Disagreements and differences have divided humans into groups and factions of various kinds on the basis of worldviews, race, language, politics, language, culture, color and creed. Distances are not responsible for creating dissention among humans for, in a single family, for instance, siblings born to the same parents have, at times, too much contention to live with one another. But, there are things over which humans across the entire world experience no differences. For instance, there are no disagreements about the importance of the sun for life on earth, or the aesthetic significance of flowers -- the beauty of which being a universal truth.
Flowers provide color to our existence. They make us cheerful and happy. They are food for the soul and a cure for mental agonies. People love flowers and this affection is reflected in their interests in featuring them in their gardens and households. It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who once said, ‘The earth laughs in flowers’. If that is so, what metaphor should we use to describe a flower festival? Let us extend this observation and say that the earth laughs loudly in the form of flower festivals, so to speak.
Flower festivals and carnivals are held all around the world. Bloemencorso in the Netherlands and in Belgium, the Jersey Battle of Flowers in the English Channel, the Spalding Flower Parade in England, the Brussels' Flower Carpet, the Batalla de Flores in Spain, and the Chiang Mai Flower Festival in Thailand are some of the world’s renowned flowers festivals. This story deals with the latter, and our interviewee is William Huff from Kentucky, USA.
He is a communication technician. His work brings him to different locations across the world. So, during the course of his job, he has visited too many places to remember their names. His position has given him opportunities 'to talk to and meet people from all over the world'. Since he had to travel to various places, he decided to capture his foreign trips in photographs. He says, 'About 13 years ago my work had me traveling the world so I started shooting photos of my travels for family and friends so that they could see some of the places that I had the opportunity to see'. As far as his photography is concerned, he says, 'I have read a lot of websites to try and get the best shots that I can. But I credit my cameras for anything that I shoot. I have dabbled with Photoshop some, but I keep my photos true and simple'.
When he was asked which place he liked most, he said, ‘I would say Thailand right now but I am not done with my travels. The people in Thailand are very friendly. You can have a very good holiday without spending a lot of money’. He has selected it as his future home after retirement. He says, ‘For me it would be the dream place to retire and just live a simple life’. In Thailand, he has visited Chang Mia, Bangkok and Koh Samui. In February 2011, he had an opportunity to see the festival.
Chiang Mai is one of the largest cities of Thailand. It is exalted as the rose of Northern Thailand. Located at a distance of 700 km from the capital, the city is surrounded by the highest mountains of the country. In the past it was an important city in the Lanna Kingdom. Today, it is a hub of cultural and economic activities, and it also enjoys the status of a modern tourist destination visited by the millions every year. The city hosts many annual events, including the Chiang Mai Flower Festival.
The Chiang Mai Flower Festival is an annual celebration held in February every year. The main part of the event is the Flower Parade in which brightly decorated floats move down the streets. He points out ‘The floats are unique in the sense that they are made mostly from flowers and not from paper. A single float contains thousands of flowers’.
At the festival, the parade moved slowly and stopped intermittently. The floats were actually carriages and vehicles laden with flowers. The onlookers standing along the road took photographs of the procession.
The gorgeous floats were decorated with white, yellow, red, pink and purple flowers, such as Chrysanthemums, Damask Roses, Daoruangs and Dendrobium orchids. The enormous vehicles carried not only flowers, but tribal people as well who were clad in colorful costumes while handing out flowers to onlookers.
Talking about the costumes and the history of the festival, William says, ‘The flower festival was started by the King of Thailand many years ago as a way for the mountain people that live around what is known as the Golden Triangle to make money by growing flowers instead of opium. It consists of three countries: Myanmar, Laos and Thailand, so the clothing traditions come from those three countries’. During the festival, he tried to 'capture people who don’t know they are being photographed'.
Homes and shops, bicycles, cars, vehicles, streets, the town squares, as well as the center of the city were also decorated with flowers. The festival is actually a collective way of saying 'hello' to the spring.
Another element of the event was traditional Thai dance presented by the local people. The crowds at the festival were friendly. Talking about his impressions about people in Thailand, our seasoned traveler says, ‘Except for Bangkok, the people were very friendly. Bangkok is a very large city with millions of people, and like any large city, they want your money and are very pushy in trying to get it’. But things were different at the festival.
He stayed among these and other Thai people for two weeks and then returned home. When he finally did so, the sweet memories of the festival filled his mind with peace and fragrance. Flowers are loved and liked by all. People use them as gifts to re-establish lost relationships. Chanakya once compared the qualities of flowers to humans and said, 'The fragrance of flowers spreads only in the direction of the wind. But the goodness of a person spreads in all directions'.