Don Chedi Fair

The first notable thing about Suphanburi compared to Ayutthaya is that it is not a typical tourist destination. This means that farangs are relatively a rare sight, and the possibility of buying important things like museli and banana pancakes is extremely limited. Since eating trendy western food isn’t what I come to Thailand for, that’s really not a problem. Contrary to what many foreign visitors think, the infrastructure in Thailand is for the most part built for Thai people. If a person comes here and only follows the recommendations of a guidebook, that person will miss out on much that the country and its people have to offer. So I was happy to have been invited to Suphanburi.

Don Chedi is located about thirty kilometers from Suphanburi, and at the end of January each year they have a fair or festival. This attracts a huge number of visitors, extremely few of which come from outside Thailand. There are multiple stages with music and performances of all kinds, hundreds of booths and food stalls, rides for children and adults alike, and many tens of thousands of people milling about. Don Chedi itself was the site of a battle in 1592 when King Naresuan defeated a Burmese prince and liberated the Kingdom of Ayutthaya from foreign occupation, a liberation which lasted for nearly two hundred years until Ayutthaya was sacked and burned. If you don’t believe me, look it up. That’s what search engines are for. So, the operative word is Naresuan, and anyone who knows a little about him and displays that knowledge to the Thais will be respected for it.

The Don Chedi Fair includes a major battle reenactment of King Naresuan’s exploits against the Burmese, which was quite excellent. Hundreds of actors in costumes and carrying swords and other weapons take part, and it was very entertaining. Finally Naresuan, riding an elephant, defeats the Prince, also atop an elephant, and the Kingdom of Ayutthaya is saved. Hurray!

After the reenactment, we wandered the fair, stopping at one point to see a daredevil motorbike rider who rode horizontally inside a cylindrical wooden structure, coming right up to the top where we spectators were viewing the event. Of course, in typical Thai style there were no particular safety precautions, and other than fact that the rider wasn’t wearing flip-flops, he looked like any other on the street.

We decided to see the band Carabao, who originally came from Suphanburi. I enjoy the music of that band very much, so it promised to be exciting. Exactly how exciting proved to be interesting, if distressing. What I didn’t know is that concerts by that band now are known to attract a lot of people who come to their shows to fight, and we ended up in the middle of a small riot. We had made our way to the very front, and at one point we jumped the metal barricades to protect ourselves from the fighters and all the things being thrown about. No one appeared to be hurt terribly much, but a few people got clubbed by police and/or arrested and the show ended early. We then stopped by to watch a much tamer song and dance show to calm down before taking the songthiaw back to Supanburi.

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