Jamie's Phuket Blog

The Second Kathu Village Culture Festival

Last weekend from the 25th - 27th June our local village had it's second cultural street festival (first one was last August - see here). Using the word "village" in Phuket may sound odd, but there are many small communities in Phuket and remember that Phuket was not always so built up - go back only 20 years and things were much quieter. The villages like Kathu retain a very local way of life with modern attributes like internet, new cars and 4 lane roads (often the 4 lane roads are totally unnecessary). Kathu is one of the 3 districts of Phuket (along with Muang and Thalang) and is then subdivided into subdistricts called Tambon and further into villages (Tesaban and Muban) - it's all rather confusing actually - this website helps with all the terminology.

So the event in Kathu celebrates the culture and history of this part of Phuket, which became the main town in Phuket in the early 19th century thanks to the tin mining boom. Kathu (aka Ket-Ho) was the center of the mining industry and due to the influx of many Chinese at the time, a lot of the people are of Thai-Chinese descent. Same goes for Phuket Town which became the main town after Kathu. There is a lot of history here, and this little festival shows how proud the locals are of their heritage. It's not a tourist show but at least this year I was not the only foreigner there! Must have counted at least 4 others! Well, up to you. I love these local events.

local girls dressed in old style Chinese costumes

On Friday 25th I took my camera along to watch the opening of the event and a street procession through the village. Traffic was diverted up a dirt back road behind the Chinese temple so the whole village was for pedestrians only. The procession was due to start at 5:30pm so I had time to snap a few photos before they started walking. The feeling I had was that everyone was very happy and enjoying either taking part or watching. OK, maybe a few of the teenagers dressed up in costumes were a bit embarrassed but it was a real fun event for the village. Maybe next year a few more foreigners might turn up and have a look, I promise to promote the dates if I hear about it!

Chinese opera costume

Costumes ranged from elaborate Chinese opera with lots of make up to simpler old style clothes for the ladies of the village and youngsters dressed as miners.

Dressed up as tin miners

Amazing Chinese opera costume

At the head of the procession (after a picture of the King) were important local dignitaries like the mayor and local government representatives and a swathe of older village ladies. Those watching were giving out a lot of wais and Sawadees!

Sawadee Ka!

Ladies dressed in old Chinese style

By the way, there are more photos of this festival on Flickr: Kathu Village Festival 2010 and I will probably get around to adding more to that page. I always feel a picture is worth more than words. Colours, faces, smiles, hell you can almost hear the music and smell the food being cooked at the street stalls. The village was full of stalls selling food, clothes, art and more. There were several small stages in the village with music being played and a large stage outside the health center where they had some performances in the evenings that I did not see - will try to see some next year.

Street procession in Kathu village

Went along on Saturday too, this time with the family. No street procession - this was only on Friday, but there were plenty of people around. Food stalls were selling chicken, rice dishes, noodles, salads... I had a plate of wing-bean salad (Yam Tua Pu), found some chicken and fries for the kids (ah yes, not absolutely 100% everything has to be "traditional"!), then we took a long walk through the village and back.

Yam Tua Pu - Wing Bean Salad

Down a side street we found a great little demonstration of old tin mining techniques. A raised wooden sluice box was carrying water to a pool where ladies were working with pans. Must have taken a while to build. I reckon this guy might be old enough to have worked as a tin miner in the past...

Old tin miner in Kathu village

He was on the sluice box which was meant to trap heavy particles of tin ore while washing water and other lighter material along. Looked like he knew what he was doing. There was a fair crowd of locals watching. They did not have this last year so I think people were keen to see it and learn something about the history of their home town. To find out more you can visit the Phuket Tin Mining Museum.

Old tin miner in action

Meanwhile the ladies were panning for tin in the water, looking for smaller residue not caught by the sluice... of course this was a show, a demonstration, but they did seem to be taking it quite seriously!

Ladies panning for tin

I took the opportunity to snap a few portraits of local people as well as the festival. Everyone was happy. This is our local area.. we live about a mile from the street where the procession took place. Sometimes I wonder if the local people are happy to keep these events quiet, don't want too many tourists! The publicity is minimal.. it was mentioned on one Phuket news website, I did mention it a couple of times on Facebook and Twitter... and I did see one sign up at the entrance to Kathu village for a few weeks prior to the event, but it's small wonder I only saw a few other foreigners there. You have to keep your ears to the ground to find out about these things.

Kathu Cowboy

Map of Kathu Area:

View Kathu Village Phuket in a larger map

More photos from the Kathu village festival here on Flickr (slideshow). Kathu, by the way was also where the Phuket Vegetarian festival started - some photos here of the Chinese Shrine and the village at festival time, and here of the main processions.

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