6th December 2006 (or 2549 if we're talking the Thai year)
Ok, so it’s been a while, I know. It seems like the last week of the course has been really intense, but I guess it was just more work than the week before. In actuality it’s not as much work as I make it out to be, I think I’m just out of practice dealing with large amounts of school work after such a long (but really relatively short) break. I taught tonight, and apparently there are lots of pictures of it, though none of them are on my camera. I’m sure I’ll get them eventually and put them up here. Yesterday (Tuesday the 5th) was HM the King Bhumibol’s 79th birthday and we had the day off of school. I’m not sure how much you know about the King of Thailand but he’s kind of a big deal, even more so than Will Ferrell. He is the most powerful figure in Thailand and most Thais (at least publicly) adore him and the entire institution including the entire story of how he ‘brings the rain.’ The King was born on a Monday and in Thailand all of the days of the week have a colour associated with them. Monday is yellow, and on that day every week you would have a hard time going anywhere and not seeing at least one yellow polo shirt with the King’s crest on the pocket. The Queen was born on a Friday, incidentally, and her colour is blue. Fewer people subscribe to this dress code, but it’s there. Anyway for his birthday in Chiang Mai there was a ceremony at the Tha Pae Gate which is on the Eastern wall of the city about 5 minutes’ walk from my door. It’s the farang center with a Starbucks on one corner and a bunch of guesthouses and booty bars in the area. The ceremony began around 7pm with hundreds of Thais in yellow holding yellow candles and singing the national anthem. The traffic was stopped in what is usually a very busy area. 79 large yellow lanterns were released just before a fireworks display. It was quite the sight but definitely something that was a little too ‘groupthink’ from an outsider’s perspective. I was working hard on my lesson plan but took a break to observe the very short celebration. Alcohol is not supposed to be sold on the King’s birthday but on the way home we spotted a group of Thai men huddled around a ‘whiskey set’ (a popular bar order that usually gets you a bottle of whiskey, ice, soda water, and coke) so Noah and I went for a drink at a pub down the street from my place. The alcohol rule seemed like one of those things that is more in name than in practice. I took a bunch of pictures of the celebration, and some of them turned out. Hopefully it will give you an idea of what I’m talking about.
This is what Tha Pae Gate looks like for the King's birthday during the day. Usually the big set up isn't there, it's just a bit open space that houses tuk-tuks and the Sunday night market.
This is what it looked like on Monday night ... excuse the spots, my camera needs a cleaning.
This is what one of the lanterns looks like. They're actually quite big. One of them caught on fire in the air. A friend who lives northwest of the city said they came down around his house later that night.
This is what the sky looked like. Lots of lanterns with fireworks set off after the lanterns were all released.