Phuket orchid garden and Thai village
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phuket Leisure: Phuket Orchid Garden & Thai Village

 Cultural Extravaganza Staged Daily

What do you get when you mix elephants, exquisite costumes, graceful Thai dancers, powerful Thai boxers and the charm of traditional Thai music? The result is an action packed, culture stacked evening of enjoyment

The Phuket Orchid Garden and Thai Village is located in the Samkong district on the outsskirts of Phuket Town. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of this busy neighbourhood, the Phuket Orchid Garden and Thai Village is set in a peaceful lakeside location and really is a one stop shop for anyone who is intrigued by the mystique of ancient Thai culture.

Upon arrival each guest is greeted with the charming, traditional Thai greeting, the wai and is given a nice cool drink. Before getting involved with the show, visitors may like to take a stroll around the stunning orchid garden. As its name suggests, the Phuket Orchid Garden has a striking plantation of exotic orchids that covers an area of more than 8000 square meters. The gardeners at the Orchid Garden suggest that their crop contains varieties of orchids that are unique to this area.

It's showtime and after being escorted to your seat in the auditorium you are suddenly taken back to the days of yesteryear when houses were made of bamboo and thatched roofing and life was a little slower, a little easier. The stage is decorated to resemble a traditional Thai village and as you examine this scene, suddenly the lights are dimmed and the drumming of the thaporn, a type of Thai drum, carries you further into the past.

The dancers glide onto the stage dressed in the most elaborate of costumes, adorned with head pieces made of sparkling gold and coloured stones. They move slowly and obediently to the rhythm of the music played by the ranat, which is similar to a xylophone, the phee, a Thai flute, and the ching, small cymbals. The dancers are holding candles and although they are lit and melting, the ladies are well trained in how not to get burned. This dance is called the Fonteeun, or candlelight dance and originated in Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, centuries ago.

While the show exhibits dances from all over the Kingdom, it specializes in the choreography of the South. Perhaps the most well-known of these southern dances is the Norah, or bird dance. The dancers are dressed in costumes that resemble birds and use lum fonleb, long curved attachments worn on the fingers, to weave dazzling patterns in the air.

Interspersed between dances are exhibits of other ancient cultural rites such as long pole and club fighting, sword fighting and, of course, the spectacles of Thai boxing. These short demonstrations are very entertaining and the actors display great physical strength and agility.

Once the show finishes you are brought back to the present in a big, four-legged way. The elephants are one of the most popular attractions of the village. During a short display you will watch these large, majestic animals perform everything from dancing to kicking footballs and scoring too!

This afternoon show gives a well-rounded exhibition of the essence of Thai cultural heritage. In addition, a more in-depth examination of one of Thailand's most respected festivals, Loy Krathong, is available every night.

Loy Krathong is arguably Thailand's most aesthetically vibrant festival. Traditionally celebrated during the twelfth lunar month, Loy Krathong is performed as an act of worship to the goddess of water. It is believed that by floating a krathong, a decorative segment of a banana trunk, bad luck is carried away and good fortune will return. Annually, the cities of Chaing Mai and Sukhothai are flooded with visitors who come from all parts of Thailand and the world, to take part in this colourful and respected religious rite. Now the event is staged nightly at the Phuket Thai Village, so visitors to Thailand can participate in the Loy Krathong ceremony no matter what the season.

The evening is organized especially for groups and includes a sumptuous buffet of Thai food or a set menu of fresh Phuket seafood. While visitors enjoy their meals, they are entertained by performances of Thai dancing and other cultural demonstrations, notably the Ancient War Drum procession and the very active Bamboo dance. The entertainment continues with the Five Stone dance, the Tin Mine dance and the Sukhothai dance, before the most important part of the evening, loy krathong.

Literally, loy krathong means to "float a krathong". Krathongs are made of a segment of a banana trunk that is wrapped in glossy banana leaves and decorated with flowers. Essential for all krathongs is the inclusion of one candle and three sticks of incense. The candle represents the spirit while the three sticks of incense are in honour of Phrapoot; Buddha, Phratum; the teachings of Buddha and Phrasong; the Monks. The act of making a krathong and floating it in a waterway was begun in Sukhothai by Nang Noppamus, a devout Buddhist girl who intended to apologize to Mae Nahm, the river goddess, for her peoples' ill treatment of the river. She performed her act outside the royal palace and received much attention from King Ram Khampang who cherished religious ceremony.

Today Loy Krathong celebrations are an extravaganza of colourful dance, music and culture. The Phuket Thai Village captures the excitement of the festival by using a large cast to stir the hearts of the audience. Prior to floating the krathongs, a procession consisting of the whole cast, advances toward the lake. Leading the group is Nang Noppamus who sits in an over-sized lotus flower carried by her followers. Musicians play a rhythmic tune during the procession and a woman's voice can be heard singing a haunting chant.

Participants light the candle and incense before offering a prayer and softly placing the krathong in the water. The image of hundreds of krathongs floating upon a lake is mesmerizing and leaves you with a feeling of spiritual prosperity for doing your own part in honouring the water goddess.

The decision to stage Loy Krathong every night of the week is admittedly unusual, but at least visitors to Phuket can witness the event without the crowds of devotees pushing them from all sides. Loy Krathong at the Thai village is best enjoyed with a larger group but can be arranged for groups as small as ten people. Group rates start at THB 250 ++ per person and vary according to the group size and the desired cuisine. Beautifully decorated krathongs are available for purchase at the site of the ceremony. The only problem is that you will probably want to keep the one you buy.

For more information about how you can entertain your incentive group with a cultural performance or Loy Krathong night, contact the Phuket Orchid Garden and Thai Village, Tel: 66(0)76 214 860-61, Fax: 66(0)76 214 859.


- September Issue, 2002

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