Thailand: Ban Chiang Heritage Festival starting February 7

Udon Thani  – One of the most modern, mesmerising and spectacular annual festivals of Udon Thani actually celebrates Thailand’s distant past – the Ban Chiang civilisation, which dates back to the Bronze Age.

Though only recently uncovered and documented, it seems that the Ban Chiang civilisation played a major role in the early history of the region of what was to become Thailand – and the annual festival offers a fascinating introduction to the rich history of this forgotten culture.

Organised by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Udon Thani Office in collaboration with several local administration offices in Udon Thani, including the Nong Han District Office and Ban Chiang Sub-district Office, the Ban Chiang Heritage Festival is set to take place from 7 to 9 February, 2014.

TAT Governor Thawatchai Arunyik said, “The Ban Chiang era was an important time in our history and the discoveries in Udon Thani offer a glimpse into the past. There are some fascinating things to learn for lovers of history and tourists looking to see a new side of Thailand. In addition, during the Festival itself there are many activities and sports to see as well as age-old arts and crafts, so even visitors who are not so interested in the spectacular historic sites will enjoy their time here.”

Three days prior to the actual annual festival, from 4 to 6 February, 2014, there will be many sports tournaments and competitions, including the National Sepak Takraw Championship. There will also be youth volleyball event, football matches and other fun sports.

For lovers of art, a painting competition at the Ban Chiang National Museum will take place on 5 February and, on 6 February there is a training course being arranged for volunteer youth guides, who will learn to show tourists around the historical sites while providing fascinating nuggets of information.

Ban Chiang pottery in the Ban Chiang National Museum

With the Ban Chiang site being an important place for the ancestors of the Thai people, a number of religious ceremonies will also be held in the morning of 7 February at Wat Pho Si Nai and the Ban Chiang National Museum. This will be followed by a spectacular opening ceremony for the 2014 event, and there will be a cultural procession to mark the history of the Ban Chiang civilisation.

The highlights of the three-day festival will be the archaeological discoveries themselves. The artefacts can be seen for free both at the Ban Chiang National Museum and the fascinating site of the Pho Si Nai archaeological site, which will be open to all Indiana Jones-type adventurers who want to take a look around.

Cultural shows both on stage and within the Festival’s grounds are sure to keep visitors coming back for more. The daily performances to be staged during the Festival include a Pong Lang musical show as well as various displays of Isan culture including folk dancing and exhilarating Thai boxing matches.

One of the most popular events is sure to be the Southern Thai-style shadow puppet show (Nang Talung) that will feature ever-favourite tales from Southeast Asian mythology. There will also be concerts of Isan folk music shows (Mo Lam), boat racing, cooking competitions, an aerobic dancing contest, and a light and sound presentation accompanied by drum performances.

Ban Chiang archaeological site

After seeing the historical sites and enjoying the daily performances, visitors can dig around the shops for local products, taste the local food, and even emulate the Bronze Age ancestors by attempting to make some Ban Chiang pottery.