Thursday, April 15, 2010
Songkran Part I
Songkran is the Thai New Year. The word itself is a Sanskrit word that refers to astrological passage and the dates used to vary. However, they have since be set as 13-15 April. The holiday is celebrated differently throughout Thailand. In the south, where Hayden lives, Songkran is a time for families to come together and for the elderly to be blessed with water at the wat (religious temple). Songkran is celebrated most famously in the north where the focus is on "waterplay" and people visiting Songkran hot spots like Chiang Mai can expect to spend the entire holiday soaking wet if they venture outside.
In Uttaradit the holiday began on the 12th with a parade and beauty pageant. As I mentioned earlier, Nancymarie was representing her village in the beauty pageant. She was up and ready at 5 am for the hair and makeup guy who came to her house. I was up too so I could take pictures.
He had done up Nancymarie's hair quite extravagantly, with a piece underneath to add height and extra hair tacked to the back for volume, when the decided to put her shirt on before the makeup and discovered she couldn't fit the hair through the shirt and they had to start all over.
Once her hair and makeup were complete and she was in her outfit and strapped to her monstrously high shoes it was time to get her on the float. Nancymarie would spend the day smiling and waving, while Cale, Hayden and I would join the parade in front of her float and dance our way through the parade route.
Almost immediately someone had a beer thrust into their hands. Songkran is also a drinking holiday. Little old ladies danced along the streets with giant bottles of beer in their hands and everyone wanted to get us to try the rice whiskey. As three of the only four farang (Thai for palagi) in town, we were quite popular. Everyone wanted to dance with us or to encourage us to dance when we weren't dancing enough. Everyone wanted to get us to drink. Everyone wanted to take our picture. Everyone wanted us to know that Nancy was beautiful.
Songkran shirts are ofu tino! I even recognized some of the patterns.
Even though the water festival technically didn't start with until the next day and even though it looked like most of the people in town were dancing in the parade, there were still enough spectators with water buckets and hoses that everyone got wet.
The parade went on for hours. It started at 8:30 am and it was close to noon when it finally concluded. Initially we thought we were stopping so much because there was a problem with the float truck, but we later discovered that the stops were just giving people ample time to get all their dancing in.
Thais are very concerned about getting dark skin (all skincare products are whitening) so these special sleeves were passed out to everyone at the beginning of the day to protect from the sun.
After being fed by people from Nancymarie's village, who I am pretty sure we hadn't even met before, it was time for the beauty pageant. Hayden explained to us that as each girl paraded on stage the announcer was reading out her measurements and information like favorite foods and sports. Nancymarie won Miss Congeniality (which her co-teacher had translated for her as Miss Relationships).
The day that started at 5 am with hair and makeup finally ended back at Nancymarie's around 3 pm. She hadn't had anything to eat and only drank one bottle of water in small sips over the course of those 10 hours. She was hot and exhausted. After the three of us had drip-dried in her front yard we all gathered in her room and she turned the air-conditioning on (that's right people, she has air-con in her room and she only uses it once in a while!). It was heavenly. We were just beginning to discuss finding dinner when we learned her landlady had already bought it for us. After dinner we watched Idiocracy and Cale and I fell asleep before 8 pm. It was a full day.
Posted by Cale