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Water Festival Time | Sangkhlaburi

April 14, 2010

So I have arrived in my new home, Sangkhlaburi..which, although it is a small town, seems like a vast cosmopolitan metropolis after the isolation of my Bani Gala home in Pakistan. I arrived in Sangkhlaburi after a seven hour bus ride, including a Bangkok leg on which I got to see the Red Shirts scooting across the road ad well as a Red Shirt Encampment. In case you have been avoiding the news, Bangkok is in upheaval, with political unrest, 20 killed and 800 injured in just one night this past weekend..Thailand has more in common with Pakistan than I expected!

eating, lounging & swimming at Sangkalia

Thai Feast, Sangkalia

However, I am far far away from it all in Sangkhlaburi. Where I have finally been unable to unpack and move into my new home. There is something so incredibly psychologically satisfying and necessary about unpacking a suitcase, hanging up clothes, taping pictures to the wall and settling in. I have been in a state of flux for so long that I had forgotten what it was like to have a permanent base.

And I have arrived just in time for Songkran, the Water Festival, which means that the entire nation engages in a giant water fight for several days. As such, I have not begun teaching yet, but have been exploring my new town, gorging myself on thai food and adjusting my wardrobe to reflect the insanely humid climate I now find myself in.

Visiting Baan Unrak Children's Home, Sangkhlaburi

Songkran Story: yesterday Iona, Sam and I wandered into town to purchase supersoaker water guns, get drenched and take part in the water mayhem. Sporting the latest in plastic water weaponry we were approached by the local Sangkhlaburi Police and invited into the back of the police truck. Normally this sort of invitation is bad news, but the cops insisted it would be fun and its gawdawful hot so we hopped in. The truck was complete with a rusty set of handcuffs in the back, but the local po’ drove us to the temple and then insisted we hop on a Songkran Parade Float! With The Law behind us we were allowed to hop on a truck filled with Karen Musicians beating gongs and drums and bamboo clappers. I believe we were invited onto the truck to dance, but it’s hard to dance on the back of a water drenched truck so we perched on the sides, clapped in time to the music and smiled for the myriad of camera. I am here to teach the Mon, who were also a contingent of the parade, looking very stately and serene. As the parade wound through the streets I felt a familiar feeling of living in crystal clear moments..perhaps this was simply my mind and body being constantly refreshed by the buckets of water dumped on us, but I think that it was the feeling of yet again being in just the right spot at just the right time.

no one is safe from splashes during Songkran

it's easy to be a good sport when it's miserably hot & humid outside

On the Karen Float, Songkran Parade, Sangkhlaburi

Thailand is ‘The Land of Smiles’ and I do relish being able to smile as just about anybody without it being misconstrued or backfiring (as was often the case in Pakistan)..but my experiences in Pakistan remain relevant and a frequent topic of conversation as I discuss the politcal situation in Myanmar and Thailand with folks here.

no parade is complete with out several branches of the armed forces represented!

And the food, oh holy moly the food. I live a fifteen minute walk from the Thai Side Market (there is a ‘Thai Side’ and a ‘Mon Side’ of town)..a market filled with fruits, veggies, food carts, coffee carts and all manner of snacks. Ive been buying lots of roti, sold on carts by Muslims (5baht for a plain roti with condensed milk on top, 10baht for a roti with egg and condensed milk.

Roti Cart, Sangkhlaburi

I had forgotten the vital role Seven Eleven plays in Thai life. They are everywhere and sell absolutely everything..Seven Eleven is where I head when I need to recharge me phone, buy bug spray, take advantage of AC or buy any number of the prawn flavored chip snacks available here. There is also a Chinese knockoff Seven Eleven rival here…but it just doesn’t hold a candle to the real thing.

Market Snacks, Thai Side Sangkhlaburi

One Comment leave one →
  1. willowmata permalink
    April 15, 2010 5:29 pm

    Wonderful post, I love the pictures. Somehow seeing all the water flying through the air makes it possible to imagine a national water fight. I’ve seen plenty of school-wide water fights, but a whole town, a whole country?! Nice that it happens during a humid time. What is the significance of it, how did people start throwing water on each other around this time?

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