Friday, 18 March 2011

Funeral At The Concert - First Published February 24, 2008

This post was originally on my old deleted blog

After a lazy morning we lunched and then together with half a dozen of Nit’s mates jumped in the pick up and went to Ban Chiang, a 30km ride away.  Ban Chiang is a world heritage site where a bronze age settlement was found.  Whilst interesting to those with an archeological bent the museum was quickly viewed.  We went on to the nearby Wat Pho Si Nai where part of a dig has been left open to the public.  We headed back to the house and had some food and a couple of bottles of beer.

“We are going to an Isaan concert tonight”, Nit announces.  About 9 Nit’s friends start gathering and eventually 10 of us head off in the pick up to a temple about 30 minutes away.  The first thing Ie notice when entering is the stage, where the concert had already started, and the crowds of people.  The next thing is the ‘lying in state’ of a senior monk who had died recently.  Up on a podium, in a glass sided coffin.  Some people paying their respects.  The concert was fun, at least when it was the singers and dancers, but when the comedy bits came on I soon got bored.  After a couple of hours and a few beers/swigs of whisky lao we decided to return home.

“We are going to the Isaan Concert again as tonight is the big night!”, Nit announced shortly before dinner.

This time there are sixteen of us in total as it seems half the village wants to go.  We arrive about 10.30.  The show is definitely better than the previous night with about 60 dancers, and only short comedy routines whilst the cast change.

Just before 12 work starts on the coffin which is replaced with a wooden one.  An iron box is then assembled around the coffin.

Suddenly the concert stops and all the lights are turned out.  Everyone stands up and turns towards the coffin.  One of the lads goes over and collects a pile of paper flowers.  We go over and pay our respects.

About 1210 a monk lights a long fuse, which in turn sets off fireworks lighting a sign and thunder flashes as the flame edges towards the coffin.  The monks start chanting.  We all stand, our hands in a wai.  Finally the flame reaches the coffin and the cremation begins. 

Smoke comes from the chimney.  Fireworks are set off, lighting the sky for miles around.

The monks stop chanting.  Everyone returns to sit down and after a few minutes the lights are turned on and the concert restarts.

We stand watching, drinking the occasional swig of Lao Whisky until about 4 when someone has the good idea that it may be time to go home.

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