Yesterday, Justine and I have arrived to Mae Sariang, a sleepy little mountain town in northern Thailand. It feels so peaceful up here. Last night I slept 12 hours. There has been a lot packed into the last couple weeks. This feels like a chance to process it all. This last weekend marked the Thai, Cambodian, and Laos New Year, a water festival called Songkran. If you’ve been in it, you know it is something worth experiencing. As our friend Cara from San Fransisco who we met up with yesterday, said, “This puts a San Franscisco street party to shame.”
I wasn’t bold enough to venture out with my camera during this city-wide water fight, but I’ll try to depict the chaotic bliss in words. In the city of Chiang Mai, there is a moat surrounding the Old Town. People largely use this sunbaked moat water to throw on each other all day from around 11 until 6 for three days. On the 13th around 11am when things were just getting going, Justine and I found ourselves in a tuk-tuk unarmed and very bewildered as people started dousing us with water. We had all our valuables including a kindle and a couple cameras, so we quickly sought the refuge of our guesthouse where we dried out our things. That day was mostly a wash. The next day, the 14th, we felt more rejuvenated and ready to go. We bought some pink buckets and started walking the perimeter of Old Town along the moat. It felt like more than half the city had come out to play. Everybody was walking around as wet as a drenched rat and carrying a super soaker or a bucket. There were several stages with live music, and hoards of food vendors were out, but mostly the attractions were empyting our buckets on these happy Thai people and refilling our buckets from their troughs of water. After a couple hours of being hosed, we went back to the hotel to clean out our ears and dry out our clothes again. When we met up with Cara a little later, we were clean and dry and ready to eat. We walked away from the main party scene, but still got doused. As the day wore on and the sun started descending though, there was a sweeter nature to the washing. It turned from dousing to splashing. The point of all this washing of course has a backstory worth sharing. And of course like everything in life, things are a lot more enjoyable when you care to learn another perspective. Traditionally, Songkran was a quiet festival of house cleaning, resolutions, and temple festivities. The city’s temple’s primary Buddha was ceremoniously bathed. Afterward, water might be sprinkled on the hands of elderly family members or playfully splashed on friends in a way of wishing them good luck. The cleansing powers of water also always felt good during the hottest time of the year. As a huge fan of hydrotherapy, I am so glad I got to experience it Thai style.
Anyway, yesterday the third day of the festival, we decided to hit the high road for the mountains. Of course it wasn’t that easy to escape getting wet. The smaller town of Mae Sariang had their own party going on when we arrived, and again we succumbed to more water fights as we explored the town last night looking for a cold drink. We had left our pink buckets back in Chiang Mai so this time our only defense was to say “Kop koon ka” (Thank you very much-i think) and let them bathe us with water. This time I just I found that offering my shoulder up and letting the healing power of water renew my fiery skin was pretty renewing. There was a town parade with more live music and dancing in the streets. Today it is quiet, though and tomorrow we will take a guided tour to visit a Karen village and take a boat ride down a river close to the Myanmar border. The people we have met are so friendly and helpful. I did think the mountains would be a bit cooler, but no. It is currently 100 degrees F, and “feels like 113,” according to weather.com. I agree.
It has been over two weeks since my last post-sorry! I’ve been in vacation mode, but also on the move. In Cambodia, we visited three major cities: Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and the surrounding Angkor Wat temples, and Battambang. I’ve been writing and accumulating thoughts and pictures everyday. I’ll try to catch you up on my wherabouts with some pictures. Fair?