Travel to Thailand: Dancing with the Tai Dam People

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The Tai Dam People Dance to Ward Off Bad Spirits and Thank the Good Spirits, Loei Province, Thailand, March 2015

The Tai Dam People Dance to Ward Off Bad Spirits and Thank the Good Spirits, Loei Province, Thailand, March 2015

You know that phrase “Dance like no one is watching?” Well, it’s something I typically practice after an adult beverage or two (or three) because this white girl DOES NOT have any rhythm and I do my best at avoiding embarrassing myself. During my March visit to Thailand, I tossed aside my inhibitions and danced with the Tai Dam people in Ban Na Pa Nat of the Chiang Khan district in the Loei Province. And yes, I did it without the assistance of good libations.

A Woman Makes Amulets at the Tai Dam House Museum - #TBEX Blogger Preview Trip, Loei Region of Thailand, March 23 - 25, 2015

A Woman Makes Amulets at the Tai Dam House Museum – #TBEX Blogger Preview Trip, Loei Region of Thailand, March 23 – 25, 2015

The Tai Dam people are descendants of indigenous people from Vietnam who immigrated to Thailand through Laos in 1905. Tai Dam basically translates to “people who wear black” and as explained to me at the Tai Dam Cultural Village, while most people in Thailand practice Buddhism, the Tai Dam people don’t. They do, however, believe in the spirits of their deceased relatives.

Brightly Colored Amulets at the Tai Dam House Museum - #TBEX Blogger Preview Trip, Loei Region of Thailand, March 23 - 25, 2015

Brightly Colored Amulets at the Tai Dam House Museum – #TBEX Blogger Preview Trip, Loei Region of Thailand, March 23 – 25, 2015

Visiting the village I saw women weaving gorgeous pashminas and throws on looms. I also saw gorgeous, amulets made with bright neon thread weaved into shapes of triangles and squares. More intricate ones were weaved together to create designs as hearts and boxes.

Let’s get back to the dance…

A Girl at Tai Dam House Museum - #TBEX Blogger Preview Trip, Loei Region of Thailand, March 23 - 25, 2015

A Girl at Tai Dam House Museum – #TBEX Blogger Preview Trip, Loei Region of Thailand, March 23 – 25, 2015

I was traveling with a small group of travel bloggers a and the kind and welcoming people demonstrated a ceremonial dance that they perform every two months to ward off bad spirits and thank the good spirits. It began with music generated by a few people banging what looked like wide pieces of bamboo logs against the ground accompanied by a woman banging a metal drum with a metal stick. Dancers came out to the dance floor, which was actually the dusty ground and began dancing in beat to the music around a pole which hand various, vibrant amulets dangling. There was a lot of arms flailing, kicking of the legs and bowing to dance partners. After the Tai Dam people finished, I thought that was the end of the show.

Meeting the Tai Dam People at the Tai Dam Village - #TBEX Blogger Preview Trip, Loei Region of Thailand, March 23 - 25, 2015

Meeting the Tai Dam People at the Tai Dam Village – #TBEX Blogger Preview Trip, Loei Region of Thailand, March 23 – 25, 2015

Not so.

It was then they began again and invited us to join them on the dance floor. Seriously, I was hesitant but decided,

“Hey, when am I going to be in Thailand and be able to do this again?”

My New Tai Dam Friends, Loei Province, Thailand, March 2015

My New Tai Dam Friends, Loei Province, Thailand, March 2015

I hopped in and found my dance partner, a tall, handsome, giggly 20-something who was patient with my lack of rhythm and coordination. As hard as I tried, I didn’t step on or trip him so my performance was a success!

Learning to Dance with the Tai Dam People at the Tai Dam Village - #TBEX Blogger Preview Trip, Loei Region of Thailand, March 23 - 25, 2015

Learning to Dance with the Tai Dam People at the Tai Dam Village – #TBEX Blogger Preview Trip, Loei Region of Thailand, March 23 – 25, 2015

Before y’all get excited, no, I don’t have moves like Jagger and I won’t be performing on Dancing with the Stars. Jumping in shaking what I got was a lot of fun and I’m sure my lack of coordination entertained my new friends. Perhaps my moves were what legends are made and I’ll be talked about for years to come. Or. Maybe not.

To fully understand the dance, be sure to watch the video.


Disclosure: I was a guest of the Tourism Authority of Thailand and this post has not been reviewed by the host. Opinions are my own and reflect my honest experience.

Author: Solo Travel Girl

Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led Jennifer Huber, aka: Solo Travel Girl, to a career path in tourism. She has worked in the tourism industry for more than 20 years including 10 years with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley and Everglades National Park. She currently lives in Southwest Florida, and maintains this travel blog with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely.

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