We are in Chiang Mai, Thailand and I am finally starting to settle into the swing of things, it only took about 2 weeks and I am now comfortable with going to bed late, sleeping in and doing whatever it is I feel like doing. And then Songkran came along.
Songkran is a celebration of the Thai New Year which works according to the solar year (or used to until they standardized the date to the 13th-15th April, I would guess for consistencies sake). Thought to originate from India it traditionally involved pouring a little water over someones back, and bathing the Buddha statues strewn around the place, now however Songkran involves cheesy multi-colored water pistols, buckets and barrels of water with giant ice blocks for added “uuurgh!”.
We are staying close to Chiang Mai gate, and the old moat running along Chang Lor Road is the source of refills for the assorted weaponry. As you can imagine, it isn’t exactly crystal clear, but somehow you overlook that for fun sake. Over the few days of Songkran we watched and joined in with thousands of people as they crowded along the moats edge, filling their buckets and barrels to throw at the utes, tuk tuks, and walkers as they passed by. After a few minutes in the general vicinity, water pistols become somewhat redundant as everyone is so wet as to not even feel the measly squirt of a squirt gun. This is where the buckets come in, sold everywhere, they come with string attached for dredging the murky moat to supply the rapid succession of throwing.
There are a number of techniques employed in drenching. One is to softly pour a little over the backs of people walking past, another is to throw as hard as possible so that a veritable deluge of mucky water pounds the unwary passer by into a feeling of “what the hell just happened!”. I, of course, more frequently employed the second strategy and knocked off many a hat and sunglasses. At first the sensation of throwing water at people feels somewhat rude, but after being tumbled a few times yourself, you realize that it is just the done thing, and if you’re outside, you’re fare game.
We walked along until we found our own barrel for rent, and for a measly 50 baht had a huge block of ice dumped there-in, and that is where the fun really begins. How do you add to someones surprise soaking when they are already soaked? You throw a large bucket of freezing water, that’s how. The surprised shouts and shocked looks are so entertaining that we managed to maintain this course for hours before deciding to throw in the towel (ha). In that time it was fantastic to witness the utes with their own icy barrels driving past, open sided tuk tuks and pedestrians alike drenching and being drenched. The various styles of music pounding out along the streets for the dancing giggling participants (there was even a live heavy metal band playing on one section of the roadside) only served to improve the festive feel .
It brings out a freeing childish enjoyment in locals and farang alike. Never have I seen so much happiness, and so many smiles, all of it genuine, from young and old. As a farang myself it was great to be included, and at times singled out for a good drenching, the Thai people are incredibly welcoming and friendly.
Some love the day and some profess to hate it, but one thing is for certain, there is no escape. If you leave the confines of home, you will get soaked… Fantastic.
ALSO GOIN ON IN CHIANG MAI
Aside from Songkran I have finally bought a guitar (from Green Music, they are going to put my photo on their Facebook page!), seemingly the only left handed one in Chiang Mai, and have started my journey towards fame and fortune, or at least being able to play “house of the Rising sun”. My fingertips hurt and I am cursing a lot, but it is great to be learning something new. I have also started learning a game engine, not with any particular end result in mind, just because I have always wanted to, and now I can.
Also our wayward child Marty has returned from his travels, and is thoroughly enjoying my company and the many life lessons I have to teach him. Of course his return also means the jokes have become more crude, it’s a guy thing.
So 2 1/2 months in, and things are good, really good. My old life is already becoming a distant memory, and with every passing day my belief in what we are doing is affirmed. Sarah is loving Thailand and her blog reflects this
There is more to life than one place to call home (no matter how posh that home is),
More than the drudgery of 9-5 (or “half day” as I called it),
More than possessions (although I still have an affinity for these),
More than the contracts and bills, my God the contracts and bills.
And it is attainable for most, you just have to want it enough.