Friday, April 16, 2004

Initially, I didn't believe this week would make me a hermit. However, Thailand's Songkran festival was in full swing. Songkran or Thai New Year is supposed to be a three day affair. This year it fell on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. So, add Sunday and Monday to the mix, and you have quite the holiday. An essential component to this celebration is dousing one another in water. In other words the city turns into a barage of pickups marauding the streets with all varieties of water. There is clear water, mucky water, smelly water, chilly-cold water, and my least favorite of all, all of it. Have a water war is one thing, but when it's involuntary and one is unable to merely walk down the street without some giggly swarm of people dumping bucket and gun loads of water on you it becomes obnoxious. Multiply that by five days, and you have your explination as to why I spent many many hours holed up in my room. Now, that in itself was not entirely bad, but it wasn't voluntary. On the plus side so many thousands of people loved it, and I too had a good time. Really though, I didn't need five days of it. I met some lovely Chiang Mai University students who daily could be found outside the beauty parlor owned by one of the group's mother. Yesterday, the last day of the festival, I headed over to the parlor armed with a bottle of San Som (Thai Whiskey), and we sat around imbibing for a bit before all loading up into a pickup and heading off for the festivities. It wasn't long before the cab of the truck was gushing water from every bit, and we were soaked to the bone. This was the part I expected, and I had seen where a lot of the water came from before, so I wasn't too surprised that this bit smelled a little. There is a moat surrounding the old part of the city, and you guessed it, that's where a lot of the water comes from by the bucket load! After leaving the moat we went a couple other places including some hotel shopping complex where the streets were bumper to bumper. We parked the car and joined in the celebration. I witnessed a mob of about thirty chasing perhaps one or two over zealous revelers which was broken up by the police in short order. I even restrained somebody in a separate incident where about five to ten were pounding brutally on one or two. My involvement was short lived as my friends told me everything was perfectly okay and that I should relax. I told him he was correct, since we weren't getting the ever loving shit kicked out of us, everything was okay. The principal English speaker of the group was probably the drunkest, and he couldn't stop apologizing for five hours. I get a bit fed up with him and in particular being soaking wet without being able to leave. I was ready to reach the hotel about three hours before I actually got there, but c'est la vie. I saw how the party goes around this time, and I assure it is a holiday you couldn't pay me to return to. All that being said it is beautiful here in Chiang Mai, and now that I can freely walk the streets with only my sweat to drench me I plan on seeing more of the city. I really love moats except when they're encroaching on me!

While I was in Delhi Karim had talked about his awe of Muay Thai, Thai Boxing. He asked me repeatedly in the several weeks we spoke to attend a match. It was something Dana and I spoke about doing last time we were here, but I was pretty so so about the idea. Well, okay, Karim asked me to go, so I did. Not long after arriving the host at the hotel asked if I would be interested, there was a fight this past Tuesday. I got the ticket, and I went to the four hour event somewhat early on. I saw the juvies fighting, and it was not too pleasant for me. As I sat there watching gloves and bodies connect as well as shin to shin I shuddered. I had this horrendous thought of splintering bones and tears began to role down my face. I really hate violence so much. I sat there a couple minutes longer then decided it was my time to exit. No point in arguing with the guy who wanted to mark my hand for re-admittance it was over before I could gesture. And, I had a pleasant walk back to the hotel. Wow, I couldn't stand it, and I didn't even see the big guys fight. The little kids were enough to re-affirm any disliking for that sort of contact. I am pretty finicky about the contact I don't mind. This is the reason I never played basketball in high school. I got an elbow in my back going for a rebound and decided it was not worth my aggravation. Karim, I went, and I just can't say I see the same beauty you do in boxing, Thai or otherwise.

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