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It's a clash of color and booming drums on the fringes of Thailand. For those they call the beloved princes. Every year the ethnic Shan people close to Myanmar, gather for the Poy Sang Long procession. It's a right of passage, when boys as young as seven become novice Buddhist monks.
Reuters photojournalist Jorge Silva recently journeyed to the small town of Mae Hong Son to tell the story of an ancient ceremony still practiced today.>> It's very nice to discover this small town in corner of Thailand that is like being stuck in the past. It's like being in a travel a long time ago.
When you see the clothes and the people in the temple, and the monks, it's only one of the main festivities in Thailand. But it's very colorful and very unique.>> The boys go through several stages, said to represent Buddha's early life as a prince. First their heads are shaved, and they're bathed in lotus water.
Then they're dressed in white, with colorful patterns drawn on their faces using makeup thought to have protective properties. Once this is done, the boys are considered to have gained a semi-divine status and aren't allowed to touch the ground or walk by themselves until the festival is over.>> And trying to get a shot with this real happiness of the people was a challenge because even though they were jumping and singing and crying, I mean it was very festive.
It was a big challenge to get a shot that show all this happiness during the parade. So it is one moment I found this story sometime when the fathers decided, no, some part of the first childhood he's finishing and he's starting a new period.>> Once it's all done, the novice monks will spend a month or two living at Buddhist temple during school holidays before returning to their normal lives.
Families save for a long time for the dream of their children taking part in the festival. And some poorer families get donations so their kids don't miss out. Poy Sang Long is believed to bring great honor in the Thai mountains, tying people to the past, and bringing merit for the future.