Bush Whackin

I’ve become very cosy here in Bangkok, only casting a glance at a world map from time to time, but then thinking, nah, not yet… its so comfortable here. The pool… internet… gym… cheap, good food everywhere… and every day the weather is perfect (it’d be a bit too hot without a pool… but with a pool, 35c feels like 30c).

However, I did go on a small little adventure yesterday, just to test my level of interest. This entire week (what is it with Asians and having entire week or more holidays? Well, they are on to something!) is “Songkran Festival” in Thailand. Songkran is Thailand’s “New Year” festival. Songkran means “change place” and it is the day when the sun changes place in the zodiac. Nearly everone in Thailand returns home during this week to celebrate with their families… which leaves Bangkok in a strange state of non-chaos for the only week of the year… you can actually drive around in the daytime without being stuck in major traffic jams during this week.

Most notable of this festival, however, is that it is also called “water festival” and they believe that by throwing water on people you are washing away their bad luck. Well, picture EVERYWHERE you go, on every street corner are kids, families, adults all with hoses, buckets full of water, and waterguns, as well as other assorted water throwing mechanisms. Every person who goes by, they completely soak.

I ordered a pizza yesterday… they always deliver pizzas on motorbike. I opened my door and there standing there in full pizza uniform, soaked as though he had just come out of a swimming pool, was the pizza delivery boy! He must have NO bad luck with that amount of water being dumped on him! Actually just the fact he is still alive means he is lucky… imagine driving a motorcycle around Bangkok (dangerous enough) but then during this week, every few minutes a kid will come out of nowhere and belt you with a big bucket of water! I’ve seen numerous motorcycle riders almost wipe out in the process! Jane even said they announced on the radio that 400 people have died so far this week from Songkran related injuiries!!?!?! What a crazy country.

Everywhere you go in Thailand, there will be pickup trucks with the back FULL of young Thai’s and a big barrel of water as they go around town soaking each other. They also will jump out of their vehicles and put white powder on other people as well… not sure what thats all about. But 95% of people you see this week have white powder all over them and are soaked.

I rented a car for the last two days and as we were driving we came up to an area heavy with these festival goers… Jane told me to roll up the windows AND lock the doors… I asked her why lock the door? She said, they will even open your car door and throw a bucket of water in! Haha… Thai’s are crazy… but I can think of worse things to happen to you when every day is 35c+!

So, anyway, getting back to my mini-adventure… poor Jane’s mother and father have both died in the last 3 months (continuing what always seems to be tragedy after tragedy here in Thailand)… her home town is about a 3 hour drive away and she wanted to go see her family (grandparents, brother, nieces and nephews) as she hasn’t seen them since her parents have passed away…

I rented a car yesterday and we headed out. We got there and there were about 3 or 4 ‘shacks’… they were barely even shacks really.. they had some brick around 3 of the 4 walls, which was basically attached to some very basic looking wooden supports, to which corrugated sheet metal was tied on… Sitting out front, and in, each of the shacks was about 5-10 people each… this was her family. I can’t quite understand where all the kids came from as there seemed to be only 2 women there who looked to be of child bearing age or ability, but there must’ve been about 10+ assorted kids, from age of 4 months to about 15 years old.

As we sat there, more and more people kept coming over to where we were, until there was about 20 people sitting around us, including 2 really old women who looked like they were 90 or older, and had completely black teeth (never seen teeth that were totally black before!). I figured they all came to see Jane, but I understand a few words of Thai now and I kept hearing “falang” (which means white person) and “canadian” over and over… I asked Jane partway through what was happening and she said everyone was coming over because most of them have never seen a white person before… haha

Then we had dinner.. they had only one large light in their shack and it had attracted about a thousand moths… I found the moths to be kinda irritating, especially cuz they would fly into you quite a bit… but it didn’t take me long to realize that this was a source of enjoyment for everyone else… the kids loved playing in the mess of moths…

Then one kid came over and gave a large moth to Jane. She took out her lighter and began to burn it alive. At first I kinda was like, hey, thats not very nice… you shouldn’t kill and/or torture something for no reason… but it turns out they had a reason. After a few seconds of cooking it, she gave it to one of the kids who instantly put it in his mouth and ate it… then one after another they brought them over for Jane to cook for them… she had a couple herself… I passed.

At one point I noticed the really fat kid was just eating them, without even bothering to get Jane to cook them… I guess he likes his moths sushi-style… The next day he even caught a fly and ate it, almost unconsciously!

We slept the night in one of the shacks… I think they gave us the good shack because we were special guests… our shack had a bathroom (which was basically the chinese style, without a sit down toilet)… they didn’t seem to have running water but had big vats full of rain water that they used.

We were going to carry on to Kanchanaburi, which is another 50 kilometres away the next day but both of us were eager to get back to the comforts of our place in Bangkok… so we just ended driving back to BKK. Kanchanaburi, fyi, is on the River Kwai, which was made popular in that old movie, Bridge on the River Kwai.

So, that was it for this week… other than that I have been very good… haven’t gone out at all since last weekend… have worked out every day and have gotten quite a bit of work done.

I think I will try to do the same this week and then maybe in 1-3 weeks take off for Cambodia, Vietnam and maybe Malaysia and Indonesia for a bit… then maybe back here… Elsie may come out in early June for a visit to Thailand… then maybe fly back to Canada in mid June… of course, all this can and likely will change… especially if the Oilers get past the Red Wings in the first round… in that case I may just head back a lot earlier to catch all the games as I still haven’t set-up a system to watch Canadian TV when I am outside of the country (which is and always will be all the time).. I plan to set that up when I go back this June so I can watch hockey, CFL and other North American TV wherever I am via the internet… you can do it using devices like the Sling Box (http://www.slingmedia.com/)… of course eventually all TV stations will broadcast directly onto the internet, but until then it is easier to use devices such as this.