Saturday, 14 April 2007

Sawatdee Pi Maï - "Happy New Year"

Before I tell you what we got up to yesterday I will tell you a bit about the rituals associated with New Year.

The Thai New Year, also known as Songkran, is celebrated every year from the 13th to the 15th of April and is the time when Thai people return home to visit family and to pay respect to the elders around the neighbourhood (Moon headed off to Issan on Thursday). Buddah images in the temples are cleaned with water and perfume as it is believed that this will bring good luck and prosperity for the New Year and, in some cities, the statues are actually paraded through the streets so that people can wash them as they pass by (I'd like to see them try that with the solid gold one in China Town!!). Apparently it is also common for people to carry handfuls of sand to their local temple in order to recompense for the dirt that they have carried away on their feet during the rest of the year - The sand is then piled into large tiered piles and decorated (a bit like a big sandcastle). Songkran is a time for cleaning and renewal and water is very heavily associated with it. Originally pouring a small amount of water on other people's hands was done as a sign of respect but now the most obvious celebration of Songkran is the throwing of water - people actually roam the streets with bowls of water, water pistols or even a garden hose, and drench each other and everyone else. (Can you guess what we did yet??)

My god we had so much fun yesterday!! We headed out in the early afternoon for some lunch (We had gone round to Georgie and Ben's for dinner the night before and it turned into a bit of a late one) and were soaked before we had even got the the BTS (Skytrain). We were passing Time Square when we saw a small group of very wet children who's faces lit up when they saw us!! The bowls that were in their hands were dunked into a huge barrel of water and we were ambushed!! We had lunch by the window of the restaurant and we just could not stop laughing - There were people walking along the pavement absolutely soaked to the skin, people chasing each other firing water pistols and pickup trucks going past full of people all armed with water pistols firing at anything and everything that moved. We had heard that Khao San Road was THE place to go so we headed home, got changed, filled our water pistols and headed out.

The security guards at the apartment block next to ours stopped us (I forgot to mention that people also mix plaster with water to make a paste - Monks use this when giving blessings so it is considered good luck to have this put on your face) and made hand prints on our cheeks and poured some water over our hands. We then sneaked past the dancing, water throwing people on the corner of our Soi by cutting through the Sukhumvit Centre (Figured we wouldn't be able to get a taxi if we were soaked) and were standing watching the fun when suddenly a waitress with a water pistol opened the door of the restaurant we were standing next to and fired!! When we turned round there was a giggling gaggle of waiters and waitresses at the door

Anyway, we got a taxi and headed over to Khao San Road - The place was absolutely heaving and we ended up getting dropped off miles away from where we wanted to be!! The main road had been blocked to stop cars getting in and all we could see was a river of people obviously heading for the same place we were. It was absolutely brilliant - the entire street was lined with people (young and old) with barrels of water, hoses and water pistols and we were absolutely drenched within seconds of getting out the taxi!!. (The photo on the right is Chris firing at a girl as she is firing at me - her boyfriend is doing the weird fingers thing). We had people sneaking up behind us and pouring bowls of water down our backs to which we would retaliate and fire back with our water pistols, there were others that would squirt you with their water pistol and then there would be a bit of a chase as we tried to get them back and there was obviously some kudos in putting the plaster mix on the face of the Farangs as practically everyone who was walking past would come over and smear the stuff on us. There were stalls selling water so that you could top up your gun, there were people dancing, there were people dressed up, everyone was soaking wet and laughing their heads off. We ended up staying for a good few hours before calling it quits and making our way home in a Tuk Tuk (people were still spraying each other whilst in their Tuk Tuk's and our driver got water thrown at him whilst we were waiting for the lights to change. (We took the photo's when we got home - You can't really see just how wet we were!!). The entire city had turned into one giant water fight and it was absolutely brilliant!!!


JJ said...

It's a little more sedate, down here at the beach! Although that might have more to do with me hiding in the resort, and sending the family out to play in the water!

Michelle said...

Hey Chris and Carol,

Thanks for the note on my blog! I still haven't ventured out for Songkran yet (took a taxi to the skytrain today and went to the mall to avoid the soaking), but am going to Chatuchak tomorrow with a friend so should get completely soaked :-) I went up to Chiang Mai a couple of years ago for Songkran, best fun I ever had in my life.

Hey, if you're wanting to really learn Thai and have 5,700 baht to spare every month, you should sign up for the Thai school I go to. 3 hours of Thai lessons, 5 days a week - and in just 6 weeks, I can hold a long conversation with taxi drivers, som tam sellers, waitresses, people in my building etc. I've learnt more Thai in those 6 weeks than in the previous 4 years I've been here - should've done it years ago!!

Sawatdii pii mai and Happy Songkran :-)

Anonymous said...

Looks like a great way to keep cool in the heat - maybe I should have arranged to come over at Songkran - too late now! Luv Katwoman

peter_may said...

You can tell your friend Michelle that we looked at her blurb, only to discover that she is another "West Wing" nut. We work our way through our DVD sets every winter, and never tire of it. Our American friend, Gary, is a hopeless addict. We, however, boycotted it after Series Four, because the show's creator Aaron Sorkin quit after political pressure had been brought by the Bush administration to "temper" it's left wing bias. It dived in the ratings from that point. Sadly, Sorkin's new show, "Studio 60", was a bit of a disaster and got pulled by the network halfway through the run. He should worry - he was getting two million an ep!

Carol and Chris said...

JJ - Yes it was definately a bit wet and wild

Michelle - I hope you didn't get too soaked at Chatuchak. I'm going to sign up for the Thai course after we get back from visiting the UK (Not booked the trip yet so not sure when that will be)

Katwoman - If you had decided to come for Songkran you would only have been cool for three days!! The rest of your holiday you would have been all hot and bothered - this is the official hot season (and they are not kidding!!)

Dad - I adored West Wing but got out the habit of watching it when I moved in with Chris and we didn't have Sky (Which was probably around the time that your man Aaron quit). To be honest I didn't know that the Bush administration had 'requested' that the show be tempered but somehow I wasn't surprised when I read your comment!! (It makes me sad)