April 15, 2010

Songrkan (Or the wettest week in the whole country)

I've had, during my 7 months in Thailand, a total of four new years: Academic, Gregorian, Chinese, and Thai. Yes, I've celebrated all of them, but if that's not the universe telling me to make a new start for myself, I have no idea.

New Years celebrations are all different. Academic New Year (between August and September 7th)  is more of a tragedy, or a reunion that an all out party. Gregorian New Years (January 1st) involves missing school/work, staying up late with a lucky date the night before, getting drunk, counting down and watching the ball drop. Chinese, or Lunar New Year (late January to February), is celebrated with a huge fireworks/firecrackers marathon that makes the western version of a light show look like a sissy (as in, a few years ago they burned down the brand new CCTV building in Beijing), paying homage to your ancestors, giving Hong Bao, or red envelopes with money to your children, and a family reunion.

Now, none of this is anything like Thai, or Buddhist New Year. Celebrated in Mid April (read, right now) during the summer holidays and the hottest part of the year in Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos (apparently it lasts 3 weeks there), its by far the most fun I've ever had.

Imagine a water fight. . . Now imagine a gay pride parade . . . and now imagine a mud fight.

Combine all that, and you have Songkran.

For three days, whenever you leave the house, prepare to meet serious traffic jams, be doused in often ice cold water and plastered with mud and talcum powder. Also, prepare to have some serious, serious fun.

I went with P, P's niece and boyfriend, J, and G to Ayyuthaya by train on Tuesday for the first day. We rented a tiny little Tuk Tuk, bought some water guns and a big bucket, and just painted the town gray with mud.The biggest danger was actually from the pickup truck filled to the brim with coolers and people who'd come up behind the car and just dump it in. We walked down one road, dancing to the music and painting other people's cheeks.
No, that's not us. You think I'd risk my awesome/ sucky camera for that?

Of course, being a foreigner incited calls of 'Farang! Farang!' as people crossed the street to put mud on me, ask me where I was from, and dump ice down my back. Partially I think its also socially acceptable to sexually harass people, (I got kissed by a random dude, and I'm not someone who gets kissed, had cheeks pinched, breasts touched, and butt hit) but it was so much fun it's easy to ignore it.

Bangkok has apparently been rather subdued in light of the recent violence, and a lot of the big celebrations have been canceled, but I'm still seeing a vibrant country.

The reason for the whole water pouring is that it symbolizes the washing away of all of last years sorrows and becoming clean for the new year. Its also an excuse to cool off too.

Right now, there's a party going on right outside the office, but I have to go home and tell people that apparently there's a party for me tonight. Only problem is that if I leave, I'll have to take the computer with me, and it'll get wet, and that would be bad. . . what the hell, its a party right?

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