Friday, November 15, 2013

17. Mae Hong Son

Thai Yai Culture and Lanna Architecture

This morning I went to Wat Phrahkat Doi Kong Mu, a Burmese style temple which is located on top of a tall mountain overlooking Mae Hong Son to get me extra insurance for my motorcycle riding.

I purchased from the monks the smallest available brass bell and mounted it on a crossbar underneath the front fender fairing. I even can see it swaying in the wind while riding. These bells are typically mounted on the eaves of the roof overhangs of buildings and are hoped to chase away the bad spirits; at least they provide a constant, nice chime when there is a little wind.

Solid brass bell, mounted underneath the motorcycle fairing.
Wat Phrathat Doi Kong Mu

The Wats are besides being a religious center also an important community assembly location. They provide large halls and auxiliary rooms for gatherings of the village. Wats often are also "party places" where almost every night a little event takes place, a band plays, or the monks give presentations.

Two architectural elements are typical for Thai Yai Lanna culture:
1. The staggered roofs, and 2. The perforations of the roof eaves.

The number of staggered roofs are a sign for status of the building's owner.

The roof design allows for so-called "stack-ventilation" where warm air rises to the top of the interior space, underneath the tallest roof, and is extracted by negative pressure provided by the oncoming wind, thus allowing very effective interior air circulation without mechanical or electrical means.

A mountainous climate of extremes: Summers are very hot, winters can be very chilly.

The artful perforations of the roof eaves are a signature element of the Lanna architecture in this region.

View from Wat Phrathat Doi Kong Mu. Mae Hong Son in the valley, the little airport is at the left of the image, a elongated green strip.

There are two markets: A so-called "Morning Market" and a "Night Market".
I bought there a sponge and a towel to clean the motorcycle; alas, no chance, to do the work myself.

Beautiful banana leaf weaving around a glass of lemon juice drink, offered as a non-alcoholic refreshment.

Curves, curves.

Leave decoration in concrete pavement on foot path.

Where I live the entire compound is crossed by little water streams coming from the mountains.
Many such "water-musical-instruments" are placed here (above); the water fills in about three minutes the hollow bamboo tube which tips over by the weight, emptying the content back into the stream. The tube, now out of equilibrium, falls back on a little rock, making a distinct sound. Since the bamboo tubes have different sizes and shapes, the sound of each is different. A little concert. Intriguing.

The rice harvest is just to be over now.

One of my favored building elements here: Decking made of flattened bamboo. The walk on such planks or decks is cushioned like walking on a metal coil mattress. Very comfortable.

Little paper flower decoration.

There are many dogs in this compound. This is the boss named "Lion" (Singha), because of his fur, old and half-blind, but very cuddly.

Rice paddies.
Evening aerobics in town, offered every night.

I had planned to stay two days in Mae Hong Son, it is already my third today. I will stay, in part also because of this Sunday's Loi Krathong Festival ("Floating Crown"), which is celebrated once a year in this part of Asia, at full moon. (It takes place at full moon of the 12th month of the traditional Thai calendar.) Since the lake downtown is such a mesmerizing water feature, it will be beautiful to see the little candle-lit crowns being send to the water. 

Interestingly, since I am in Lanna terrain here, the Thai Loi Krathong coincides with Yi Peng, the Lanna-style "Sky-Lantern" festival, where candle-lit large paper lanterns are released to the night sky, a wonderful, peaceful and quiet sight. 

But more about this tomorrow.

I will stay here until the festival.

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