Less than 48 hours in Chiang Mai and Courtney and I are contestants in the Chiang Mai flower festival miss flower bloom international beauty contest! Our lovely guesthouse owner Auntie Sin strategically proposed that we enter after a few Thai whiskey and cocas and of course we agreed. We had already made friends with Winai the chief of police in Chiang Mai and he told us that a car would pick us up at 2 the next day. 2 pm on Friday and Winai was there with another officer both in full gear in a huge white suv, undoubtedly the nicest car we've seen in Chiang Mai. The whole restaurant of guests watched the police come and take us away. We explained nothing. On the way to do hair and makeup we chatted with a fellow french contestant Penelope who also got roped into the pageant. Next we arrived at the hotel and went upstairs to the conference hall where 27 other girls were getting hair done at one station makeup at another and picking out the colours for their traditional Thai dresses at another. There were girls from Sweden, the Netherlands, France, Italy, japan, the US, Israel, you name it. We all had coffee and tea and chatted in different languages and awful English about the ridiculousness of the while situation. Once we were all beautified one of the women who was organizing the event attempted to tell us the gameplan for the evening but her accent was very thick, her english was poor and about the point she announced we would be on television doing a dance and a talent the girls were so freaked out that no one was listening to her anymore.
At this point there was no bailing though plus the police had done the recruiting and they were literally guarding the doors. When they announced it was time to go we all headed outside where our coach bus was waiting and they took pictures of all of us lined up with the police in front of the cruiser for the news paper. Next our police cruiser turned on it's lights and escorted our bus full of beauty queens through the old city to buuk had park. There we all paraded through the festival to the stage where we would be competing. Everyone was staring and taking pictures and thought we legitimately pageant girls. Backstage we met the contestants for miss Thai flower bloom. More language barriers and very little explaining and us international girls were parading on stage dancing on one side and the professionals elegantly floated in on the other side.
There are only 5 cable channels in most of thailand and this pageant was on one of them. The miss Thai flower bloom contest was first and there were dramatic lights and music (think who wants to be a millionaire but switch out Regis philbin for a metro Thai guy and a woman translator) and it lasted forever. Even when they announced the winner we had no idea what was going on as the translator was only for the international portion of the night.
Next was our turn! 29 of us all trying to fake our way through walking on stage and bowing and getting into our rows (apparently the practice round we were supposed to have was just to ease our nerves but not to actually help us know what the hell we were doing). One by one they called us to the microphone at center stage to introduce ourselves and perform our "talent". Queen of excuses that I am I told them that my talent was being a mahout (Thai elephant trainer) but that my elephant wouldn't fit onstage so I couldn't show them all the tricks i had learned. It got me a laugh from the crowd upon translation. Courtney did her staple 6 and 9 card trick. I'm sure most of you have seen it and if not you might be able to catch a second showing on late night Thai cable TV. My cousin Sarah also flew in from Bangkok to see it all live and I'm sure it is a travel highlight for her! In the end we did not win anything but a pressed flower notebook for participating from the Thailand tourism board. We did however get to meet the governor of Chiang Mai and had pictures taken with her which was pretty cool! We're off to research beauty pageants in Laos next!
Princesses Kate & Courtney.