The Salak Yom Festival in Lamphun

The tradition of Salak Yom

“Salak Yom” is an ancient merit-making ceremony originally for women of the Tai Yong minority. The Tai Yong originally come from Myanmar and migrated to Lamphun. In the early 1800s, King Kawila of the Lanna kingdom forcibly resettled thousands of ethnic Yong, Karen, Shan, and Khuen people from the present-day Shan state of Myanmar. The Tai Yong come from a place called Muang Yong.  Some 90% of the people living in Lamphun are descendants of Tai Yong people. The Tai Yong speak their own dialect and have stuck to their traditions. The Salak Yom festival is one of these traditions. This ceremony takes place each year in Wat Prathat Haripunchai, in Lamphun, and, on different dates at certain temples in the vicinity of Lamphun.

Salak Yom

A Salak Yom is a tall bamboo construction (see the pictures) decorated with colorful paper. This construction contains house utensils, cloth, food, fruit, vegetables and the eight necessities of a Buddhist monk. In the past, a Salak Yom also contained silverware, gold, or diamond. Not anymore. After the first Salak Yom Ceremony at Wat Pra That Haripunchai smaller ceremonies will take place at a number of local temples around Lamphun. On the second day of the ceremony, the Salak Yoms will be brought to the temple in a procession. The next day the Salak Yoms will be donated to monks. Salak Yom is a unique and very colorful ceremony, not to be missed if you are fortunate enough in the region.

Wat Pha That Hariphunchai

The sight of Wat Hariphunchai with the towering colorful donation trees dominating the temple compound is a sight to behold. The parade on the second day is really worth watching. It arrives at the temple around sunset. Before and after the parade there are cultural performances by different music and dance groups. The participants of the parade carry smaller donation trees to the temple. It is really worth visiting Wat Hariphunchai during these days, even when there is no parade. Just have a look at our Things to do in Lamphun page.

Memories of Salak Yom Festival in 2012

These are pictures I took during the first Salak Yom event I attended at Wat Hariphunchai in Lamphun on September 29, 2012. It totally blew me away. I attended as many Salak Yom festivals after that as I could but they just never matched that first time. Performances were not only on a stage but everywhere around you. The 2012 event might have been the first or one of the first after this tradition was revived. It was a fantastic experience. In following years it was better organized but it lacked the spontaneity of 2012. It was chaos, especially after the arrival of the parade. One of the highlights for me was the performance of a dance group of Tai Lue girls, led by Sade Hunt. Sade now runs a coffee shop in the rice fields of Ban Thi. Below pictures I took at the 2012 festival.

Trees of Offering: The Salak Yom Festival in Lamphun Province, Thailand

American socio-cultural anthropologist Alexandra Denes wrote an article about the Salak Yom ceremony. You can download it from the Academia website.

This is by far the best English language source about this centuries old ceremony which now has turned into a festival. Below pictures I took in 2014 at a Salak Yom event that took place at Wat Pratupa, Lamphun province.