Monday, April 27, 2009

We're Back - Songkran 2009

For all those who asked, Pae and I are back from our short vacation. We got back from Korea on the 5th and were on a bus to Ubon a couple days later. We cancelled our internet at our apartment in March and have not reconnected yet, so have been unable to update anyone much. I started school last week and now have access to the internet again. Pae and I are both going to do our Korea blog posts together, so probably after we get back online...later this week.

Our past few weeks we spent in Ubon Ratchathani, in the northeast of Thailand. April 13-15 was a three day festival called Songkran here in Thailand. Songkran is a water festival that originated as a spiritual renewal festival rooted in Buddhism. The religious aspect is still noticeable, but Songkran for many people has become three days of time with family and the community, having a blast drenching everyone and everything with water.I've been lucky to spend Songkran in Ubon each of the three occurrences I've been here for. If you see Songkran celebrated on western television, you'll see a bunch of tourists and backpackers on Khaosan Rd in Bangkok wielding water pistols and super soakers, drinking roadside cocktails and spraying complete strangers. That looks okay and looks kinda fun, but the Songkran in Ubon has to be the best in the world!In Ubon, which is much more rural than Bangkok, people come from the country as well as the city and fill the streets, the sides of the streets, and even businesses on the sides of the streets, for three days straight. People set up "water stations" on the sides of all of the major thoroughfares in the city. A water station consists pretty much of a couple 50 gallon barrels, pitchers to use to throw water on passers by, ice to chill the water, all kinds of alcohol, all kinds of food and a thousand new friends. Every street in the whole city is packed with people celebrating.

Dimension number two to the Ubon Songkran Festival celebration is the actual streets themselves. People hop into their pickup trucks, throw a "water station" in the back and 10-15 of their family or friends, and drive up and down all of the streets and engage in water battles with other vehicles, drunken dancers in the middle of the road, and of course the previously mentioned street side revelers.Other than soaking everybody with water, people like to take baby powder, wet it into a paste and wipe it on other people. Not sure where the spiritual or religious significance is here, I actually think that it is just a way to have fun, and gives girls a chance to approach cute boys and boys a reason to approach and touch cute girls.Lucky me! As I took my camera around, trying not to get it wet, I pointed it at a stage of frolicking transvestites, or as we call them here, Toots or Katuays. I seem to never attract the young women, to Pae's delight, only the cross dressers. This guy/gal must have seen some imaginary Songkran missletoe and planted a big juicy one on me.

This year we passed on the driving in the back of a truck and celebrated all three days on the side of the street downtown. We had the same spot all three days and many of the same family and friends played all three days. This has to be the most memorable Songkran since I've been here in Thailand. Pae and her brothers, who have been celebrating Songkran their whole lives also said that this was the funnest and craziest Songkran in their lives! We spent over 6 hours a day for three days soaking wet...It's bad when your fingers get pruny...this year by butt cheeks actually had some prunage goin' on!This is a picture of our friend Mark, notice his sun glasses. They are the same pair, Day one and day three. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture on day two, where he walked around all day with only one lens in his shades!

You'll notice, if you click and enlarge some of the collages, there is a public phone booth next to where we set up our "base". This phone booth was constantly occupied but there was rarely ever anyone placing a call, yet there was always someone either pouring water on themselves or having someone else douse them. For the past two years during Songkran, If I had to "relieve" myself, I either held it or walked a couple sois until I found a bathroom or a dark corner. If I had only known that the phone booth was a totally acceptable place to take a whiz...So if I update the blog telling you that I have hepatitis...well, yeah...the drainage on the street side wasn't so effective...and there was literally a veritable Yellow River flowing from the phone booth!

I think I've shared entirely too many incriminating photos and stories for the day. If anyone ever comes to Thailand for Songkran I would suggest that you MUST celebrate it in Ubon rather than Bangkok. I'm already looking forward to next year! Maybe next year I'll find out where people do poopy on Songkran!

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