Thai New Year ~ Songkran in Bangkok

Songkran is the Thai New Year.  It’s also known as the Water Festival.

I arrived about 3 days before Songkran began this year.  My first Songkran in Thailand.  It’s a wild experience.  Fun.  There was an air of fellowship in the celebration.  Easy to sit back and sink into the occasion.

I called up my boy Arik and planned a walkabout.  We decided to explore the areas on the Chao Phraya near Wat Arun and the Santa Cruz Church.  We stopped at Wat Arun first.  I didn’t take a lot of pics there.  I’d been there so many times before that I have hundreds of photos of the Temple of Dawn.  While we were there, we ran into a group Child Monks in the temple proper.  I snapped a few photos as did Arik.

Next we moved on to the Temples down the river.  I don’t know the name of this Temple, but, it has one of the biggest Buddha statues that I’ve seen anywhere in Asia inside of a building.  It is a site to behold.  Beautiful.  Majestic.  Worthy of a place of worship and reflection.  A note on Buddhhists.  They do not worship Buddha as a God.  They pay homage to him as the first Bodhisattva to teach the path to enlightenment.  When you see Buddhists bowing before Buddha, they are paying homage and respect to the Buddha for his teachings which are called the Dharma or Dhamma.  What these folks are murmuring or repeating is as follows:

Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sammbuddhassa

which is Pali for:

Homage to the exalted one, perfectly enlightened by himself.

We wandered around the Temple for a bit as Arik admired all of the pretty girls in the Temple area.  I, of course, averted my eyes and thought only pleasant thoughts of Unny~my beautiful girlfriend.  lol

As we walked out of the Temple complex, we entered into a group of vendors selling local foodstuffs and drinks.  Arik and I bought some pork sala pao which are little round breads filled with pork stuffing or whatever you choose — pork, beef, shrimp, veggie.  They’re tasty to the max.  Aroi mak mak.  We made our way over to another vendor selling drinks and both of us purchased a Pepsi with ice.  As we sat there, Arik struck up a conversation with the vendors.  They were a daughter, mother, father team who had been running that stall for years on the same spot.  Such nice folks.  We sat and talked to them for a good while before we decided to move on.

I wanted to explore the local area.

We ventured on towards the Santa Cruz Church.  I knew that the church was there.  Though it was a mystery as to how a Catholic Church wound up there in Bangkok.  Concidentally, there is a Mosque not too far down the river.  Arik and I entered an alley way that was reminiscent of the Chinese hutongs on Beijing.  Dark, narrow lanes lined with houses and storefront/houses.  People everywhere.  Talking, napping, watching TV, eating lunch, selling their wares…all fo the daily activities that comprise the lives of these folks.  We passed Chinese lookiing facades.  Plain gates.  Gates adorned with photos of the King and Queen.  Doors open and ajar.  Doors decorated with chinese art and caligraphy.  Older women and men napping on benches.  Cats meowing at us as we passed wanting to be petted or fed.  We passed an open area full of Roosters crowing at the noon day sun.  It was a panoply of actiivity and life.  Thoroughly enjoying and invigorating.

Of course, it was Songkran.  As we made our way through the cuts and shoots of this microcosm of Thai life, we came upon Thai folks celebrating.  Folks such as the little girl and her father pictured below with the white paste on their faces.  Water splashing everywhere.  The locals all sent good wishes our way.  Alternately wishing us a Happy Songkran or Sawatdee Bee Mai (Happy New Year)!  I felt privileged to be able to take part in this local celebration.  Everyone was happy and celebrating.  Not a grumpy or sulky soul to be seen.

Eventually, we passed through the narrows and came upon an open street.  There was a group of Khun Thai (Thai People) gathering with musical intruments ~ drums and cymbols, mostly– making ready to march down to their neighborhood temple.  They were accompanied by two or three military men and at least one monk.  They stopped for us to take a few pictures of them.  Arik obliged and started snapping away.  They seemed happy to have their moment recorded.

After watching them march down the street a ways, Arik and I pushed on to Santa Cruz.

We stopped at the Church and snapped some photos.  I caught that cat napping and took it’s photo.  He seemed to me to be the mascot or guardian of the area.  Lounging about uninvolved and unbothered.  Lazy and relaxed.  Looking as if we were trespassing upon his majesterial perch. He urged us on with a look and we obliged.

After surveying the church and the immedate area.  We decided that we were thirsty again.  Around the corner, there would be a small storefront or vendor.  In Southeast Asia, there always is.  You can count on it.

We coursed through a narrow alley and came upon a group of young Thai men celebrating.  Beer and whiskey flowing.  They shouted to us.  Happy Songkran.  One of them asked Arik to take his picture.  Arik obliged him.  Ariks first picture came out blurry.  The sun was going down and the young man was a bit on the drunk side of the night.  He kept moving.  Low light and movement guarantees blur unless you have an excellent flash.  Even then it can be iffy.  He asks Arik why he took such a bad photo with such an expensive camera.  What he said was; “Damn, you suck.  Taking bad pictures with such an expensive camera.”  There were a few older ladies sitting about and they all started chattering about the exchange and laughing at us.  I couldn’t help but laugh along.

The yong man walked on.

Arik and I walked on behind him.

When we reached the main road, the young fellow was standing there with a group of friends.  They were throwing water at passersby as is the fashion of Songkran.  We were offered drinks and food by the group and wound up staying for a good two hours with them.  Snapping photos and talking and laughing and smiling.  Celebrating in Thai style.  A fun experience.

Our day was a success.  We experienced Songkran.  Took some pretty good photos.  Plenty of laughs and smiles to go around.

After a while, I called Unny.  She and her friend Bupe met us at Khaosarn Road.  We drank a bit more and celebrated and were thoroughly soaked by the end of the night.  A little excitement occurred when two groups of drinks interrupted the celebrating with a mini-riot.  They threw beer bottles back and forth.  With all of the Red Shirt activity of the previous days, many of the folks around us panicked.  Scared teenagers cowering in the corners of Khaosarn.  The party was interrupted.  I grapped Unny, Bupe and Arik and we moved on down the street.

Even with the sort lived violence, it was a good night and a good end to a good night.

Smiles and laughter all around us.

Peace and happy belated Songkran.

As you can tell from the photos near the middle of the group, the Thai folks with whom we were celebrating had tattooes of Mary and Jesus.  They were Catholic Thais.  I asked them if they were Catholic.  One of them answered; “80%!”  He mentioned Buddha and the Whiskey as the reason for the lacking 20%.  lol  We took that picture together because I thought it was hilarious.  Here is a White guy from America with a tat of Buddha and a Thai fellow in Thailand with a tat of Mary, mother of Jesus.  It doesn’t get more ironic than that.   They were a cool group of people.  Welcoming.  Open.  Straightforward.  And they “partied like rockstars!”

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