There are experiences in this life that makes me wonder a while later if they really happened. The Poy Sang Long Ceremony, celebrated by the Shan, or Tai Yai people of Myanmar and Northern Thailand is such an experience. Every year in April, young boys between 6 and 12 years old are dressed up like princes, to be paraded through the streets on the shoulders of their fathers, brothers or uncles, from temple to temple, before they can become monks.
The monkhood may only last for a few weeks, sometimes longer and for a few of them for a lifetime, but the days of celebration are something to be remembered and a touching experience for all involved, the boys, the families, the local community and tourists who happen to be present.
The Parade is indeed a spectacular sight, with people of all ages dancing, including those who carry the young princes, and an abundance of gongs and other musical instruments.
The most important location for this ceremony on the Thai side of the border is Mae Hong Son, the thinnest populated province of Thailand, with a long border towards Myanmar. The temples of Mae Hong Son are all Shan style, and distinctly different from those in the rest of the country. They do however resemble strongly those in Myanmar.
A large portion of the population is Shan people with their own language, alphabet and traditions, something that they share with their relatives on the other side of the border. And although Mae Hong Son is a province in Thailand, arriving there, high up in the mountains, really feels like coming to another country.
For those who have the time and an inclination to see another Thailand, Mae Hong Son is absolutely worth a visit. It’s a long bus ride on winding roads, more than 1,800 curves to relatively nearby Chiang Mai, but there’s an airport too, and if the fog isn’t too dense, getting there can be fast and uncomplicated.