Songkran, Thai New Year ...

The twelfth, was as hot and polluted as I have seen it for some time.  Yesterday was overcast with a light rain in town, though not a drop was to be had where we live.  This morning was cool as we awoke to one of those thick pea-soup fogs of winter, that leaves the grass and all exposed surfaces covered in dew.  What will tomorrow hold, one wonders?  So far this year has been one of interesting and sometimes unfathomable weather anomalies.

If one could remove the heat and pollution that often prevails this time of year, the carnage on the roads, the excessive drunkenness and ensuing fights, the bad karaoke, and the aggravated nature of the water wars, one would be left with what I like about Songkran.

This is after all, one of the few times when families come together, other than weddings and funerals.  The population of our village swells, as all those who live and work elsewhere, travel vast distances to return home.  I was touched yesterday when my wife was reunited with one of her favorite cousins, whom she had not seen for years.  Tomorrow is arguably the best day, where the villagers walk from house to house, paying respect to the village elders in a gentle and moving representation of Songkran.

Yesterday, for the first time since moving to the Rai, we drove to town during Songkran.  We drove more slowly than usual, as we were wary of the many children lining the roadside, waiting to ambush every passing vehicle.  In the excitement of the hunt for victims, they often step into the road while looking in the opposite direction.  My occasional taps of the horn, to warn them of our presence, were sometimes returned as glares and profanities by the drunken teenage rabble in their midst.

We had no plans to go to town but received a call to say that our replacement iPhone was ready to be picked up.  I recently purchased an iPhone for my wife, which turned out to be a lemon, sadly.  I am after all an Apple fan and stockholder.  They were very good about replacing it for us and I was eager to get out of the house, so we made the drive to town.  We took with us one of my wife’s more comely young cousins.  Nineteen and nearly as tall as I am, she had yet to see the new mall, since returning home.

We parked out front and made the walk up the stairs.  While covering the open space in front of the mall and before entering, we perchance spotted friends sitting behind the, floor to ceiling storefront windows, of Starbucks.  At another table there were other farangs I had more recently met.  After introductions and a little polite conversation we all went our separate ways.  We picked up our phone, tried out our third restaurant, did some shopping, bumped into other friends and generally had a very pleasant day.

The mall is turning out to be something of a town square as well as a shopping Mecca.  Truly a welcome addition to our little town.  You do hear some complaining that it is expensive, but what I think they really mean, is that they can’t afford some of what is on offer.  The prices really are any different from other comparable stores in places like Bangkok or Chiang Mai.  Only time will tell how successful the shops will be.

Wishing you all, a safe and Happy Thai New Year.