Songkran reveller

Throwing shapes as well as water
Throwing shapes as well as water
Getting ready to rhumble
Getting ready to rhumble


This young man was “throwing some shapes” between tossing pots of water over people passing by, on bicycles, mopeds, in taxis, the back of pickup trucks, or just pedestrians, like me. The boombox was belting out rap music, and it looks like he needs a belt because the weight of his drenched trousers is dragging them down over his converse sneakers. Alcohol fuelled, no doubt.

I like the contrasts in Thailand. Look at the lad with a pink Minnie Mouse water back pack and his Che Guevara beanie hat.

Audrey’s first birthday party

Ruby, my youngest daughter was 21 on Thursday last week, so I haven’t been to many first birthday parties in the last twenty years. They may have changed a bit, or perhaps it’s a cultural thing, because Audrey’s party was a blast. Cindy and Yannick (her mum and dad) organised the party in the courtyard of the Shoklo Malaria Research Unit (SMRU) this evening. Masses of delicious Thai and Burmese food, sugary drinks in fluorescent colours, fruit and a cold box full of Leo beer for the adults.

After about an hour of eating and drinking, the sky went dark and it started to spot with rain, lightning lit up the black clouds and the heavens opened. The town’s power supply went off, so the unit generator kicked into life and we all took shelter under a corrugated iron roof covering the food. With the combined racket of rain pelting off the roof and the noise from the generator, I could hardly hear any of the conversation. An hour later, the rain stopped and the children’s party games began. But then the adults were encouraged to participate. The first game involved half a dozen couples, with two legs tied together with a string holding on to a balloon a bit like a rugby three legged scrummage. The object was protect your balloon while trying to burst everyone else’s. Amazingly, we won (my partner had played this before and knew a few tricks). I sat out the next game which involved an obscene looking long gourd being tied to hang between the legs. Swinging this back and forth allowed you to push a tomato ten metres to the finish line. It was even more hilarious when the second round involved the ladies.

My moment of glory came in the next event which was an eating and drinking contest, with the added frisson of having to blow up a balloon until it burst. I was last after eating a massive slice of watermelon, tore open the sweet wrapper with my teeth and stretched the balloon as I crunched the candy. Well, the balloons were like superstrong condoms and no one was making progress, so they were switched to thinner, perhaps more sensitive versions. My lung power popped the balloon quickly and I was on to the crumbly cake which tasted like sweet chalk. That dealt with, I put a straw through the bottle cap of some strange liquid and started to suck. The opponent on my left put his thumb through the foil and necked the drink in one gulp. Fair dos, I thought, but he was cited for cheating, and I got another tower of happy faced plastic party cups for winning. I haven’t had as much fun in ages. Thank goodness I didn’t join in the last event which involved dressing up with makeup on, dancing like a hot Korean pop star. I think I’m going to really like working here.

Songkran festival in Mae Sot

Paste a Video URL

Traditionally, Thai people anoint statues of the Buddha with holy water at new year, but nowadays everyone goes crazy soaking people with hosepipes, buckets of water and plastic water guns. As an elderly respected male, with grey hair as a bonus, the first few revellers just poured warm water gently over my shoulders. Then when I was wet through, I was seen as fair game and a preferred target. Luckily my camera was in a waterproof case, inside a waterproof bag.

The clinic at MKT

The clinic at MKT

This building is for antenatal outpatients. There are other buildings: antenatal and postpartum wards, emergency room, inpatient ward, paediatric outpatients, special care baby unit, research, lab and admin block. Very tidy, neat and well run.