The Kingdom of a Million Rice Fields


From the window of the royal bedchamber I looked out over the deep greens of the forest among which were nestled the stilted wooden houses of Chiangmai, their mysterious galare roof extensions reaching up to the sky like the wings of some ancient bird. When I arrived in this city eight years ago it was these wooden beams that I noticed first. The houses in my home town of Yangon nor in Prome where I had later lived had no such embellishments. In the dawn light, they stood out, a proud marker of the unique identity of the Lanna people. The meaning of these galare were shrouded in legend and each time I saw them I wondered about their meaning.

I was suddenly startled by the entrance of my two closest maid servants.

“Fetch me the King’s Longyi, the one he wears to battle,” I said.

“But Queen Hsubyminshe, you know how the courtiers disapprove of you wearing male dress.”

“Am I not queen? Can I not wear what I wish?”

“So be it.”

In spite of her words I could see from the expression on her face that she didn’t approve.

Hla returned with Nawrahta’s Longyi.

“Your Thanaka, Lady.”

Soe approached with my kyauk pyin made of sandstone and started softening the bark of the wood apple tree with a little water. She carefully painted an intricate Yan on each cheek. When she had finished I moved to the corner of the room where a large water jar stood. The images on my face reflected back at me were strange to me. In the morning light I thought that they resembled wings.

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