160412 Thaikarl - Songkran day at the eastern bakery land
we drove east from lomsak, up into the mountains, and down the other side. the country turned flat, dry brown, and bright. our pickup has nice aircon, so it was pleasant in the cabin, but when we stopped at a seven (eleven) and i opened the door... it was like opening the door to the oven. a blast of hot air gobsmacks you. man, it was hot out there. even for me. my weather app said 103 degrees F, and rising! it was hot. so hot, the only way to eat a candy bar would be to tear off the end of the wrapper, and squeeze the contents out like sweet toothpaste*. i like it though. wouldn't want to be digging ditches, but it beats being cold, and you don't have to go through the "jacket on, jacket off, jacket on" ballet. t-shirt 24/7 time.
tok booked us a hotel in Kon Kaen that she found by "asking her friend Google" nice place, 1050 baht (29$) per night for the three of us - they even had three beds in the room. aircon, hot water shower, mini-bar fridge, complementary buffet breakfast in the morning. a bit fancy for my taste, but with songkran holiday in progress, getting a room anywhere is a stroke of fortune.
The 13th is songkran day. we went and visited a beautiful temple in the morning:
went back to hotel for a little nap time, then we walked a number of blocks from our hotel to the entrance of "sticky rice road" as far as you could see down this street, there were people, and water spraying into the air, music blasting, smoke from food vendors.
i was a little daunted, but in we went. you will get wet. very wet. splashed from buckets, assaulted with water guns, sprayed by hoses, plastered with chalky paste. it's great fun. water proof pouches for your mobile phone were pretty popular vendor items this year. stages along the street with dancers or bands, sponsored by mobile and soft drink companies. at the head of the street, there's a kind of town square, where the main stage is, and off to one side, a stage for the "past time" music and dancing.
we don't have anything like Songkran in the states. the weather in most of the US keeps us all indoors. forth of july is pretty big for us, but the celebrations are localized. songkran is national, it's everywhere. many people wear colorful flowered songkran shirts, even the tiniest village will have a bunch of kids beside the road ready to throw water at your car as you pass. every town has a 'water street' the people are all ages, all classes. it's generally a lot of fun, and celebration. yeah, there are a few fights, and they tally the number of road deaths each year - but those are almost all alcohol related. drinking and craziness is fairly isolated, you don't see people walking around with beer, and they don't have those beer zoo's like we do. police are present, but you'd have to really look for them. i just followed tok and teri around, got sprayed a lot and marveled at the spectacle and grandeur of the event. i feel so fortunate to experience something like this. the only thing i can think of that is this energetically charged is when people get all wound up cause their sports team is doing good. people have a common cause, a reason to unite, a purpose for excitement and display. but songkran doesn't have that giant sound of all the air getting let out of the balloon when your team loses the big contest. and i'm not into sports. festivals like songkran (and Holi in india) are all inclusive. they celebrate joy, life and living, for all people. aside from the street water basting, songkran is also a time to honor the old people and do some house cleaning. washing of the Buddha statues is observed as a ritual.
there was even a washing the Buddha setup at the mall we went to the first night.
later in the evening, they did this human wave thing that was a blast. with a lot of instructions (in thai of course) over the LOUDspeakers, everybody along the whole sticky rice road squatted down. then on countdown cue, people quickly stood up, hands in the air and squatted back down, making a wave like they do at sports events. the wave would travel back in the distance, then reflect back towards the stage. took almost 45 seconds for the reflected wave to come back to the front. it was pretty cool. there were drones in the air, following the crest, and projected on the giant LED screens on the back of the stage, i didn't want to get my phone soaked, but here's a video:
we finally walked back to our hotel. what a day. it was teeth! (the thai word for teeth is "fun", so every time i say "That was fun!" they hear: "that was teeth" and smile)
we drove back to our village the next day - with a couple stops along the way, one of them was on my "gotta do this" list for this visit home. woo hoo!