Published: May 19th 2009April 25th 2009
Black and white squirrel
We also saw a pure white squirrel which is like wearing a sign that says, "EAT ME!" Maybe he's an illegal immigrant from the South Pole.
We left Lao and headed to Kao Yai National Park in Thailand. It is one of a few places in Asia where you have a chance to see truly wild animals in a decent size sanctuary. We even got to see wild gibbons and an elephant. But bajeebers, the amount of leeches around was insane in the membrane! Millions of them inched across the forest floor and if you stopped for a few seconds you would see waves of them heading towards you. They can sense heat and vibration.
We arrived in Bangkok just in time for the annual Songkran Festival which is the celebration of the Thai New Year. It started out at 6:30 in the morning with an alms giving ceremony. Khao San Road, a.k.a. the backpacker ghetto, was closed to traffic and covered with white. People lined the street, kneeling and holding packages of canned food and toiletries. There were prayers and some community wide repeating of lines said by a head monk that reminded me of Psalms exchanges in church. We all bowed three times in respect of the monks when requested. Then the monks walked down the center of the street and everyone put the
Mama and baby gibbon
Wild gibbons were amazing to see. They can swing from limb to limb fast and effortlessly. It's very graceful to watch. They have the longest arms relative to their body than any other member of the ape/monkey family.
alms into their bowls. The English interpreter kept saying to put the alms in the monks' "bowels" which we had a hard time not snickering about. There were way more alms than monks so the majority of goods were sent to needy families in the south. A Thai woman kneeling next to us gave us each a care package to put into the alms bowls. How wonderful Thais are to include foreigners in their celebrations! And after the event we were all told to applaud each other for coming and to congratulate each other. How happy and positive!
Then the fun really got rolling. Thailand is HOT, HOT, HOT at this time of year so the water festival that ensues is a huge relief and loads of fun. Everyone gets into a water fight using everything from bottled water, super soakers, buckets of icy cold water, garden hoses to even elephants! And after a few hours of soaking fun, you learn the things that incite a good splashing by us and everyone else. Don't look uptight, don't wear white, don't ride a motorbike or a tuk tuk, don't run (it's like dragging a mouse in front of a cat),
They live in family groups and are territorial. They give out whooping calls to let the neighbors know it's their turf and not to get any wild ideas.
don't wear a backpack or hammer pants... but really, there was no way to not get soaked. And lots of people walk about with buckets of talc paste. They slim your face with the goo but they are so polite that they always say, "Sorry!" as they gently swab your cheeks followed by, "Happy New Year!" It's a giant party in the streets and we had such a good time getting drenched and doing the drenching that we laughed straight through the four day festival. Virtually everyone seemed incredibly happy. Well except for a foreigner or two who insanely didn't want to get wet and thought that this was a possibility. I swore that if there were any cancer cells in us before this event there are zero left now! If I am ever diagnosed with cancer, I hope it's in April and I can fly to Thailand for some fun water therapy.
P.S. The first Lao blog posted on April 13th had no pics because the service provider changed servers and had a giant "oopsies!" moment. Anyone like us who posted pictures during the week lost them. So I'll have to repost those pics. We're heading to Myanmar
Look at me, I'm a boy!
He seems awfully proud of his long danglies.
tomorrow for about 3 weeks so it won't be any time soon. Stay tuned.
P.P.S. Somehow this blog didn't get posted before we left for Myanmar. Better late than never.
There are more photos below