The Thai New Year festival has arrived, and it has already proven to hold all the marks of a great summer holiday. Despite my disdain over the prospects of being doused with water by strangers, I cannot help but be caught up in the feel of the week. Yesterday, just like the days leading up to summer holidays in the US, was slow and joyful. Bangkok emptied out as people have already begun leaving town to see relatives and celebrate in other parts of the country. Traffic (although still putting many other cities' to shame) was lighter and less frantic than usual. People, in cars and on foot, ambled happily through the heat and bright sunshine.
Things seemed to move slower. Formality was dropped in favor of celebratory casualness. Employees in restaurants and shops left uniforms at home in favor of the brightly colored, floral Songkran shirts that are now all over Bangkok's streets. The grocery store, just as before Fourth of July weekend back at home, was packed at lunchtime with last minute shoppers picking up beer and barbecue supplies (not to mention the water guns for sale right next to the check-out). The shelves were picked over, but everyone had bright greetings for one another, chatting over the cranked up Songkran songs playing on the speakers.
By yesterday many of the businesses had already closed up for the (extra) long weekend, signs on the windows advertising that they will open again next Monday. Even street vendors were not in their usual spots. Our water delivery service made a mid-week stop to insure that we were stocked up before they closed down for five days. The delivery men wore brighter smiles than usual and filled the hallway with laughter as they heaved the heavy water bottles from their shoulders.
I've changed my tune considerably - it's impossible not to love this spirited Thai holiday. I will be throwing myself into the celebrations this week....and perhaps even engaging in a little water-dousing myself.