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Pee Mai Tai 2106

Mai Soong Pee Mai Tai – Happy Shan New Year!

The Shan New year falls on the first day of the waxing moon, which this year is the 26th November. Festivities will commence at Wat Ku Tao today, 25th November and last for three days.

Shan New Year invite

in Chiang Mai the center of this years celebration is at Wat Ku Tao in the Chang Puek District located off Chotana road and at the back of the city stadium (Sanam Gila). We expect there is also some celebration at the other Shan Wat – Wat Pao Pao on the northern moat. Wat Ku Tao is named after it’s unusual stupa that looks like water melons.

Stupa at Wat Ku Tao
Water melon Stupa at Wat Ku

View Wat Ku Tao – Chiang Mai in a larger map

As well as traditional Buddhist rites and merit making, the celebrations include a range of entertainment including a large stage show with contests, Shan cultural singing and dancing and contemporary Shan music. The wat is packed with stalls selling Shan food, traditional clothing, CDs and DVDs of Shan music, Shan books and handicrafts. Other stalls include games and entertainment.

Groups of Shan men tour the temple with traditional temple drums and cymbals providing a constant background accompaniment and atmosphere. Below are some pictures from lat years festival. For more visit the organisers website:

Kinnara DanceShan DancingShan Culture - traditional temple drums
Traditional Shan cultural dances and temple drummers

To set the festival in context one should understand a little about the Shan people. They come from the Shan State in the South East of Burma and refer to themselves as Tai in the Shan Language. Ethnically the Shan people are part of the Tai group which has origins spreading from Yunnan province in China. They are also known as Tai Yai (Meaning Big Tai). They Speak their own language, Shan or Tai, and have a rich culture which is quite different to Thai.

Chiang Mai and Thailand’s northern provinces bordering Burma have a large population of ethnic Shan, some indigenous, but most are refugees from the fighting in the Shan State between ethnic groups and Naypyitaw’s Burmese Army. As refugees without ID they cannot work legally in Thailand and many are exploited and forced to work in low paid manual labouring jobs to survive. Many young Shan men work in Chiang Mai’s gay bars and in some places make up as much as 90% of the staff. You can find out more about the Shan from the side bar on the right of this page which has links to many websites about the Shan or Tai people and their persecution.

If you are visiting Chiang Mai this is a bad weekend to go to a go-go or host bar as many of the staff will be off partying. Instead, head down to Wat Ku Tao and join in the celebrations and watch the colourful show. We have many Shan friends who are some of the nicest and most friendly people you will meet in Thailand. Note, alcohol is not allowed in the temple, but if you must, there will be plenty of kiosks and shops outside the temple where you can have a drink and enjoy Shan food.

In the temple there will be opportunities to donate to Shan causes – please give generously, or you can donate to the Best Friend Library

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