I know it has been a while since you have heard from me. Mostly due to the Songkran holiday. The street where the internet shop is was a designated water zone, and I couldn't get near the shop without getting soaked.
The Buddhist holy days are aligned with the lunar calendar. The days to go to temple (like going to church) are marked on the calendars aligned with the phases of the moon. This recent full moon, the 13 of April was the Thai calendar new year. It's a holiday festival called Songkran. Everybody geared up for it. One of the ways to celebrate it is to douse people with water. I understand that in the old days, it was just a few drops you would flick on people. Now its open season, and gone gonzo. Kids drive around with pickup trucks and pumps and hose people with water. Pump squirt guns are the rage, or just a good ole bucket of water tossed at motorbikes and cars. "gangs" of people stand by the road with barrels of water, and as you drive past they throw water at you. They are trying to discourage some of the wilder overkill. There are a lot of accidents – some from getting dumped with water, but most from drinking and driving. They scored the holiday death toll in the newspaper. 5,533 accidents, 441 deaths. The paper said if you throw water on someone, causing an accident that results in a fatality, you could be charged with murder. And not only can you be charged for driving drunk, if you are sober and your passengers are drunk you can be arrested.
On the 12th, Wednesday, we went to a school up the road. They were having the village Songkran celebration day there. Beauty contest, games, music, and of course, lots of water. Tok went to work at midnight and worked all night making up and dressing the girls for the beauty contest. There was a parade of pickup trucks, each carrying a contestant on a high chair in the back. The trucks are decorated with banners and cloths. They played a few games we in the west know: musical chairs, gunny sack races, blindfold kick the can, and one I had never seen. The men the tied a string to a cucumber, and tied the string around their waists. The idea was to swing the cucumber back and forth between their legs, using their hips, and bat a orange across the field to the finish line. That was pretty funny to see. The puns- 'well hung', 'swinging…' etc are rampant.
The best part of the day was the honoring of the old people. They set up rows of chairs under the awning. Each row had chairs facing each other, and all the old people sat in the rows. A group of people went down the rows and gave each elder a scarf or shirt. Then all the people went down the rows and poured a little water on the cupped hands of the elders, sometimes a little water was poured down their backs. They gave them flower petals, and touched their faces with perfumed paste. Quite touching. Old people are generally honored and respected in Thailand. Quite an interesting day.
The next day the 13th, was the actual songkran day. Tok went to work at 4am to do hair and makeup for beauty contestants. I took the Song Teaw (which means "two rows" – it's a pickup truck with two rows of seats in the back, and a roof. They are the local buses that go back and forth between towns.) into town to meet Tok. She took me into Lom Sak. The soi where the Internet shop is was a kind of designated water zone. The street was lined with people with barrels of water and buckets. As you rode down the street you were doused with water. Sometimes just a few drops, most of the time a small bucketful. Great fun! Quite warm that day, so getting soaked didn't matter – Though the people who had iced the water before they threw it cause a few breath-taking moments.
After a tour of Lom Sak getting wet, we parked the bike next to the big road to watch the parade. Trucks carrying the beauty contestants and their krews rolled down the road slowly down the road, people smiling and waving. Between each truck was a crazy band called a [insert name of bands here] . they typically have a bass guitar, kick drummer(s), a marching band drum rack, and a guy playing a cool instrument called a "Pin". The Pin is a three string guitar like instrument. Some players have double-necked versions. Everything is run into a stack of battery powered amplifiers and effects, on a rolling cart with a nest of speakers on top. The music they play is fast, rhythmic and furious. I really like the sound… when it's not too loud. I've inquired into obtaining one of the Pin instruments, and it seems that you can only get them custom made. They don't sell ready-made ones in the shops.
END OF PART ONE - Part two next time
They don't have the same "probable cause" hindrance here, so they set up checkpoints and check every driver for alcohol. Somkid got busted 50 meters away from the shop tonight. Tok and I were behind on the motorcycle and were waved thru, but Somkid was being escorted hand on shoulder by a uniform to the police tent. Jamlong was climbing into the drivers seat as we passed, as mama and Tury were in the truck being taken back home. Heard later that Somkid was charged with DUI, has to spend the night in jail and pay some 250 USD in fines. Not sure what else is involved in that. Bummer. It's Jamlongs birthday today, and we went to the night market shopping, then to Jamlongs for dinner. I got Jamlong these cool replacement windshield washer squirters, that light up with blue LED lights (away from the driver). There was tons of food of course, and a couple of my favorite kids, Namfun and Mak were at the shop. All people I like. Wuan of course wasn't there, having got killed when we were in Cambodia, but they gave me a photo of him that I asked for. Somehow he wasn't in any photos I've taken. Usually saw him at night, and don't like to use the flash on the camera. I'm hoping some of the early video I shot has him on the footage. If not, oh well.
i am in thailand at the moment. to be added or deleted from my travelogue, send request to this address. view previous posts at: http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/