Chang Chui, which bills itself as “a hip space offering new-generation artists and designers the opportunity to can unleash their artistic ability without restraint”, is aiming to draw the water-fighting crowds away from such traditional Songkran spots as Royal City Avenue, Silom and and Khao San roads with a festival dubbed “Isaan Spirit, that runs from today through May 6.
“Chang Chui is the first creative park in Thailand, and is located on 21 rai of land here in Thon Buri,” says Chanokporn Thinphangnga, the site’s general manager.
“We’ve been open for nine months and have already become a tourist destination. This month, which incorporates the Thai New Year, we want to preserve and promote the arts, culture and traditions of Isaan and to do this, we have invited three artists born in the Kingdom’s Northeast to display their work. Also joining us is Thai makeup artist Amata “Pearypie” Chittasenee who is not an Isaan native but loves the Northeast. The four will showcase art, photographs, ready-to-wear fashion clothing, and mor lam music.
“Though the Isaan Spirit Festival, we will turn Songkran in Bangkok into an enjoyable, creative and safe holiday. The space is being decorated with several icons symbolising Isaan culture and traditions, and will feature demonstrations of rice farming complete with scarecrows and buffaloes and a giant bamboo chedi next to a sand pit where parents and children can have fun creating sand pagodas. We are hoping to welcome lots of foreign tourists and introduce them to the Isaan culture and have them join with Thai visitors in celebrating Songkran,” she adds.
The festival, which will be open daily from 11 to 9, also supports the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s campaign to promote the Northeast under the slogan “Isaan Saeb Nua” or “Cool Isaan.”
“I personally love the Northeast, which boasts plenty of natural wonders and some of the friendliest people in Thailand. Chang Chui is setting out to bring the mood and tone of Isaan to this tiny part of Bangkok, so we think that it will be a good chance for both Thais and foreigners to experience the Isaan culture and traditions before travelling to the region,” says Noppadon Pakprot, deputy governor for TAT’s tourism products and business.
Live shows will be held throughout the event, with Thai makeup artist Amata showing off her skills on April 21, painter Maitree Siriboon on April 28, morlam singer Rasmee Wayrana on April 29, and designer Apichet “Madaew’” Atirattana on May 5. Other displays include a folk fabric art fair from four Isaan provinces, Maha Sarakham’s Kratib Puppet Show, which is performed with puppets made of bamboo sticky rice containers, as well as Isaan food, buffalo husbandry and traditional plays.
“I’d describe my work as a kind of pop art because I paint buffaloes, changing their identity from black-skinned animals to beasts decorated in bright colours. The paint is non-toxic and makes them look cute, which gives them added value. I will paint three buffaloes as part of a live performance and estimate that will take about three hours. This will be the first time I’ll do it in front of an audience,” says Ubon Ratchathani-born artist Maitree, who will also be putting on his “Save Thai Buffalo” photo exhibition, which debuted back in 2015.
“I would like to encourage Thais to build a brand. My brand is ‘Isaan Boy Dream’. When I was very young, I used to sit on the edge of the paddy field and look up at the sky. The first time I saw a plane, I told myself that one day I would go around the world. When I grew up, I graduated from Silpakorn University and my art led me to see the world,” he continues.
“Branding is important. Now I am looking to build a brand for Nong Bo, the village where I grew up, because I really want to put it on the tourist map and in so doing, generate income for the residents. I hope it will also be an inspiration for the kids attending my academy, encouraging them to speak English and learning how to use social media to their benefit.”
Khon Kaen-born fashion designer Madaew, who rose to fame on YouTube, also likes to decorate buffaloes though he does it with fabric rather than paint.
“When I was young, I picked up a fashion magazine at a barber and couldn’t tear my eyes away from the model’s beautiful clothes. When I went home, I asked my mother to get me a Barbie doll and started sewing clothes for it. We were a poor family and my parents couldn’t afford to pay for good fabrics, so I dressed the doll in materials I found around the house. These days, I enjoy creating fashion to mix and match with the buffalo. We have a saying in Thai that a person is as stupid as a buffalo, but buffaloes are not stupid. I’ve been around them since I was a kid – my parents used to raise them – and now I am creating fashion shows that mix human’s DNA with the buffalo,” says the Madaew, who will stage a fashion show appropriately titled “Human or Buffalo? Which Human? Which Buffalo?”
Bangkok-born chef Thitiwat “Mai” Tantragarn, who runs the insect-oriented restaurant Insects in the Backyard at Chang Chui, will present two new dishes – “Ravioli Kung Chom” (ravioli with fermented shrimp) and “Larb Maeng Sading” (spicy minced house cricket).
“I’m giving the Isaan delicacy kung chom (fermented shrimp) an Italian twist by wrapping it in ravioli pockets, I hoping it will be eaten by both Thai and foreign visitors,” says Thitiwat, who is better known as Chef Mai, and whose restaurant has become internationally known through the BBC and The New York Times.
“We are like a model for the restaurant of the future.”
Nostalgic for the Northeast
– The “Isaan Spirit Festival” runs from today through May 6. It’s open daily from 11am to 9pm.
– Find out more by calling the TAT Call Centre at 1672, Chang Chui at (081) 817 2888, or visit www.ChangChuiBangkok.com and Facebook/changchuibangkok.