us that he has accepted orders from some of her customers to custom-make certain items.

e wholesale & retail store has wares sourced from faraway places like Nagaland, a production centre in Wiang Pa Pao, & sells some products in Singapore through Homespun. e cat has been to e ground floor outlet of Homespun in e Arts House @ Old Parliament twice, but didn't come across any Akha handicrafts, although there was Hmong stuff. according to a former French colleague, there is a shop in Queensway Shopping Centre called One Tree Hill that sells Akha stuff, but haven't had e chance to check it out....

bag made by Ata (JC girls' host mother during e expedition), an U-Lo Akha from Ban Apa in Mae Yao, bought from her in Ban Apa in 2004:


this sort of applique is what Lomi Akha are famous for:


this pattern symbolises chicken (yeh3 ji1 - sounds like Mandarin for 'wild chicken') feet:


Ata is totally devoted to her craft, & it is a joy to watch her at work =) she showed us how thread is spun using e Akha drop spindle & how dyed chicken feathers are made into tassels for their headgear. wonder how much of this knowledge will survive beyond her generation? e French researcher whom e cat observed a year ago interviewing Ata & recording down e names of e various types of stitches & applique patterns probably knows more than e youngsters in e village do....