25 March 2011

Songkran

Songkran begins on April 13th and is a very special day in Thailand's calendar for it marks the beginning of the Buddhist new year. We are currently in the year 2553, about to move into 2554. "Songkran"means moving or passing forward. Today my international school with its motto: "Where East Meets West" broke up for its three week Songkran summer holiday.

This morning something very special happened. All teachers sat behind a line of low tables with our hands held over silvery basins. Then the pupils came shuffling along on their knees clasping smaller silvery bowls filled with water and petals. Every pupil in the school poured a small amount of water over my hands as they shuffled down the line. It's all about cleansing and wishing elders good luck for the year ahead. And do you know, every single pupil poured their water with good grace. There was no stupidity. No students opting out or making wisecracks. They did it with respect and affection.

Shirley will arrive in Bangkok on Sunday evening. I guess she will be as shattered as I was when I first arrived. It took me longer than expected to adjust my body clock. I will meet her at the airport and then we will probably have an evening meal before bedtime. On Monday, if she's feeling up to it, we will take a ferry from Nontaburi, down the river to the Golden Temple and Wat Pho Temple where the famous reclining Buddha resides. Perhaps we will both have massages in the air-conditioned parlour in the temple grounds. In the early evening, the owners of my little B&B have invited us for dinner at their riverhouse. The owner speaks very good English for he worked all over the world in his younger days on behalf of the Thai Tourist Authority. I know it is a privilege to be invited as farangs (foreigners) into a Thai home.

Early on Tuesday morning, I'm taking Shirley back to the island of Koh Chang for five days. I hope the weather is kind to us - not too much tropical rain. I want to take her snorkelling - viewing beautiful tropical fishes in their protected marine park - as well as riding elephants through the jungle to their bathing pool. And we will laze about at the Whitesands Resort where our beach hut will look out directly on a palm fringed beach as the warm blue waters of the Gulf of Thailand lap at our doorstep.

Later we will visit one of Thailand's ancient capitals - Ayutthya - about two hours north of Bangkok. I have booked a rather lovely hotel there which gets a high 9.0 rating on "Trip Advisor". It's a bit of luxury - especially for Shirley. After all, the rest of the time she's in Thailand she'll be in this B&B in Bangkok or in our tiny and fairly primitive beach hut at Koh Chang.

When she departs on April 7th, I'm heading north to Chiang Rai - just seventy miles south of the epicentre of yesterday's earthquake - which was just over the border in Burma. I hope to slip over into Laos for a couple of days before heading back to northern Thailand's main city - Chiang Mai for the Songkran Festival proper... Well my friends, somebody's got to do it.

11 comments:

  1. How lovely. I hope you both have a wonderful break.

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  2. I know you'll take lots of pictures for all of us who are still stuck in rainy lands, anxious for the last of winter to pass. Have a wonderful time.

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  3. i am interested in the lock ness monster, but but but really???

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  4. JENNY Thank you.
    JAN B Hey Jan - the other day the idea of building an ark occurred to me when Bangkok was inundated following a long tropical rainstorm. The streets were awash like Venice, Italy...not L.A..
    PUTZ Thanks for dropping by. Yes. I swear I did not make the water ceremony up. Mind you as an eight year old boy on holiuday in Scotland I saw the Loch Ness Monster!

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  5. I've just been catching up YP. You seem to be having a great time and seeing lots. It's great that you are getting a bit of an inside view that tourists miss out on, via your school and pupils.
    I was interested to read your post about Bhuddism. I'm a bit like you about religion but the Bhuddist way of life ( the little I know of it) sounds very appealing to me. Perhaps it is that it is a "way of life" rather than a religion that seems to me to hold a little truer (if that's not a real word , it should be !).
    Hope Shirley enjoys her holiday.
    Cheers
    Helen

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  6. Agnostic tourists flock to Buddhism as it seems more acceptable than other religions- and it is in many ways. Especially the bits that like most different cultures do you can interpret individually or 'take or leave' from theory to practice.

    The supposed freedom to interpret is often forgotten though when, like all religions, you still have to have faith in the supernatural and know your place in the society that the dogma creates.

    Very hard to have faith in the next life when your current one is so shitty.

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  7. Wishing you and Shirley a lovely break together...you must be so looking forward to seeing each other.

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  8. If they washed feet instead of hands and were transported to the American south, your Thai friends would be (a) Pentecostal, (b) Primitive Baptist, or (c) Episcopalians on a Maundy Thursday. I'm just sayin'...

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  9. you are full of wanderlust pud... good for you...... you'll be going all native soon!

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  10. How different would your outlook on life have been if you hsd taught all your life in a Thai school?

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  11. I like the sound of all of it except the "massage" bit which has always filled me with horror - - but this probably says more about me - - !! I hope you'll both have a lovely holiday. I should mention that I went to Scarborough for the day yesterday. It was cold and blustery. But I still loved it!

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