Poi Sang Long Festival (Beloved Sons) – Mueang Mae Hong Son 2017
When: April (TBA)
Where: Mueang Mae Hong Son, Wat Muai To
Poi Sang Long in Mae Hong Son
“Poi Sang Long” (Ordaining the Beloved Sons) is also known as “Baud Luk Kaew” (Jeweled Prince), is one of the most important events for the Thai Yai people of Mae Hong Son. The province of Mae Hong Song is tucked away in the northwestern-most corner of Thailand that boarders on the Shan State of Myanmar. Poi Sang Long takes place annually but the exact dates vary from year to year and can change with very short notice (confirm with the Mae Hong Son Tourist Office). But it usually takes place anywhere between March and May just before the Buddhist Rain Retreat period (Buddhist Lent). This year’s exact festival dates have yet to be determined.
Wat Muai To
This year, for the duration of Poi Sang Long, Wat Muai To will be home for all the boys who participate. The first two days involve small groups of boys in full Sang Long dress traveling from wat to wat in Mueang Mae Hong Son and participate in short ceremony’s at each wat. The processions are small yet colorful and vibrant. The height of the festival takes place on day three, beginning with an early morning ceremony at Wat Don Chedi at about 6am, followed by a huge parade that tours around the city and ends where it began. Again there is a short ceremony followed by lunch and an evening festival featuring traditional Thai Yai music and dance.
Right of Passage
Poi Sang Long begins soon after the school year ends. Considered a right of passage ceremony for boys between the ages of 7 and 14 who voluntarily enter the monistic life. They begin with the study of the Buddhist doctrines as novice candidate monks. For some, it will last for a short period of time, while for others it could last for much longer. The candidates prepare themselves by shaving their heads, applying white powder to their faces, dress in elegant clothing and adorn ornate jewelry in preparation for a trip to the shrine located inside the city of Mae Hong Son. They will do this by way of horse or on the shoulders of a local male member of the community.
Influences of Burmese culture can be found all over large sections of northwestern Thailand in the clothing, architecture, music and cuisine. Celebrations like this can be found in the neighboring districts of Pai and Khum Yuam.
Distance from Chiang Mai by car – 147 miles (238k). Click here for route map.
When heading to Mae Hong Son there’s a very good chance that you’ll be visiting Chiang Mai City first, also known locally as Muang Chiang Mai. This is where you’ll make your arrangements to get to Mae Hong Son.
Kan Air is a small carrier that services Mae Hong Son via Chiang Mai with three flights a day flying onboard a Cessna Grand Caravan 208B. If your looking for the VIP treatment and money is no object, you can charter a luxurious Hawker Beechcraft Premier I and get there in no time at all.
NokAir (CURRENTLY: No Scheduled Flights – Please check website for updated schedule) is a good small carrier, each time I’ve used NokAir it was in a 60 seat Turbo Prop. Since turbo props don’t fly as high as jets you’ll feel a little more turbulence, nominal at best. Each experience was a good one and I wouldn’t think twice if I had the need to use their service again.
Both can be found at the Arcade Bus station in Chiang Mai, just outside of the old city. Arrangements to and from Arcade can be made at just about any hotel/guesthouse and if your hotel/guesthouse does not, any other that does will be happy to help you out. FYI, lots people who are susceptible to carsickness, do get sick during this ride due to the inordinate number of hairpins. Dramamine!
Lots of shops to be found that rent nice small late model cars. A US or European driver’s license is all that you’ll need, but I guess it couldn’t hurt to have an international driver’s license, you might want to check with your insurance carrier to see if it makes a difference in case of an accident.
The more adventurous may decide to rent a motorcycle or scooter. If this is your decision, I applaud you. It’s the best way to get there. In fact it’s one of the best ways to get to most places in Thailand. BUT, if you’ve never ridden before, do everyone and yourself a favor and learn how to ride first! Too many people come here hop on a bike with no experience and get hurt! One of the problems is that anyone can rent a motorcycle without proof of competence; all you need is your passport and maybe your driver’s license (Passport will be held until return). Same holds true for scooters, though they are small and look fairly simple to ride, they also require skill, which requires practice. The point is that all of these newbie riders just make life maddening for everyone else on the road! Keep in mind that Thailand has one of the highest road mortality rates in the world. That said, Chiang Mai is one of the better places to drive in Thailand, just know what you’re doing.
To Pai and Beyond
FYI, the trip to Pai can be challenging for experienced riders, Mae Hong Son is an additional 67 miles (108k) from Pai, so give yourself enough time to get there. Also, be aware that the weather can sometimes make sudden changes in the mountains (depending on the season). That said, the roads have recently been repaired so the ride should be fun, beautiful and challenging, with steep climbs and descents including what seems like an endless series of hairpin turns.
Make sure you get a local sim card for your smart phone with 3G service. Google Maps can really help you stay on course.
*Note: There are a large number of rental shops for cars, scooters and motorcycles and I wouldn’t begin to recommend one since these shops have a tendency to change hands and I have no interest in trying to keep track. But a little advice, test drive before riding away! Often times when I’ve rented a scooter around Thailand I’ve been given what seemed like the worst bike on the lot. Don’t be afraid to ask for a different bike. Renter Beware! You’ll enjoy the ride a lot more with a good bike.
Tourism Office – phone: +66(0)53-612-982(3), email: [email protected]