We left Bangkok in late April, a few days after Songkran, Thai New Year, had ended. The Red Shirts had been protesting for at least a month when we left, and the situation was just starting to become strained. In one of our last days, we walked too close to the protestors and felt tear gas in our eyes. That was the night of the first deadly interaction between the troops and Red Shirts when a Japanese journalist was killed. The public transportation had been cut in certain sections of the city and the main shopping malls were closed.
Songkran was the perfect respite from the rising tensions. For three days, the protesters and military stopped everything and celebrated the new year and the traditional festivities including water fights and smudging strangers’ faces with wet clay. The holiday is encouraged by the city government who ensures that families receive enough water to use in the festivities. Years ago, water was used to give the elderly a blessing in the new year. The transition has transformed into dumping buckets of water over everyone as a gesture of goodwill and mischief.
Photo Credit: Wyndham
Our landlords drove us in their pickup truck around the Silom and Sathorn districts where we threw buckets of water at people on the street. In return, the eager participants threw water at us and shot us with water pistols. Thais would run up to the truck and smash our cheeks and foreheads with wet clay and laugh. I don’t remember the last time I laughed that hard. The most painful were the revelers who had prepared ice water to throw at drive-by participants. I will never forget the feeling of an unexpected bullet of ice water down my back. The event was so fun–it evoked the summer days running through the sprinkler as a child. And so many people–young and old–were involved. It was impossible to walk around the streets and not be a participant, especially as a farang–foreigner.
The old Thai capital city of Ayutthaya is an easy day trip from Bangkok. It is a sedate island city surrounded by three rivers: the Chao Phraya, the Pasak, and the Loburi. The city is like a miniature Angkor Wat area–there are many temples and ruins in close proximity. There are also examples of Burmese and Cambodian (Khmer) design influences due to its past invaders.
The Thai Red Cross in Bangkok has a snake farm on its premises in order to educate the public, develop anti-venom to treat snake bitten patients, and promote the use of snakes to assist farmers with their crops. The exhibit includes an indoor aquarium, outdoor holding spaces, and a snake show. The location is also called the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute.
The handler above is holding a copperhead rat snake.
E. and I took a spur-of-the-moment Valentine’s weekend trip to Pattaya, Thailand. Pattaya is a beach resort town on the Gulf of Thailand, a hour and a half from Bangkok.
We spent the day relaxing in beach chairs with water and shade.
Photos of Wat Pho (a temple) in Bangkok, Thailand, known for housing one of the world’s largest Buddhas. See more photos of the wat here.
I apologize to the readers whose RSS informed them of a new post and then did not find it when they visited. I didn’t like the post I had scheduled, so I took it down. The post was about the boring topic of paring down one’s wardrobe when traveling. I realized that what I actually wanted to talk about was my beloved green bag.
I had to throw away the green Army shoulder bag mentioned in this post. It had been my magical talisman for two years–I wore it across my chest like a shield, carrying passport copies, bottles of water, coins which inevitably fell to the bottom, and sunscreen. I didn’t feel normal when I didn’t have it with me. After 12 years, the bag had become full of dirt and the fabric was separating at the handles. Though I am known in my family to keep things until they are falling apart, I had to throw the digusting thing away. It had served me so well, but I knew it was time.
A wat is a Buddhist temple. You may have heard of the famous Cambodian Angkor Wat. Wat Pho is known in Bangkok for housing the reclining Buddha–one of the largest Buddhas in the world. A tranquil temple seemed like a reasonable place to find a lot of tranquil cats.