Thursday, December 9, 2010



Is tourism has been a culprit in commodifying cultures and traditions?

Due to too many tourists come to visit the tribes in Chiang Mai, many hill tribes now are suffering from a loss of their culture such as selling souvenirs that had been made some changes according to the tourists’ preferences or demands.
By tradition, the hill tribes are supposed to live on their own without much influence from the outside world. However, today, many hill tribes are open their homes to tourists to attract them so as to earn some income from them. Although it is a good thing that people can exchange knowledge about their cultures, the hill tribes share their cultures hoping something in return such as money from the tourists. This may leave a bad impression on their cultures.

Changes that have been brought about by the growth of tourism in Chiang Mai

Due to an increase in the number of tourists visiting Chiang Mai, better facilities such as route, transportations, accommodation, hospitals were built to cope with the growth of tourism. Hence, facilities such as transportation and hospital not only benefit the tourists, but also benefit the local residents as well. Today, Chiang Mai is well-connected with other countries as well as within Thailand. People can go to Chiang Mai by air, bus or train. It is very accessible to travel to and around Chiang Mai.  In addition, more schools were built and English language is also taught in school so that the locals can communicate well with the tourists or they can work in tourism-related jobs.
With the growth of tourism, other tourism-related businesses such as hotels, entertainment such as pubs, and attractions are built or upgrade so as to attract tourists to visit Chiang Mai.
Also, the hill tribes now are more open to tourists to visit them. In the past, they might prefer to live on their own without much disturbance from the outside world or being influence by the tourists. However, after they realise the importance of having tourists to come to their place, spend on food and accommodation etc., they realise that they can earn money from those tourists, which resulted in them having higher income and a better standard of living.

“Disney” in the modern society

Performative labour
Jobs that are related to delivering of customer services are often involved in people “acting” at all time. An example would be air steward. They have to smile at all times to customers no matter how tiring they are, or how unhappy they feel. They have to keep smiling in front of customers. This applies to all countries including Thailand.
Another example is the host of a restaurant etc. the hosts’ responsibility is to bring customers to their seat and answer telephone for table reservation. Thus they are force to memorise the procedure of answering the call and to use the appropriate words to customers. Therefore, it is somehow ‘acting’ as they don’t usually speak or behave the same way but this is part of their job.
Some festivals in Thailand are also celebrated according to theme yearly. One such example is the Flower Festival. The decoration of the beautiful flowers on the float is according to the theme yearly. As there is competition on the decoration of the float according to the theme stated. On the float, there will be a lady dress in Thai traditional costume and sit on the float.

During celebrations such as Christmas, restaurants, cinemas, shopping, hotels and almost everywhere are decorated in line with Christmas theme. This goes the same as other festivals in Thailand.
Hard Rock hotel in Thailand, Pattaya, is also design according to theme. The hotel is designed to produce a ’rock’ image. This includes the design of the hotel rooms, restaurant and club. All the decoration in the hotel always has music equipment such as guitar, painting of famous musician etc.

Logos such as Amazing Thailand is trying to promote tourism which then increases the number of tourists visiting Thailand.

The Traditions of Chiang Mai

Traditional music
There are two types of Thai music, fork and traditional music. Fork music is performed in various distinctive styles while traditional music is similar to the style display from the early generation but it is still famous among the people today.
Traditional dance
The dance in Thailand is poetry in movement. Performances for classical Thai dance are largely influence by the stories of some religious or older traditions. For performance of the royal courts of Siam, the traditional dance is referring as ‘Fawn Thai’. ‘Fawn Thai’ has five basic styles. They are Fawn Lep (the fingernails dance), Fawn Marn Gumm Ber (the butterfly dance), Fawn Marn Mong Kol (the happy dance), Fawn Tian (the candle dance) and Fawn Ngiew (the scarf dance). Different region in Thailand display different style of Fawn dance, and normally this dance is go together with traditional music. For the fingernail dance, the ladies usually wear six-inch-long fingernails to display the elegant and unique dance.
Traditional costume
For ladies, they wear pha sin, a cloth that is rectangular in shape and wear like a sarong. The material is usually made of silk and it comes with various colours. The sarong is usually worn with long-sleeved silk blouse.
For gentlemen, they wear trousers and a suea phra ratchathan; a shirt with short-sleeve for casual wear or long-sleeve shirt for formal wear. A cummerbund will be tied around the waist for formal wear.
Traditionally, Buddhist families have to send the male sons to be a ‘monk’ for three months when they reach the age of twenty. They have to literally shave their hairs and stay at the temple for three months and experience the life of being a monk. As for women, whenever the monks walk pass them etc. they have to make way for them so that they would not unintentionally have any physical contact with the monk.
Traditional Buddhist marriages required the couples to bow down before a Buddha. In addition, they believe that it is not good for a marriage ceremony to have monk.
The funerals ceremony in Thailand normally last for a week and the families, relatives and friends of the dead are asked not to cry as they believe that if they cry, the soul of the dead would not go peacefully. At the funerals, the monk will chant hymns and after the body had cremated, the ash will be placed in an urn and put in the temple.

The Cultures of Chiang Mai

The greeting that the Thai people adopt is known as “Wai”, which means saying “hello” or “Goodbye”. To perform “Wai”, one should join the hands at the palms and raise them together to a position between the forehead and the chest. The position of the hands when Thai people greet is also different depending on whom they greet to. For example, if one is greeting to a close friend, then the hands should be positioned around their chest. If one is greeting to the King, then the hands should be placed above the forehead, kneeling and bow down. If one is greeting to the Buddha images, then the hands should be placed at the forehead while bowing the head. The same greeting is performing to the dead while paying respect to them.
For greeting within the family, children usually perform “wai” by putting the palms together then raise them up to the forehead to indicate respect to their parents as well as being obedient. However, “wai” is not just for saying hello or goodbye, but also to say thank you or sorry to an elder as well. For example, if one did something wrong, he/she can apologize by putting the palms together, position the hands at the chest and bow head to say sorry. The “wai” is performed all over Thailand as it shows a respect to someone.
Muay Thai (Thai Boxing)
Muay Thai is a form of martial art and the most famous spectator sport in Thailand for centuries. The approach to close quarters fighting of Muay Thai is distinctive and fighters are allowed to fight whatever they like so long as the opponent’s face is still can be seen.
The two fighters will dance around the rings as the music play before the match start so as to pay respect to their trainers, religious and families. The dance is known as the ‘Raam Muay’ or ‘Wai Kru’.
The history of Muay Thai started when the Thai tribes who migrated to China, were attacked by many people. Thus, those people learning to self-defenses by using their bodies, hands and legs as their tool to attack back so as to protect themselves. Hence, Muay Thai is famous till today.
Rice is the staple food for most people in Thailand including Chiang Mai. The typical snack that most Thai people like is green papaya salad and tom yam soup. There are many variety of dessert that many people love to eat. One of the desserts is the Thai mango sticky rice. The spices that Thai people love to use are chilies, lemons etc.

Festivals are also part of the Thai culture and they are celebrated everywhere in the country including Chiang Mai. There are many festivals that are celebrated yearly, bring joys to the locals as well as tourists. Some examples of festivals are Songkran Festival, The Festivals of Thailand, and Elephant Riding in Thailand.

Type of leisure programmes

There are many festivals celebrate in Chiang Mai whole year round. The main festival in Chiang Mai is the Flower Festival, Songkran and Loi Kratong.
The Flower Festival is best to watch before the cool season end. There are floats beautified with beautiful flowers that will show the theme chosen. Songkran festival represents the traditional new year of Thailand and the event lasts for three days. Loi Kratong Festival, also refer to as Yi Peng in the north, is the riches in colours. The festival also lasts for three days during November. The people who participate in the festival believe that by letting go of the floats and balloons, they can get rid of bad luck.
Flower Festival

Songkran Festival

Loi Kratong Festival
Entertainment and Nightlife
There are night clubs for locals and tourists to chill themselves at night after a tiring day. Performances such as traditional Thai dance also available for tourists to watch.
There is also night bazaar for tourists and locals to visit.

With the beautiful valley and mountain, it is an ideal place for playing golf. Thus golf is one of the most common sport activities that people engage when they visit Chiang Mai. As Chiang Mai located near mountain areas, trekking and biking riding are also the favourite sports that the people engage themselves during their leisure time.