Arts
of
Thailand
After
The
Tsunami

with Janine Yasovant

คลิกเพื่ออ่านบทความนี้ เป็นภาษาไทย

The image of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT2005), one year after Tsunami crisis of 2004, has been difficult to restore. People did not know or think about the danger of gigantic tidal waves that could cause damage to many areas of the AndamanSea coast. The earth's plates shook all over Thailand. The sound was like a bullet fired out of a pistol. Everybody and every organization were silent. Then the report came: there was a 9-on- the-Richter-scale earthquake. Water in the swimming pool at the Full Moon Resort in Chiangmai was splashing outside but we did not know what would happen next. At.10:03am, a gigantic tidal wave crashed Kamala beach in Phuket province. Many people were killed and PhuketIsland was flooded. In area called "Sapanhin," the water in the canal behind the Catholic Church rose and fell wildly. Many fishing boats and buildings were damaged.

OnDecember 26, 2004, seismic ocean waves, known as "tsunamis", hit the shores of the six resort provinces along the AndamanSea in Southern Thailand. In Thailand alone, the waves killed 5,395 people; half of whom were foreigners. In all the countries surrounding the Indian Ocean, the death toll reached over 280,000. The tsunami disaster shocked the world.

The pattern of the attack was similar: "The sea receded as far as 500 to 1000 meters away from the coast. Twenty minutes later, the first wave of between 2-3 meters in height struck. Fifteen minutes later, the second destructive wave from between 3-10 meters in height struck. It was like a giant wall of water stretching for hundreds of kilometers pounded the coast with devastating force. It had such power that it carried big boats tied up at piers more than 50 meters inland and leveled buildings and structures in its path. Seawater reached as far as a kilometer inland. Then, the last wave, 5 meters in height, struck ravaging the land still further and causing extreme inundation. The wave elevation grew even higher around the beaches with gentle slope and the open sea areas".

InPhuket, standing at the west end peak of the highland over the cliff, one can take a panoramic view of the AndamanSea. This is the wealthiest area in the Kingdom. The island is divided from the mainland by a narrow sea channel. A bridge connected the mainland and the island for a long time. This simple access from the mainland increased the popularity and vehicular traffic on the island. The terrain varies considerably. There are long beautiful sandy beaches, rocky coast lines and places with large limestone cliffs facing the ocean. The interior of the island contains hills and lush level areas booming with tropical plant life of all varieties. There are more different geographic variations on Phuket than on any other island in Thailand.

The building in downtown is Chino-Portuguese from the history. Portuguese settled here to transport the tin to distant ports. A combination of the Chinese and Portuguese backgrounds has given this island a culture of its own. There is still a strong Chinese influence in this wealthy town. The rubber, agricultural products and seafood, along with tin have all contributed to the general wealth of Phuket.

The main income of the country is tourism and one of its main attractions is PhuketFantasea. It not only showcases the charm and beauty of Thailand, but also enriches ancient Thai traditions with the wonder of cutting edge technology and special effects. The result is a stunning 140-acre theme complex, packed with a multitude of activities and entertainment: a festival village with carnivals, games, handicrafts and shopping; a 4,000-seat restaurant offering a grand buffet of Thai and international cuisine; A breath-taking Las Vegas-style theatrical show, where state-of-the-art technology and special effects enhance the beauty of Thailand's Myths, Mysteries and Magic in a wondrous extravaganza certain to delight everyone.

The magnificent Palace of the Elephants is a state-of-the-art theater with wonderful acoustics and seating for 3,000 persons. Fronted by a glorious reconstruction of a Sukhothai-era stone palace, with intriguing elephant statues, the theater puts on a spellbinding show combining culture and illusion that is almost beyond belief    

A stroll through the enchanted FestivalVillage is like a journey through Thailand's architectural history. Each fascinating facade promises a unique shopping experience, where visitors can buy high quality locally made  products from 15 different shops offering silk, leather, handicrafts, ceramic, jewelry, souvenirs, unusual items about elephants and Siamese twins and much more.

FestivalVillage is a wonderful introduction to the theme park, where the accent is on fun and entertainment coupled with Thailand's legendary hospitality .One can marvel at the skills of the villagers demonstrating a range of traditional art and crafts and enjoy cultural parades, pageants, street shows.

 

The image of new illusion technology and the performance of Thai ancient civilization, an art, belief and procedure of culture and religion, are full of wonderful creations, for example, the Fantasy of a kingdom and the Culture Illusion show. Although PhuketFantasea adapted the concept of Las Vegas theatre to use in the performances, it is a private show that was established locally. From a news report at that time, I knew that the tsunami attacked PhuketFantasea and other natural treasures such as the wonderful coral reefs. The tsunami nightmare is a tragic lesson for all Thai people and the world. Fortunately, the theatre of PhuketFantasea came alive once again after 140 acres of Kamala beach was damaged.

Bangkok is a primary destination for international tourists. But Bangkok does not have many cultural entertainment places. In the past, Timland was an occasion to blend performance and culture together, also Laddaland in Chiangmai, but both were cancelled because of economic and poor maintenance. In developing countries, arts and performances are not human basic needs. So government pays little attention. Artists create new works regularly, but less support makes them hopeless.

The tsunami crisis froze Thai tourism. The private sector attempted to push alternative cultural currents to bring back the traveling foreigners who want to come to Thailand. In Bangkok, Rachada Grand Theatre, a place that belonged to a group in the private sector, set a show about Thai local arts of 4 regions of Thailand and presented world class performances in the project called "Siamniramit". This is like a hot dish from Thai cuisine that was prepared carefully in the ways of local society by simulating local life scenes and Thai local tradition of 4 regions.

When I sat down I took in the big stage: Sounds of KlongSabatChai (Drum performance), Lanna local music and Thai northern dancing. Lots of performers walked in from many directions.

Suddenly I saw the ThaiLannaKingdom and WatPhra Singh temple of Chiang Mai scene. Lanna people dressed beautifully, participated in the Loy Krathong Festival. The King released "KomLoi" into the sky. Someone said that all tragedy and sickness will flow with paper balloon as well.

The Thai northern Lanna scene went out and the blue sky scene came in. I saw sea waves, lights and shadows of the shadow play (Nung Ta Loong). There was a Norah dance as well. Unique music from the South accompanied by Thai flutes and drums. A big vessel came from the left of stage. There was a goods exchange such as clothes, beautiful vases, etc. This is a performance that tells the story of Chinese people who sailed to Thailand to trade goods in the old times.

There was a Sueng (North-Eastern dance) that was more enjoyable than the others. NangApsorn, a sand stone-carving picture, stands still in the stone palace. The female dancers dance in pale light.

The last part is the way of life in Central region. Bangkok and neighboring provinces have a lasting relationship with rivers. It is Venice of the East. Monks came to beg for food in early morning by sailing with small wooden boats. It was delightful.

The combination of Buddhism beliefs about goodness and sins, heaven and hell can scare us in different ways. Himmaphant forest, gateway to heaven, has dancing animalsfromThai literature. This became a  wonderful land between heaven and hell in the imagination.

The play amazed me. NangManeemekala, an angel, danced beautifully, holding a crystal ball in her hand to lure Ramasoon, a giant in Literature. And she flew back to heaven.

At last, local traditions were performed. For example, Poi Sang Long of Tai people, Songkranfestival, and Loy Krathong in Sukhothai province where NangNoppamas sits in a giant Krathong. Many villagers came to join and brought their Krathongs to float in Khongkariver.

Siamniramit is outstanding with one of the largest stages in the world. It is part of the beauty after the tsunami.

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คลิกเพื่ออ่านบทความนี้ เป็นภาษาไทย

©2005 Janine Yasovant
©2005 Publication Scene4 Magazine

Janine Yasovant is a lecturer and writer. Bsc. in Psychology MPA. in Public Administration. And the director of ICECA (Initiative for Cultural Exchange and computer Art) in Thailand. For her quiet mind all things are possible.
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december 2005

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