Phi Ta Khon is the most famous festival that takes place in Loei Province in either June or July each year. At Wat Phon Chai, in Dan Sai, you will find the Dan Sai Folk Museum that goes into great detail about the tradition of the Phi Ta Khon. You will also find examples of the various masks and costumes worn during this annual festival.
Read the report of my visit to the Phi Ta Khon Festival in 2011.
The Phi Ta Khon costumes are made from rags and colourful pieces of cloth. Hung around their necks or tied around their waists are tins cans and wooden cow bells. These create a rattling sound as they move around and dance during the parades. Some of the people also carry a symbolic weapon made in the shape of an oversized penis.
Although each of the Phi Ta Khon masks seem to be unique, they are all made using the same guidelines. Each mask has three parts: the hat, the face and the nose. The hat is made from a “huad”, which is a traditional woven bamboo container used for steaming sticky rice. The face is made from the husks of a coconut with small openings cut for the eyes. The nose is made from soft wood.
The various parts of the mask are joined together using string and nails and then the masking is elaborately painted. Mask makers use acrylic paints and urethane to give the mask a sheen. Traditionally, only three colours were used, white, black and red. To complete each mask, pieces of cloth are sewn together and then glued onto the back part of the mask.
Masks today look very different from the ones 50 or so years ago. Now they take much longer to make and more money is spent on them. In the old days they were thrown into the river at the end of the festival to dispel bad luck. But, these days they keep them or sell them to tourists. The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Map showing location of the Phi Ta Khon Museum in Dan Sai, Loei Province:
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