The Anou

Coming just after Makha Bucha Day, The Anou Savari Festival is a special event held only in Nong Khai, from the 5th to the 15th of March.

It commemorates the defeat of the "Hau", Yunanese who swept down from China during the years 1884,85 & 86; the most serious insurgency into Siamese territory in recent times. At one stage reaching as far south as Korat, the "rebellions" were eventually put down by the Thai leader HRH Kromamune Prachak Silapakom and his Siamese army with the help of Lao, Chinese, Puan and a few British fighters.

Pictured right, is the memorial to those that fell during the campaign, which most interestingly bears inscriptions in Thai, Lao, Chinese and the most magnificent 19th century English. Here you see it specially dressed up and painted for the festival, while in the foreground, people queue to make a blessing.

It is, in fact, the second such monument, the original is located in what is today the Nong Khai Police Station.

This very serious insurgency, caused a great deal of turmoil. Moreover, vandalism of religious objects, property and art was widespread. (See Historical Park)

The festival that it inspires is a wild street party, packed with stalls, shows, contests and sales.

Large and small stages are erected for numerous shows, and artists hired from all over the north-east of Thailand to play. The noise is frightful, but the mood is infectious.

One of the most fascinating contests is the Takraw competition. Takraw, a kind of volleyball using the feet and a smallish rattan ball, never ceases to fascinate a western audience, with its ferocious speed and its virtually balletic moves. The young boys and girls who play are frequently amazingly talented.

Some of them are students of my wife at the Technical College, and so, as every institution in Nong Khai must be represented at the festival, having completed their match, they are off to help out at the College stall. Curiously, every government institution has a stand advertising its achievements over the past year.

As always in Thailand, the range of food available is never ending with all kinds of things to try, including dried squid, fish balls on sticks, fried locusts and even fried scorpions to name a few of the more unusual offerings.

And there are a vast quantity of things to buy, from exquisite orchids, and self erecting tents, to little foam mice that will follow you on a string. And competitions too... a couple of years back our evening cook won a motorcycle, from a 50 Baht (1 Euro) ticket!

The house where Pao and I live, has a special connection with the festival. For it was originally built by HRH Kromamune Prachak Silpakom for his favourite mistress, or so it is said.

It stands on what was the original crossing point on the Maekong River from Thailand to Laos. And so there she stayed to watch all that came and went and listen to their gossip as they made offerings at our two spirit houses dedicated to Jao Mare Song Nam... two Lao Princesses, lost in the waters and the guardians of all who cross. And why? To gather news of any new plots for a further possible insurgency!