Document 98860

T H A I L A N D | V I E T N A M | C H I N A | C A M B O D I A | H O N G KO N G | M YA N M A R | I N D O N E S I A | L A O S
asia insights
September - October 2010 edition
inside :
| vietnam’s traditional dress
| bali - eat, pray, love
| loy kratong festival
| singapore & malaysia
asia insights September - October 2010
From the desk of James Reed
Its not only Eat, Pray, Love
Page 3
Page 14 - 16
A few words on the developments of Destination Asia by our
Bali enjoys another tourism boom thanks to a high profile
movie with Julia Roberts
Local Destination Asia News
Postcard from Chiang Rai
Page 4 - 5
Page 17 - 18
Announcing the opening of our Singapore and Malaysia
We report on the strikingly unique Wat Rong Khun temple
Loy Kratong
The lure of the Ao Dai
Page 19 - 20
Page 6 - 11
One of Asia’s best loved festivals is about to commence
The history and fascination of Vietnam’s famed national
Bali Agung
Page 12 - 13
A state of the art theatre opens on Bali
the logo and its meaning
We are frequently asked about our logo, what exactly is
it and where does it come from?
The original photograph was taken in a side street of
Hue in Vietnam sometime in 1997 by Paul Levrier. The
pavement was laid out with large bunches of incense
sticks after being dyed with the colour red you see in
the image. The hot afternoon sun was warming the
dyed incense to the sticks.
With our corporate colours already being red, black
and grey, the image of a single bunch of incense sticks
standing out against the others made for a striking
logo. The fact that incense is used as offerings in times
of prayer, worship or solemn contemplation in all the
countries in which Destination Asia operates only
enhanced the symbolic importance of this image. And
hence our logo was born.
Cover page : A young Vietnamese lady in her traditional ‘ao dai’ poses
in front of a longevity symbol at Thay Phuong Pagoda near Hanoi.
Photography by Paul Levrier
asia insights
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asia insights
travel, news & views
asia insights September - October 2010
from the desk of James Reed . . .
01 September 2010
Welcome to the September 2010 edition the Asia
Insights Newsletter
Inside you will find some fascinating articles about
Asia culture and Asia travel which I am sure will add
to your knowledge of the “mystical” Far East.
But of course , the main news about Destination Asia is
the opening of our own operating offices in Singapore
and Malaysia, headed by one of Asia’s pre-eminent
travel professionals …Bob Guy
Bob is a long time friend of mine , even when we were
‘competitors’. His knowledge of almost every destination in Asia is unmatched and in fact he was often the
first travel executive to initiate travel into some of the
key locations in the Far East . When combined with his
‘world best’ practices in the MICE , cruise and ‘tour
wholesale’ fields Bob’s reputation for professionalism
is unsurpassed, anywhere in the world .
email: [email protected]
What I know about Bob is more than that the business
side of his life resume. Bob’s passion for the culture of
Asia, its amazing and varied cuisine, the different
nationalities that make Asia such a fascinating
destination, its unique environment and most of all
Asia’s people … truly make Bob a very special ‘travel
ambassador’ of the Far East.
We are very honoured to welcome Bob Guy to the
Destination Asia family.
James Reed
CEO/Group Managing Director
Destination Asia Group
DESTINATION ASIA announces the opening of its new
Singapore and Malaysia offices
The Destination Asia Group continues its expansion
as a complete pan-Asia DMC with the announcement of the opening of two new operating companies in Singapore and Malaysia .
Combined with this exciting news is the appointment of well known and eminently respected Asia
travel identity Bob Guy as Managing Director of
Destination Asia (Singapore) and Destination Asia
James Reed, CEO / Group Managing Director of
the Destination Asia Group said, “ Bob and I have
been friends for almost 30 years and we have always
had a mutual professional respect in the days when
we were competitors. Our philosophies on international travel, the DMC business, future trends in the
Asia travel industry, quality standards and account
relationships and an endearing passion for the
unique and ‘one of a kind’ travel experiences that
makes Asia so special - were so similar that we both
knew that one day, somehow, we’d end up working
together. It was therefore a logical decision that as
Destination Asia began its long cherished goal to
open its own operations in Singapore and Malaysia
that Bob and I formally ‘consummate’ our friendship
into a business partnership and today I take great
pride in announcing Bob’s role as the Managing
Director of the two new Destination Asia operating
offices in Singapore and Malaysia.”
Destination Asia Singapore and Destination Asia
Malaysia, in keeping with the Destination Asia philosophy of ‘common ownership’, will have a shareholding structure that includes both James Reed
and Addie Samerton (Destination Asia’s MD in
Thailand), several of the Destination Asia companies
and Bob Guy who, as the MD of Destination Asia
Singapore and Destination Asia Malaysia, will be
the largest shareholder and a fellow director with
Jim Reed.
As always , there will be no outside shareholders,
no international travel company shareholders and
Above : Along with the Raffles doorman, Gill Guy, Bob Guy, James Reed & Addie Samerton join together
to launch Destination Asia Singapore. Below : James Reed and Bob Guy discuss strategy with the iconic
Marina Bay Sands Casino looming behind. Bay Sands Casino looming overhead
no airline shareholders ... in keeping with Destination Asia’s philosophy of ‘total independence.’
asia insights September - October 2010
Bob Guy states that “I am very honoured to be joining
Jim and his team as the Managing Director of Destination
Asia (Singapore) and Destination Asia (Malaysia). I have
personally known Jim for three decades and I’m looking
forward to working closely as a member of the Destination
Asia family . My wife Gill and I look forward to resuming
our relationships with industry friends and customers
worldwide. We are already working on establishing fully
capable operations in Singapore and Malaysia”
Most travel companies, and international
corporations, are now seeking a DMC
that can provide ‘one stop’ travel solutions in ALL key countries in Asia.”
Destination Asia (Singapore) will be providing full service
DMC products to Destination Asia’s international
clientele for :
‣ Corporate meetings and Exhibitions and Incentives,
using Singapore’s world class Suntec City
convention facilities as a springboard to PCO service delivery
The Destination Asia Group now has full service and
fully owned operations in Thailand, China, Vietnam,
Hong Kong , Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Burma and
now Singapore and Malaysia.
‣ Tour Wholesalers / Tour Operators, worldwide
‣ International Cruise Ship lines
Destination Asia [Malaysia] will also offer the full range of
Destination Asia services , plus creative and cost effective
Incentives in the natural wonders of Borneo and Langkawi.
Jim Reed noted that “Most travel companies, and international corporations , are now seeking a DMC that can provide ‘one stop’ travel solutions in all key countries in Asia,
with creative products, CSR policies and ‘multi-country’
services - at the best standard of delivery. And now Destination Asia can offer these services in Singapore and
Malaysia ... to our worldwide clientele, with our historical
promise of “complete independence.”
Bob Guy continues ...“In addition to very experienced
travel professionals in our Singapore and Malaysia operations, Gill will be actively involved in providing customer
and IT systems support to our worldwide accounts.”
Office Contact:
Destination Asia (Singapore)
Windset Road
Suite 03-03A
Tel: (65) 68875508
Fax: (65) 68875065
Email : [email protected]
asia insights page 5
ao dai
t he a l lu r e & g r a c e of v ie t n a m ’s t r a di t ion a l dr e s s
Visitors expecting a land of black pajamas are pleasantly surprised to find slender, long-hair women clad in
‘ao dai’, Vietnam’s national costume. This dress consists
of a split-sided tunic over silk pantaloons. In world
fashion, the ao dai stands out in several respects. As the
uniform of school girls and shop clerks, it is both a formal dress and daily street wear. It remains far more
visible in today’s culture than either China’s quipao
(cheongsam) or Korea’s hanbok.
To many, the allure and grace of the ao dai is irresistible.
Words by Peter Kauffner
Photography by Paul Levrier
asia insights September - October 2010
Vietnamese beauty contests generally include a segment in which the contestants wear ao dai. Such contests are extremely popular with both sexes in Vietnam.
The contests seek queens who can represent the nation
and uphold the four traditional virtues of cong (tidy),
dung (pretty), ngon (soft-spoken) and hanh (chaste). Yet
at the same time they must entertain audience members
who look for physical beauty and sexuality. Cong-dungngon-hanh was what a man looked for in a wife back in
the days of arranged marriages. Such talks sounds very
old fashioned to today’s younger generation. “No one
thinks about the four skills anymore,” said Thuy, a university student. “They fall in love-and that’s it”.
The white ao dai as a high school uniform is also too
much culture for many. “When we were in middle
school, we looked forward to wearing the ao dai,” said
Nhung. “But after we wore it for a while, it just seemed
inconvenient”. The ao dai is too hot for classes without
air conditioning, Thuy explained. The use of solid
white silk makes any stain immediately visitble. Students must be careful of rain, since this can make the
thin fabric transparent. The great fear of a Vietnamese
teenage girl is to have a flap of her tunic caught in the
spokes of a motorcycle. In the worse case scenario, the
top is pulled off, leaving the girl wearing only a bra and
pantaloons. This is why today, one can see how careful
the girl is with her dress when riding side saddle.
garment is often made of sheer fabric. Each
is individually made and a careful tailor will
do 20 measurements to ensure a tight fit.
The slits may extend above the waist to expose part of the midriff. “The ao dai covers
everything, but hides nothing,” according to
one saying. This feature allows the dress to
combine sexuality and tradition, although
the traditional version of the ao dai was an
unrevealing multi-layered gown. “The shape
of the female body is accentuated, but hidden as the dress clings tightly to it,” wrote
Nhi Lieu, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin. This sexualised
image, however, is contained within the
bounds of respectability and curbed under
the sight of ‘cultural’.
The Vietnamese ao dai pervades every aspect of daily life in both the city and the
countryside. Unlike many traditional
dresses seen elsewhere in the world the ao
dai is not merely for show or for tourism, it
is still respected even by today’s younger,
more materialistic generation.
Although the motorcycle is the main form of transportation in urban Vietnam, an ao dai clad student on a
bicycle is still a common sight. These beautiful ‘butterflies', as poets call them, brighten the appearance of the
street. Writers who advocate the use of the ao dai as a
uniform cite its inconvenience as a virtue, a feature that
teaches students feminine modesty and caution. There
are many tales of tomboys trained in feminine demeanor
by a father who requires them to wear ao dai.
The general meaning of ao dai is ‘gown’. It thus refers
to a range of garments that an English-speaker would
not think of ao dais. For example, a qipao is a Chinese
ao dai. A Vietnamese ao dai simply specifies the splitsided Vietnamese gown.
Folk legend traces the ao dai back to the Trung sisters,
who led a rebellion against Chinese rule in 39AD. The
two sisters (Hai Ba Trung) are Vietnam’s most celebrated
heroes and are depicted in folk opera as wearing ao dai.
Trinh Bach, who led a team that restored royal gowns in
Hue, argues that basic design features of the ao da can
be traced back to medieval times and originally reflected
a desire by the Hanoi court to distinguish its fashion
from that of Beijing.
asia insights page 7
The classic imperial Hue ao dai, as worn by courtesans
during the Nguyen Dynasty
The traditional white ao dai, still commonly
worn by high school students
asia insights September - October 2010
Europe had its first glimpse of Vietnam from a
short book by Jesuit missionary Cristoforo Borri published in 1631. Vietnamese women, he describes,
wore multiple layers of ‘petticoats’ and ‘doublets’. It
was ‘‘the modest garb in all Asia, for even in the hottest weather they suffer
no part of the body uncovered”. They wore
transparent veils that
“shows all their gaiety
with modesty, and
makes a beauteous majestic appearance”.
Their huge hats nearly
covered their faces and
their hair was so long
that it fell “down to
their heels”.
Certainly fashions have
changed since the seventeenth century, but
we can see from this
description that several
characteristically Vietnamese ideas about
fashion have been preserved in the ao dai; the
desire to cover as much
of the body as possible
and the use of bright
colours and thin fabrics
to allow th a woman to
express her physical
beauty and individuality.
A decree issued by Lord Vu Vuong of Hue in 1744
specified that the members of this court, both male
and female, wear a gown over trousers. Contemporary writer Le Quy Don, described the newfangled
garment as a ‘long shirt’ (ao dai), the earliest known
use of the word. After the Gia Long emperor unified
Vietnam in 1801, designers combined Hue’s gown
and trouser outfit with Hanoi’s split-sided jacket (five
paneled gown), the direct ancestor of the modern ao
Above : The ao dai is not only just worn by women. The male ‘ao dai,
or ao gam, is still worn during traditional ceremonies and festivals in the
Two panels were sewn together in the front, two were
sewn together in the back, and the fifth was a ‘baby
flap’ hidden underneath. Thus the ngu than (as it was
then called) gave the appearance of having two flaps.
Fabric was expensive at this time, so aristocrats would
display their wealth by
wearing multiple layers
of clothing sacrificing
comfort for fashion in
Vietnam’s hot climate.
The Minh Mang emperor (1820-1841)
banned styles associated
with regionalism and
thus made the ngu than
a national dress.
In 1917, the Dong
Khanh Girl’s High
School (now Hai Ba
Trung School) opened
in Hue, the capital of
Vietnam at the time.
The school uniform was
a ngu than with a violet
tunic and white pantaloons. Because of its
long association with
the ao dai, Hue today is
still Vietnam’s most elegant and traditional city,
with the pure white ao
dai still the uniform
worn by all girls at
In the 1920’s artists associated with the French Indochina College of Fine Arts in Hanoi redesigned the
ngu than as a dress and a modernised version created
a storm when it was featured in the newspaper Today
in 1935. Shortages and economic turmoil associated
with World War II and the Franco Vietminh War
(1946-1954) led to the reemergence of traditional
styles but by the mid 1950’s and early 60’s the administration of President Ngo Dinh Diem and his first
lady Madame Nhu, vigorously promoted the modern
ao dai as a national costume.
asia insights September - October 2010
T H A I L A N D | V I E T N A M | C H I N A | C A M B O D I A | H O N G KO N G | M YA N M A R | I N D O N E S I A | L A O S
The years 1960-75 were the heyday of the ao dai
in the South. The ao dai for men, or ao gam,
never recovered after Diem left office but the
female version remained the dominant form of
dress in all the cities and towns of the South.
Even peasant women would wear them on their
weekly market day. The ao dai was effectively
banned under Communist rule for some years
after 1975 and did not really re-emerge until
1983 when a high school in the Mekong Delta
town of Ca Mau adopted it as a uniform. This
breakthrough, however, was only a first step in a
slow revival. With the annual cloth ration at
only two meters a year fashions of the 1980’s
remained drab and spartan.
The doi moi political reforms that began in
1986 resulted in an opening up to the noncommunist world, a revival of the economy and
eventually a re-emergence of the ao dai.
The 1992 films Indochine and The Lover inspired worldwide interest in Vietnamese fashion, with several international fashion houses
offering ao dai collections. In 1995, an ao dai
worn by Truong Quynh Mai was chosen as ‘Best
National Costume’ at the Miss International
Pagaent in Tokyo, triggering an ‘ao dai craze’
that lasted for several years.
Above : A Vietnamese woman adjusts her ‘ao dai’ whilst sitting
among the ruins of My Son, near Hoi An.
During the mid 1990’s it was common for
young Vietnamese women to choose an ao dai
over modern western style dress, although today
the ao dai is no longer as common a sight as
those days. Still, the dress is actively worn during formal occasions, festivals and traditional
events as well as remaining the uniform of many
schools in the South and for company staff,
both private and government.
What does the future hold for the ao dai? A
dress so delicate, elegant and sensual will always
appeal to the feminine form and with such a
strong identity associated with the beauty of
Vietnam, it is hard to envisage a time when
more modern western dress will over power
basic national pride. A turbulent history has
tried to change the ao dai or relinquish it altogether and failed. Surely, even Vietnam’s pull
into the modern age will keep the ao dai alive.
asia insights page 11
grand new theatrical
production opens at the Taman Safari and
Marine Park on the island of Bali. Far
from being a commercial, theme park
attraction, the quality of the performances
and staging is enough to bring Balinese
cultural lore to life in an atmosphere that
enhances the experience of the past and
present, on this evocative island.
Words by Donna Murphy.
Th e L e g e nd of B a l ine s e G od d e s se s
Th e L e g e nd of B a l ine s e G od d e s se s
Sunday, August 29 saw the
grand opening of the Bali
Agung production at the
Taman Safari and Marine
Park – and what a production
it is! Created by an
internationally acclaimed
theatrical and production
team, the show is held in a
purpose built theatrical
complex, which can hold up
to 1200 people. With state of
the art lighting, sound and
great air conditioning, the
show began with a parade of
7 elephants, a flock of ducks
and a wonderful Gamelan
orchestra playing on the far
right of the stage. With 150
performers in spectacular
costumes, as well as animals,
the show is a delight and is
not to be missed whilst in
By mixing contemporary and
traditional dance, puppetry
and wonderful music, the
approach to the show adds to
the dramatic performance
without taking away any of
Bali’s cultural heritage.
With the performers
highlighting every aspect of
the island, the show depicts
scenes from the royal court, the
magical forests and village life.
The story tells the take of King
Sri Jaya Pangus, who ruled Bali
from 1179 until 1181. He defied
tradition by taking a Chinese
wife – Kang Ching Wie, the
daughter of an influential
Chinese merchant and a ships
captain. Their marriage was
happy, however it was doomed as
she was not able to bear a child.
One day, King Sri Jaya Pangus
decided to make a pilgrimage to
Lake Batur, and he was seduced
by the Goddess of the lake, who
was later able to bear him a son.
Three years later, Kang Ching
Wie decides that she must go
and find her husband, and when
she reaches Lake Batur, she finds
that he has been living with the
Goddess of the Lake and their
son. The king and his first wife
are obviously still in love with
each other, and when the
Goddess sees this, she cursed
them and turned them into stone
Bali Agung is an extravaganza
and is certainly worth seeing.
The show will run 4 days a week
in the afternoon. Bookings are
essential, so be sure to contact
your agent, or Destination Asia
before heading up to Gianyar for
the performance.
asia insights page 13
asia insights September - October 2010
Yes, we know ... everyone is
talking about it, so why not us ?
ali is enjoying the start of
a travel boom, thanks to
the movie Eat Pray Love movie,
starring Julia Roberts.
The film, based on the memoirs
of American woman Elizabeth
Gilbert and her challenges after
her divorce, was filmed in part
on the island in November 2009.
In an article titled “Bali’s Travel
Boom: Eat, Pray, Love Tourism”,
Time magazine writer, Hillary
Brenhouse, says that the film’s
recent release has “given rise to
a new customer for Balinese
hotels, travel agencies and tour
operators: the spiritual seeker.”
Hotels such as Ayana, in the
south, and Ubud Hanging
Gardens in Ubud, are tempting
this new breed of tourist with
days of beach dinners, massage
therapy and yoga classes.
COMO Hotels and Resorts now
have a Bangkok, Bhutan, Bali
‘Eat Pray Love’ package which
concludes in Ubud, where guests
can enjoy sessions with the
unique Ketut Liyer, the healer
that Ms Gilbert spent time with
during her stay.
On top of that, there are
cleansing rituals in local
temples, or outings to where the
film was shot.
asia insights page 14
Words by Donna Murphy.
Words by Donna Murphy
Clockwise from left: A young Ballinese girl adjusts her head dress for a local ceremony ; carrying offerings to a temple ; a girl in traditional dress awaits the
start of a procession ; a local village prepares for rituals Centre : Balinese masks on show
asia insights page 15
asia insights September - October 2010
The Four Seasons even have packages which has
guests partaking in Balinese cooking classes, which
feature local aphrodisiacs!
Bali is much, much more than just Eat Pray Love,
though. With beautiful scenery, serene temples, a
nightlife that would rival that of any city, and world
class hotels and restaurants, Bali is also excellent value
for money.
2010 will see the opening of over 650 five star rooms
in Bali. Among the newcomers to the island are:
The W Retreat and Spa. Due to open within the
next couple of months in the Seminyak area. The W
Retreat and Spa is a newfound Wonderland along the
shores of Seminyak, an area which is already home to
incredible restaurants, world class clubs, fabulous
fashion and eclectic galleries. The hotel will feature
237 guestrooms and villas with spectacular views. At
W Retreat and Spa,
stylish designs meet
traditional architecture
and inspire lavish
amenities such as the
signature W bed, lush robes, and state-of-the-art
entertainment systems.
Each guest automatically receives full access to all the
amenities and facilities of the main property.
To indulge your appetite, The Waterside restaurant
offers a wide selection of cuisines or you can round off
the day with dinner in this speciality outlet
surrounded by tropical gardens and ponds.
The Seminyak is designed to be a blend of the
contemporary with the Balinese touch as inspired by
the resort’s natural surroundings and is due to open
on December 1, 2010.
The Pullman Bali Legian Nirwana is a brand-new
beach-front resort, offering Balinese hospitality from a
fresh perspective."In a stylish urban chic style, the
resort is located between Legian and Kuta beach, and
is close to Bali’s shopping, night life and recreational
hot spots. In fact, a short stroll along the beach will
have you at some of the best restaurants on the island.
eat! pra"! lo#e
Try the sizzling vibes at FIRE or sample the PanAsian indulgences at Starfish Bloo®, then boogie the
night away at WooBar. Balance style & soul at
SWEAT® and refuel your cool at AWAY® Spa.
W Retreat and Spa is scheduled to open in Mid
December 2010.
The Seminyak is an amazing new resort with 38
beach wing rooms measuring 47m!, offering all the
comfort you should expect from a premium resort, 26
incredible suites of 75m! completed with private
Jacuzzi overlooking the ocean, 2 spacious Penthouses
of 155m! which include the additional features of a
private board room. The 10 superbly appointed oceanview Villas of 190m! and one fabulous two bedroom
Villa of 318m! have sizeable private pools and open-air
gazebos for those seeking complete privacy.
Meanwhile, 30 garden wing rooms are dedicated for
those seeking more privacy in one separate compound
within an elegant garden setting with a swimming pool
and sunken bar. All guests have the benefit of enjoying
complimentary daily afternoon tea and coffee in the
garden’s own Cafeteria.
asia insights page 16
With 351 beautifully
decorated rooms and suites
providing comfort and new
technology, the resort is ideal
for families, honeymooners or groups who are seeking
a more memorable experience in Bali."Facilities
include a rooftop infinity pool as well as a free form
garden pool."The well equipped Kid’z club and Teen
club are great for families, while the Tjakra-7 wellness
center and spa is an oasis for those who seek
relaxation and rejuvenation.
An extensive line up of dining and entertainment
facilities are available at the resort, including IP, a chill
out bar at the rooftop pool, Sembilan, a contemporary
Balinese restaurant and The Deli, an upscale brasserie
featuring French and International delicacies.
With over 550 sqm of function space, Pullman Bali
Legian Nirwana is ideal for corporate meetings and
events."With creative event managers and state-of-theart meeting equipment, your event will be planned
and carefully executed with a minimum of fuss.
The Pullman Bali Legian Nirwana is due to open by
the end of 2010.
Words by Donna Murphy
Words by Simon Fransham
Any visitor to Thailand will agree that one of the most
memorable things about this wonderful country is the
temples. Literally thousands of Buddhist temples dot the Thai
landscape both rural and urban. It is almost impossible to go
anywhere and not notice the often glittering façade, golden spire
or sweeping eves of a Thai temple. Traditional art and design are
present to some extent in every temple across Thailand and with
the prosperity of the modern era many of Thailand’s temples are
being transformed into amazing works of art and design.
Thailand’s northern-most province, Chiang Rai, is home to one
such temple which is unique to the environment in many ways.
asia insights page 17
asia insights September - October 2010
Usually Thai temples are graced with
gold and coloured mosaics which create
a very reverent and formalistic style
although also providing a surreal
atmosphere where angels fly and
demons guard doorways. Driving along a typical road in
rural Thailand, one may see the sun reflecting sharply off
mirrored mosaic tiles which draws the eye to the colourful
temple below.
Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai steps away somewhat from
the normal pattern of Thai temples in that it is completely
white. Some say it was designed to be seen under
moonlight while others will tell you that the white signifies
purity of the Lord Buddha. The temple represents the
ethereal and definitely unique.
Thailand’s noted artist, Mr. Chalermchai Kositpipat
designed and is supervising the construction of this
beautiful white temple and its many statues. Construction
began in 1998 and has been an ongoing work as attention
to detail is of great importance to ensure the message
intended by the artist is adequately portrayed. In addition,
there is a gallery nearby exhibiting Chalermchai’s
The ubosot or consecrated assembly hall is designed in
white color with some use of white glass. The white color
stands for Lord Buddha’s purity while the white glass
stands for Lord Buddha’s wisdom that, ‘shines brightly all
over the Earth and the Universe’. Leading across to the
temple is a bridge passing over a sculpture garden of
grasping hands and skulls surrounded by a pond with
beautiful white koi fish. This path is said to symbolise the
way to enlightenment (nirvana), which can only be achieved
when a Buddhist finally discovers the truth about life.
Before the main chapel and at the end of the bridge there
are several sculptures of meditating Buddha sitting in a
lotus circled by spirits of the world.! The outer-decoration
of the temple is all white but there is a dramatic contrast
inside the main hall where the walls are painted with
colorful larger than life images depicting stories from the
Buddhist teaching. The artist, reminiscent of Balinese
artists in the 70’s has incorporated very modern and
contemporary ideas using icons from modern popular
(western at times)culture through space ships, superman,
and even Neo from the movie ‘Matrix’.
If the colourful modernist images haunting you from
above are too much there is relief in the typical serenity of
Buddha alters set inside golden flames to bring you back to
Wat Rong Khun is set to become a centre for meditation
and dharma practice and further development will see a
pagoda, hermitage, crematorium, monastery, preaching
hall, museum, pavilion, and rest room facilities which will
be built on an area of about 3 acres. Wat Rong Khun is
about 6 kilometres from Chiang Rai City and the province
of Chiang Rai is also home to the Golden Triangle, Doi
Tung, Mae Salong, Chiang Saen and the Opium Museum.
The province is mountainous with its many ethnic
minorities while below the Mekong River runs to form a
natural border between Thailand, Myanmar and Laos.
Contact Destination Asia in Bangkok for further
information on including Wat Rong Khun into your guest’s
itineraries when travelling in the north.
asia insights page 18
Loy Kratong
Words by Simon Fransham
asia insights September - October 2010
Thailand is a country full of
fascinating cultural festivals
happening throughout the year,
and at Destination Asia we are
keen on promoting these festivals
in order for your customers to
make the very most of their stay
in the Kingdom.
Loy Kratong is perhaps one of
the most charming and beautiful
festivals in Thailand. The
nationwide festival begins with
the making of kratong. These are
small, dinner-plate sized floats
constructed traditionally from
local wood and banana leaves,
beautifully adorned with candles,
incense, and flowers.
In the evening, the local people
flock in large numbers to the
nearest river or waterway. Here,
the candles on the kratong are
lit, and each couple, individual, or
family, place a kratong on a
waterway, whilst making a wish.
Loy Kratong translates literally as
'float kratong'. It is a particularly
enchanting festival as looking
along the waterway, one sees
hundreds and hundreds of
floating lit candles, twinkling
away in the night, as hundreds of
local people stroll along the river
banks, with their wish in mind.
The origins of the festival can be
traced back to the Hindu Devali
Festival, which also involves
candles, as an act of worship of
the Brahmin gods, Brahma, Siva,
and Vishnu, or as an act of
remission to the Indian Ganga or
Ganges. Loy Krathong was
adapted by the Thais to honour
the Lord Buddha, and also Mae
Khongkha, 'Mother of Waters' to
pay gratitude for supplying life
sustaining water year-round.
The setting is deeply romantic,
with the full moon of the twelfth
lunar month bright in the night
sky, and typically one sees young
couples strolling hand-in-hand
after placing their kratong in the
r i v e r, t h u s b l e s s i n g t h e i r
relationships for the coming year.
In Chiang Mai, the festival is
extended over three days, and is
known as Yi Peng. Here it is even
more spectacular, as 'khom
l oy ' ( fl o a t i n g l a n t e r n s ) a r e
released in the night sky. These
large paper lanterns are to carry
misfortune away, and off into the
sky, and are a spectacular sight all
over the city's skyline. Larger
floats are also paraded in the city
throughout the day. Fireworks are
let off in spectacular form on the
We would highly recommend
travel to Thailand over this
period, as the Loy Kratong
festival always makes for a
memorable stay.
This annual festival takes place
on 21st November 2010 while Yi
Peng takes place from the 20th to
the 22nd November 2010.
Above : Images of the Loy Kratong festival in Sukhothai, one of
the most colourful areas to see the activities.
asia insights page 20
asia insights September - October 2010
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November 2008
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