I was in Mae Sot in November 2004 and witnessed the Moslem New Year celebration there. The scale of celebration paled in comparison with that in Malaysia as the celebration in Malaysia can last for 2 weeks.
It was not possible to get a low cost flight during this period as the Moslem New Year is celebrated nationally in Malaysia. We had to take a bus to Haadyai and thereafter take a NokAir flight from Haadyai to Bangkok to save cost. From Bangkok we took a bus to Phitsanulok and stayed there a night. After the sight-seeing at the market and the wat, we took a bus to Sukhothai and stayed there a night. Sukhothai has a lot of attractions and I am sure some of the bloggers must have written something about the attractions there.
Mae Sot is a really an outback place bordering Myanmar. It is however much bigger than Sangkla Buri in the south, another border town with Myanmar which is famous for the “Three Pagoda Pass” border crossing. Mae Sot is interesting in that there are more ethnic races and it is even possible to hear some Chinese and English spoken here. One can even find goods from Myanmar. I managed to pick up a Myanmar wall map there for 50 Bahts.
The first day of the New Year started with some prayers at the Mosque.
The street which the mosque is located at is full of people in their best clothings. I had the opportunity to take lots of photos, and even befriended a few people. To my surprise, some of them spoke excellent English, and we were even able to discuss intellectually on religions and politics.
Many of them have heard of Malaysia and some of them were curious how the Moslem New Year is celebrated there. They thought I was a Moslem.
Moslems are a united lot, even though the conditions in Mae Sot were not that perfect to practice their religion. These people were also very kind and generous, as I was even invited by one man who called himself Rahim to have lunch with them. During this festive season, unlike in many other countries, many of the shops were open to provide free food and drinks to the less fortunate.
There were even beggars and handicapped people lining up to receive donations from the shop owners. I even joined in to give some money to the handicapped.
The ladies were in their best clothings and make-ups. There was a general festive atmosphere. I was quite surprised that there seemed to be no one taking photographs. As such, I asked if I could take photos of them. They, especially the ladies were pleased to pose for the shots.
To thank them for their lunch and kindness, I sent their photos for printing at a photo shop at the corner of a street. The owner of the photo shop was Chinese, and even spoke perfect Mandarin. She was from Bangkok.
I had to leave early the following morning as one of my friends had hired a tour van (Rot Tour) to take us to Nakon Sawan. As such, I had to rush to hand the prepaid receipt to Rahim and asked him to collect the photos from the shop after 10:00am. I had also informed the owner not to delete the softcopies of the photos from the hard disk, in case Rahim and friends may ask for reprints or enlargement of photos. I hope Rahim’s family and friends will treasure the photos I took for them and remember this friend from Malaysia.
Moslem New Year in 2005 will fall on 3 November.