Under The Protection Of The Three Brothers Pii (Ghosts) Part 1
It never ceases to amaze me. Thailand that is; its people, its culture, the religion, the superstitions, and the depths to which some Thais, the Isaan country folk in particular, believe some of these superstitions.
During Songkran it is the time to give Buddha, his statues at least, his once a year bath. This year, after many years visiting the Land of Smiles, I finally was there during this holiday. Luckily for me I spent all of Songkran up in Surin and the village, which is much more laid back and civilized in its celebrations of the Thai New Year. Oh, there were numerous children, and some young at heart adults to be sure, applying scented water and baby powder to the unwary in a less than respectable manner, but from the complaints I’ve heard from many farangs it was nothing like in the bigger cities and tourist centers. Here in the hinterlands of Isaan there seemed to be a bit remaining of the original intent of the holiday. It still remains something other than the full out war zone of Waterworld that it has evolved into in other areas. This being said I still kept my truck’s windows up and the AC on. Snipers and guerillas have infiltrated the community and occasionally could be seen squirting and soaking one and all from the sides of the highways and byways. Still not so bad that you couldn’t walk or drive the streets in fear of having to change your clothes every hour or so, and most combatants were kids, and not that many at that.
Anyone using a motocyke as their main means of transportation during this holiday is extremely foolhardy in my opinion, or just unlucky and/or poor enough to have no other way of getting their butts from one place to another. I have a pick up truck, with decent AC, thank Christ, the windows of which remained firmly closed for most of the holiday as I tooled around the city, and the rural byways and village roads back and forth to our own village abode. Those on motocykes were fair game for anyone on the roadside with ammunition, and it looked like it would be an unpleasant ride during this week if you didn’t like or want to get wet during your jaunt along the sois (roads) to where ever you needed to go. It also looked a bit dangerous to be hit in the face with a bucket of water while you were speeding along at 60 kilos an hour while dodging and weaving past the enemy fire.
Watery ambushes were set up by kids with water filled buckets, funky squirting plastic tubes, which seemed to be the preferred weapon of choice in Isaan, and various pails, buckets, cups, dishes, bowls, ladles, etc., which were used to dispense the liquid blessings of Songkran.
Powders were mostly reserved for hand application of a more personal nature from what I observed up-country, and which I managed to experience quite a few times. Something about a farang just seems to bring out a want or need in most Thais to include us in their sanuk. In the village though most baptisms were done in a more genteel and civilized manner, to the point where they’d even ask you if it was okay to anoint you with the water and powder, which made my first venture into the Songkran holiday much more pleasant than what others I know have been subjected to in Bangkok and Pattaya. I’ve heard the horror stories which abound from farangs of their own Songkran experiences. Mine were much more subdued. Although I did witness pockets of what I can only describe as WMD (Waters of Mass Destruction) warfare being fought here and there during my travels, and I did travel about the Surin area quite a bit.
The best way to avoid getting soaked during Songkran that I noticed is to hang around with a monk or two. They are designated non-combatants, and it isn’t permitted to be splashing the monks from what I saw. So grab yourself a monk or two to walk around with next time you are stuck in the LOS during Songkran.
I traveled to the Chong Chom border crossing to Cambodia twice during Songkran, and was pleasantly surprised to see that farangs are once again able to cross the border into the Cambodia market and casinos there. After talking with the border crossing authorities I was informed that yes, you can now get your passport stamped at the Cambodian border thereby affecting a cheap and easy visa extension of another 30 days on your tourist visa if needed and necessary. This isn’t done at the crossing though, you need to go down the road a ways to the immigration building and pay your 500 baht fee to get the stamp. (This fee is now 1,600 baht.-Cent)
One immigration officer fella even said they could give me a 90 day visa extension there for 1,500 baht. Good to know. (Although now, a few months later, it seems Taksin and the boys have changed the rules and this may no longer be possible, or if possible, much more expensive. We’ll see next trip in October what happens when I talk to the guy. This story was written a few months ago.)
Twenty baht one way purchases one a motocyke taxi from the border crossing into the Cambo market about a kilometer down a dusty red dirt covered strip of dilapidated tarmac. After about one minute behind the mental midget driving my motocyke taxi I had to tell him to slow the fuck down. The guy drove like an idiot, the dirt was a red sand death covering of the potholed tar which caused the bike to slither and slide as we rocketed down the road. I had no desire to spend the rest of this trip healing road rash scabs of an oozing and painful nature if we skidded out on the loose sand and gravel and slippery red dust and hit the pavement, or worse. The guy just laughed, but as I gruffly barked in his ear to “Slow the fuck down jackass!” and squeezed his shoulder rather painfully, he got the message and slowed down considerably to a speed I was more comfortable with. Idiot. I did also note that HE had a friggin’ helmet on. None for the passenger though.
I did manage to score a few cans of Angkor Beer while I was there this time, which is a favored Asian beer of mine. It tastes much better than the Thai beers, even the Beer Chang, which I find acceptable when chilled, and is very cheap. I smuggled a few back over the border into the LOS (Land of Smiles-Thailand) in my wife’s humungous purse. We weren’t searched, but the border cops do check your possessions fairly frequently as you come back into Thailand. I was fully prepared to pay a small bribe if they gave me any guff about the beers, just so I could have the pleasure of quaffing a couple of ice cold Angkor beers direct from the freezer that evening. Very tasty stuff this Cambo beer is. Someone please inform me if they know of a place in Thailand where I can purchase a supply of Angkor Beer. I’d be grateful!
(The Central Scrutinizer)
More magic from Cent.