Monday, April 18, 2011

Our New Favorite Holiday- Songkran

For the past three days all of Thailand shut down in order to celebrate Songkran. Traditionally Thailand's new year celebration was a time for Buddhists to make merit at local temples and for the elders to sprinkle water on younger people as a form of blessing and tribute. Included in this blessing was the application of white paste or clay to the face, arms and torso as a sign of protection and to ward off evil.  

The modern Songkran celebration has evolved (or devolved depending on your point of view) into a three day water fight. In Bangkok, two of the most popular areas to celebrate Songkran are Silom Road and Khao San Road. In both areas, they close off the streets and people armed with waterguns, buckets, water bottles and firehoses wage a water fight free-for-all. If defending yourself from water attacks weren't enough, there are also people walking around with bowls of white clay that they will smear on anyone and anything.

We decided that we wanted to experience the party at both of these locations so on Wednesday we headed to Silom dressed in old clothing and armed with a waterproof camera.  As soon as we exited the MRT station at Silom, we were hit with a wall of sound and water. Each side of the street was packed with vendors who were selling food, water guns, and clay. We spent hours wandering the up and down Silom and Patpong with Megan, being bombarded with water and clay.

A before picture
Looking down on Silom towards Sala Daeng BTS
 Clay and water for sale
On Patpong, they busted out the fire-hoses
Doesn't seem like a fair fight.
Fun for all ages!
Megan looking gangster with her Pooh water gun
The aftermath- covered in clay and soaked to the core
On Thursday we headed over to Khao San Road to meet a group of friends. There were fewer people on Khao San Road than there was on Silom, but that meant there was more room to fire your weapon of choice. This time around, we bought our own water guns so we could participate in the craziness. 

We spent most of our time on a street that runs parallel to Khao San Road because we were able to find a street side bar where we could launch sneak attacks on the crowd passing by. After an hour or so of this coupled with our 10 minute water fight with the table next to us, we got kicked out of the bar! 

They didn't allow clay on Khao San Rd, so people discarded their bowls
They even had official signs!
These girls were ruthless. I think they hit us 5 times with ice cold water
Guy prepares his Doremon water gun
Disturbing doll attached to an ambulance- not sure why...
I love my new water gun!
Launching an attack on the crowd
Mike and Guy refill their guns for the next attack
Eric and I have both decided that Songkran is our new favorite holiday. How can you not love a holiday where you hang out with friends and spend all day at the world's largest water fight. Can't wait until next year!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Camping" in Thailand

Camping has to be one of the best ways to spend a weekend. Many of our summer weekends (and even some not-so-summery weekends) were spent with friends or family at one of  the many state parks in Wisconsin.

What camping in March in Wisconsin looks like
Camping was one of the things that we thought that we would have to give up once we moved to Thailand. We were pleasantly surprised when one or our friends suggested a camping excursion to an undisclosed location in Thailand (Seriously, I promised under the threat of pain to not reveal the location, lest it become overrun with tourists and start to look like Pattaya).

I use the word "camping" very loosely when describing this camping experience in Thailand- it is nothing like the camping we are used to in Wisconsin. To me camping consists of planning meals, packing equipment in to our backpacks or car/motorcycle, making sure we have plenty of beer, sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows and telling funny stories.

Or wandering around in the woods trying to figure out where we are...

At the resort ( yes, resort) we camped at in March, everything is provided for you. They set up your tent, provide you with a sleeping pad and pillow and breakfast, lunch and dinner are all made for you in the resort kitchen. The only thing we had to worry about was bringing enough booze, because it's not really camping if there is no beer involved, right? 

I could really get used to this style of camping, except for one crucial element which was missing from the weekend. There was NO CAMPFIRE! Other than that missing element, it was a great vacation with awesome friends in a beautiful part of Thailand.

Despite what the sign says- there was no campfire.
Our tents set up in a row
They had props for photo ops
Love this library card cabinet!

Loved the beautiful flowers covering the hill
Nothing makes you feel like a kid again like a merry-go-round
Beautiful view of the valley
Enjoying the view and the Singha
"I shall rule them all!!"
Sunset over the valley

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Playing Tour Guide

Last week we had our first official visitors! Eric's parents, Tim and Becky, flew over from Wisconsin and we spent 10 days together. It was their first trip to Thailand and our first chance to play tour guide and to show off how well we've adjusted to living in a huge city. 

Since Eric's parents were only in Bangkok for a few days, we tried to fit as many must-visit tourist sites as possible into that time. So we visited:

Standing in front of the giants at The Grand Palace
It was hard to resist taking these cute kittens home with us.

Climbing down the scariest steps EVER!
A long tail boat ride through the khlongs (canals) in Bangkok:

While in the planning stages of their visit, we repeatedly warned Tim and Becky that they would be visiting during Thailand's hot season and to be prepared to be drenched in sweat every day. We thought that the best way to beat the heat would be to spend 4 days on Nai Harn beach in Phuket. So of course that means they arrive during the coldest and wettest March that Thailand's had in years! We refused to let the rain spoil our fun and it's amazing how empty a beach is when it's raining out.

Toasting to vacation. We wouldn't see the sun again for 4 days.
Beached sailboat. It took them hours to get it free
Nai Harn Beach in the rain