April 12-16. I’m just going to keep listing my activities for the past few days because they’ve not only been numerous, but they’ve combined into a 4 day long party and political lunch to top it all off. Probably the most prominent reason why these last few days were so fun was because of Songkran, the Thai New Year celebration. Songkran is a 3 day water festival where you get to waste as much water as you can by dumping it on people. It first started many centuries ago, where elders would sprinkle the heads of family members with water as a sign of good luck. Somewhere in between now and then someone had the brilliant idea to throw the biggest water party ever and continuously splash people for 3 days. This festival is where my story begins.
Many towns and cities celebrate Songkran early, and Maesariang is no exception. During the twelfth, most of the staff, their friends, and I went to a waterfall 30 kilometers away from the orphanage. The waterfall was tucked away within the depths of a forest and it took at least a walk of 2 kilometers before we came to the falls. There were two areas in which the whole area would party. One was an actual waterfall with a large face consisting of smooth rock. The other was a 50 foot face consisting of large boulders that seemed to have rolled down the side of the mountain. This area was where we chose to stay.
I did check out the actual waterfall and swam in that area for a bit, but the boulders were much more fun because of the simple fact that you could climb them. Bay and I climbed all the way to the top of the falls, but I can tell you that it was no easy ascent. If I hadn’t just spent a week rock climbing, I doubt I would be here to write this post. The only thing I would have changed about the area was the water level at the bottom. I really would have like to jump down from that height. Sadly, there was only 6 inches of water to break my fall.
The next three days were spent throwing water at passing pedestrians, motorcyclists, and cars. During the first day, I joined a couple kids from the orphanage in the back of Yutana’s truck. We loaded it up with huge buckets of water and small pales for throwing the water at passing people. This was the first day of Songkran, so even the streets of Maesariang were wild and crowded. There were water fights between car loads of people, kids on the street, people riding motorbikes, and everything/everyone in between.
That evening I left for Chiang Mai with 4 other staff members. I wasn’t going to give up the chance to experience a massive, city-wide water fight, even if it did cost me three and a half hours to drive there. The next day was chaotic, cold, infectious, exhilarating, and one of the best days of my life. The day was cloudy and one of the coldest I have experienced in Thailand. But carpe diem! We equipped our truck just as we had equipped it yesterday and set out for the city. Even the outskirts were hectic. When we finally came to the river where everyone was celebrating, we started circling the area for prey. The problem was that I turned out to be the prey. A white male standing on a truck bed with chalk war-paint who is yelling at the top of his voice stands out much more than thousands of Thai citizens. Everyone seemed to target me. The worst part of it all was that they all threw ice water, and I was soon shivering from head to foot. As the day picked up, the streets became more and more crowded. It took nearly 4 hours to circle the river area 3 times! Music seemed to be blasting from every corner. Multiple foreigners joined the fray as well and we had 2 Swedish girls on our truck as well. The only reason for me to end this mania was that my legs were in agony from shaking because I had been drenched in ice water so many times. When you experience that realization, you know it’s been a good day.
I was in such ecstasy as I came back to Maesariang that even the agony couldn’t worry me. The only thing that could dampen my spirits during a Chiang Mai Water Festival was that I forgot to put the memory card in my camera. It depresses me to admit it, but I have no pictures of that day...
The entirety of the next day was spent on the street just outside the orphanage. A few students and I made the most of our last day and threw water at passing motorcyclists and pedestrians. It was fun until a couple people started to retaliate by tossing more ice water, die, and baby powder… that’s when it became awesome. We started blasting our own music, technically my music, and everyone started dancing to hard rock, heavy rap, and some adrenaline pumping techno. Only when the sun dipped below the horizon did we come back inside to escape from our unceasingly wet bodies.
Today, I tried to rest as much as possible. That’s, however, impossible to do at this orphanage. One of P.A.’s friends, Took, picked me up for lunch that afternoon. Took is the one who has been driving me around everywhere and she seems to have taken a great liking to me. She constantly invites me to parties and meals at her restaurant, where I have met her entire extended and immediate family. This appointment was one I couldn’t pass up either. I was going to dine with the governor of Chiang Mai province, who is apparently the Thailand equivalent to the governor of California. He is also the son in law of the woman I have been driving around with.
We met Mom Luang Panutda Ditssakul at his favorite restaurant in Maesariang. He introduced himself in broken English, but tried his best throughout the entire meal to engage me in conversation, no matter how difficult it was to understand each other. 5 of his business and political associates joined the meal as well, but none tried to speak to me as much as the governor did. He seemed sincerely interested in my travels and my life in America, so, in the simplest English I could speak, I told him of my travels. It was interesting to meet a man of political stature in Thailand and it was nice for him to take such an interest in what I was doing. Soon, however, he turned to his associates and began to converse with them in a serious manner. I didn’t sit in silence for too long, because the meal then ended shortly after.
Thanks again for reading everyone! This has been a hectic 2 weeks, but it’s been as fun as it’s been crazy. Between writing, sleeping, eating, and experiencing life in Thailand, I haven’t had much time to reflect on how much I’ve actually done in this country. When I do, however, you’ll be the first to know. By the way, I’ve also uploaded dozens of pictures from the past 2 weeks and have everything from the temple in Chiang Mai, my second day, to the Songkran Water Festival. Check them out!