Songkran in Khao Yai

Songkran arrived at last, and with it the heat of summer. Now, you may think we are city folk, but actually we are not. Because I honestly would rather have a hot poker in the eye than spend Songkran getting pushed and shoved and firehosed in downtown Bangkok. I know, I know-usually I just embrace the event wholeheartedly and throw myself and my boys into the occasion. This time. not. so. much.
So we packed up the car, dog and all, and headed north. About two hours north to the hills. And about that embracing? We did that too.
You see, when you get out of the city, they still celebrate Songkran like its New Years Eve, because for them it is. It just happens to last three days. And like almost everything the Thai's do, they do it well-meaning and in the nature of kindness. So we were pleasantly surprised to find we could roam and venture north of Khao Yai National Park past lovely little villages and find the festivities in full swing, minus the sweating and firehoses and drunk farang.
So it would start like this. And you would drive up to small crowds or families hanging by the side of the road with a tell-tale plastic barrel presumably filled with water. There would be dancing, loud music, children.

If you slowed down like these guys, they would splash you gleefully or wave you over to gently pat white paste on your face and say a blessing. Yes, that's a mickey mouse water gun pack. Mickey Mouse. And four guys clinging to a ceramic barrel of water in the back of a pickup truck, a sight which was repeated all three days.

We had packed our arms as well.

Enough for all of us.

So not only did we get the lovely experience of cool fresh air, scenic mountain and valley landscapes, but we also had a lot of fun and laughs. The Thais we battled with water were so amused to see a carload of farang cruising around, getting soaked. My husband was even offered a beer and ice a few times. Right in the car window. No joke.

Sometimes we left the windows up, but mostly we did not.

This cute kid got a little creative with his paste.

And this happened to me all weekend long, so I feel VERY blessed.

A Little Bit of City, A Little Bit of Country

This week was filled with a lot of highs, and very few lows. I must confess that the week before was not one of my best; turning 39 was depressing, I was feeling a bit stretched, and was ridiculously nervous about an Easter event I had to prepare. This week, on the other hand, was phenomenal. My office is a fantastic place to work, my kids have been behaving SO WELL I have to blink hard sometimes, and my husband and I are enjoying some long-awaited together time.

I was saying the other day that living here isn't always the greatest. Most of the time it is. The schools are fantastic, the people are so friendly, the food is delicious, the weather is beautiful, and so much more. But when its bad, it can be really bad. You can't just have bad days here, because if your day is just somewhat bad most of the time some part of the city or its locals will cheer you up with some random act of kindness. Or you go out and get a big batch of sweet spicy som tham, and all of a sudden the world is a better place. Seriously.

But then there are those rare days that cannot be saved by kindness nor som tham. And those days are abysmally bad. They are usually so hot that you wish you could do nothing all day. But you can't. And after an exhausting day you are sweat-soaked, dehydrated, and demoralized by some of the things you see around you. I don't want to go into any further detail, but there are those days. And they are few. And you won't hear about them from me again, because I hate complaining. But I don't want to outright lie to you and say its always peachy in Bangkok. It almost always is. But the week before my birthday? Not so much.

The following week, like I was saying, was certainly peachy. It was downright awesome.

Thursday we finally ventured to Asiatique, the shopping, dining and entertaining destination on the Chao Phraya, for our weekly date night. I'm sorry I put it off for so long, but at first it seemed like it would be a pain to get there and back.

Which, of course, was not the case. Duh.

So, after a quick BTS ride to Saphan Taksin, we hopped the free ferry boat after a 10 minute wait, and stepped onto the pier and into another world. Bangkok just amazes me sometimes.

There were beautiful restaurants, cute rooftop sushi bars, pubs, spas, and of course shopping. It was like stepping into Chatuchak without the narrow alleys, close calls with cars, and deceptive prices.

We stopped at several spots for a cooling beverage, ogled the thai-style decor for sale in some of the shops, and finally settled for a quick dinner right at the pier at "Happy Fish."

It appears there were a great many happy fish around Asiatique-you could also stop by this fish spa and have your toes nibbled and legs exfoliated. We passed it twice, and I loved hearing the kids giggle at the sensation. I suppose we will have to try it sometime, but since it presumably does not include a calf and scalp massage, I'm not in any hurry. Thailand, you spoil me.

We took a ride in the ferris wheel for just 250 Baht per person (air-conditioned ferris wheel, I kid you not) and enjoyed a beautiful view of the city at night, before heading home to get some rest.

Saturday we woke, and packed the car with pies, goodies, and gifts and set off in our flowery Songkran shirts for a party in the country.

I know I go off all the time about how wonderful our nanny is, and for that I do apologise. But we really lucked out when we found her because we were looking for an employee, not a servant, and she has a strong enough personality to hang with us and our exuberant boys. Some of the behavior I see nannies tolerate from the kids they care for shocks me, and I was glad to have someone who wouldn't put up with that nonsense from my boys ever. She knows she wouldn't be doing me any favors if she did.

So we have become so comfortable that we were actually invited to her family's annual BBQ/party, a huge fete where all the aunts, uncles, cousins and friends gathered to eat, celebrate, laugh, etc.

And then someone let the farangs come.

I can't tell you how pleasantly surprised I was when we arrived and discovered they had a stage set up with a sound system and band, a caterer and tons of yummy food that was served fresh for hours on end! Thais know how to party. Oh yes.

We feasted on grilled prawns, tom yum goon, fried trout, spicy fish salad, and all sorts of delicious things. We ate until we were totally fully.

And then we ate some more.

We smiled, clapped, and played with the family even though only my husband spoke thai, and only a few of them spoke english. It didn't matter-we were accepted, even if it was only for their amusement- and had a fantastic time.

 After an initial bout of shyness, the boys began to socialize as kids do. Little P discovered he was the center of attention, so he sat on the stage next to the MC most of the afternoon.

The boys discovered their hosts were generous, as after the daughters performed a funny dance with wigs and other silliness, their family members came up one by one and handed them 100 baht notes. When the opportunity arose, the boys demonstrated their dance moves as well, much to every one's amusement.

They helped hand out gifts. They were allowed to tap on the drums. They just had a grand old time, and we did as well.

My favorite part of the party, however, was getting to see our nanny's two sons play with their band. So shy in person, I was happy to see how talented and brave they were to perform in front of their whole family, and I can only imagine how proud their parents were of them too.

We are not very different after all.

The afternoon reminded me of parties at my parents' farm, where a few canopies for shade and some tables spread with food were all we needed to have a wonderful time.

Sitting around, admiring each others' kids, it was exactly the same as back home. We don't speak the same language here, but that never really bothers me anymore, because in Thailand a genuine smile is enough for any situation.

And as you can see, there were a lot of genuine smiles that day.