The grand finale of our Songkran experience started like the other days – we were promised afternoon sanook and told to wear nice clothes, but offered no further instructions (that we understood).
Around noon all the regular friends and family arrived at the house and everyone was drinking yet again. The women were clad in their finest dresses; the men wore their flowery Songkran shirts. In the driveway, a large money tree sat on a cart, and we were told that we’d be taking it to the temple. I felt bad because I’d already downed a few beers and had on shorts. I didn’t want to be out of place at this reverent ceremony when we took an offering to the temple. This is actually what I thought. I was so young back then.
After we’d all been hanging out and partying for a while, a band with a dozen percussionists and two electric guitarists, whose instruments were plugged into a large battery-powered speaker on a cart, appeared in front of the house.
The band started playing psychedelic punk-rock songs which attracted the townspeople like moths to light, and an impromptu street party broke out in front of the house. I went from worrying about being too drunk to wondering if I had enough beer. After a critical mass of people arrived, the party flowed down the street, sweeping up the entire town the way a flooding river picks up debris. Eventually, all of Baan Du Laat was engaged in a raucous party fueled by pure, unfiltered joy – and lots of alcohol.
The parade moved very deliberately with the band ripping off one song after another. In addition to the dancing, singing and drinking, the parade featured a full on water fight. Kids with buckets and super-soakers attacked partiers, and adults poured ice cold water down the backs of friends to symbolically wash away their sins.
About an hour after we started, we arrived at the temple and instead of stopping for a ceremony, we kept on going. I thought we were going to drop off the money and the party would be over, but instead everyone stocked up on booze at the adjacent store. The shopkeeper was proactive – he had several large chests full of ice cold beer. He was, in that moment, a national hero. I bought a couple bottles of beer and we kept on going.
Many locals were not taking the risk of the stores being stocked with beer. People carried around large buckets of booze, some with dozens of straws poking out so revelers could get a sip on the fly. And of course the Booze-Pushers were out in force, pouring whisky down the gullets of all the revelers.
Every time I saw Kristi, she was dancing with a different lady who was showing her the intricate hand movements of Thai dancing or posing for photos with assorted people. Everyone wanted to meet the blonde farang and she kept acquiring fresh drinks. She also managed to acquire a child. A little girl clung to her side during the entire parade. She was unshakable. In fact, she lives in our spare bedroom now. We don’t know who she belongs to.
The parade arrived at the edge of town, and ran along the rural highway. A clean black car drove by slowly, and left with chalky wet handprints all over it. Another passerby drove by on a motorbike. He left town soaking wet.
Eventually, we circumnavigated the town and returned to the temple after dark. Instead of a ceremony to donate the money, the band played several songs and the partying reached its apex. Everyone, from teens to senior citizens, was sloppy drunk, disheveled, and soaking wet.
Mercifully, the band finally stopped playing and the party disbanded. We returned home exhausted but happy. I fell asleep with psychedelic Thai songs stuck in my head.
Day 5 – Travel to Krabi
During our stay the family took great care of us. Kristi is a pescatarian, so each morning they served us blah pow, just like they do at the restaurant in Bangkok. We slept in one of the only air-con rooms and they bought us gifts and made sure we had a great time.
Even so, being in Baan Du Laat was a challenge. Drinking alcohol all day wore out our livers and speaking Thai all day exhausted our brains. My back hurt from sleeping on thin mats and I was constantly dehydrated from the summer heat and alcohol. We were out of our comfort zone, which was fun, but we were tired. We needed some comforts. We left on day five to fly to Krabi for a few days of beach and sea.
All throughout our stay, Pat would say “bee na mai?” (You come back) next year? We’d always reply with an enthusiastic “Tuk-bee!” – every year! – in part because we were having so much fun, but also in part, because we were always drunk.
Pat and Krong drove us to the airport, and as we said our goodbyes she reiterated. “Bee Na?”
And we gave our standard and enthusiastic reply – “Tuk Bee!” ◊
Songkran Parade Photo Gallery
Links to Part 1 and 2
Stay tuned for Part 4 – Black and White Photos of the Songkran party after dark