2009 Thailand # 5: In Which Ma Baker Strikes Again and Our Neighbours Live Down the Rabbit Hole

The neighbours on patrol...

The neighbours on patrol…

Night before last: Full-scale war occurred again. This time there were guys on the verandah next to ours patrolling with huge guns. I sat across the road in front of the ‘Nice Kitchen’ and watched the action from a different viewpoint. Several rums were handed to me in quick succession, which I only drank to be polite. They pour very weak drinks here though, so even though our locals had been drinking for hours, they were still very mellow and easy-going. I was quite impressed at their lack of loutish behaviour. Gill joined us after a while and we sat around talking and playing guitar and bongos and singing. At about 10p.m. I was ordered to get on a tuk tuk and our friend Chow drove a few of us (me the only Westerner) around the perimeter of Old Chiang Mai. He’s a Bangkok driver, so a lot madder than Chiang Mai drivers, but of course I was already used to that from being in Delhi and Bangkok so I just sat back and enjoyed. At one stage we went past some other falang (foreigners) and I called out to them to help me and that I was being held hostage, but for some reason they just laughed and didn’t come to my rescue. So much for solidarity.

This morning in our street, from up on our verandah –

Fat dog and little dog have their visit.

Artist guy (at the Be Happy Cafe/Gallery) is hanging up yet more decorations (todays lot are paper jellyfish) and preening his beloved plants. He has set up his almost 24/7 music system, which begins with thai music then graduates to western as the morning gets older. Come afternoon, the volume appears to rise in proportion to the mischief going on. Today, besides his coffee menu, he has a menu for beer and whisky as well. Today he is marking as the ‘big day of Songkran’. Big hangover potential anyway.

Locals and falang attending the local cooking schools walk to the food market and then back swing baskets of fresh ingredients.

An old man rides by on his ancient black bicycle that has a bouquet of plastic sticking up in the back carrier.

Dakota, a 13 year old American boy living here for a year, who’s mother is supposed to be teaching but hasn’t got around to it yet, is patrolling the street with a bazooka, looking very serious.

Today is a clear day and down the street, I can see the nearby ‘mountain’ with a Wat near the top. As I look, the first Thai squirrel I have seen scuttles across the road via the power line.

A scooter just drove by with a man and a tiny child on it, who is holding a machine gun – obviously taking no chances.

We had brunch round on Moonmaung St (the main drag)  then bought our drinking water supplies for the day at the 7/11 store. Across the canal, huge crowds were gathered, cheering and having waterfights. We got back safely to the guesthouse (Gill cheating by walking beside a little ol’ lady, while I got drenched) and we applied arnica inside and out to Chow, who had topped off a chair the night before, trying to catch a gecko for us to have in our room. The gecko in question absconded and Chow ended up with a sore back and empty hands.

I went back down the road to sort our one of those awful, kitsch cat statues from China for Gill. She had commented on them the other day, so I bought her one as a Songkran present. They’re horrible little things that sit there waving one arm all day, and now she’ll have to look at it forever because it was a present. Heh heh. Awful, I know, but I couldn’t resist and now every time we look at it we giggle.

I walked for a few miles down the main road trying to find a 7/11 that had a supply of Sprite and took a bit of footage of the goings on. The crowd is now even bigger and spread to both sides of the canal. It has now reached the point of insanity. Wonderful fun though, absolutely no aggravation happening and almost everyone in Chiang Mai seemed to be enjoying themselves. On the way home I walked down an alleyway that had a sign up saying “Mr Deny – Personal Trips’. The English signage here is as delightful as the ones in India.

Chow took Gill and I for another round on the tuk tuk – fully equipped with guns and a huge bucket of water with a very large block of ice in it. People here only sprinkle the elders very gently with a tiny bit of water, and the looks of surpise on their faces when Ma Baker shot them with a strong stream of icy cold water was brilliant. On the second round, they were onto us and we wore many bucket-fulls of water in the face, back, head – everywhere. Those miscreants who were mounted on the back of utes usually had ice cold water like us. The canal water thrown by people standing at the side was lovely and warm in comparison. The main street was actually awash and flooding by this stage, which blew us away. It takes an immense amount of work to flood a street bucket by bucket.

Unfortunately, Chow managed to bump into a little silver hatchback car in front of us a put a ding in the back of it. He and the driver had a fairly civilized chat about it, then the driver’s wife got on the tuk tuk with Gill and I and Chow drove off to deliver us home then sort out the insurance with the car owners. Our new passenger was a snotty young thing who didn’t even say hello. Of course, she copped a lot of bucket-fulls of water along with us, which she seemed very unimpressed about, and Gill, in a very naughty mood by this time, kept shifting on the seat, which was now like a soaked sponge, so that young miss snotty-features got a soaked backside as well. Oh these elders – what to do with them?

Poor old Chow is having a bit of rotten luck really – hurting his back and having a wee car accident, so I shouted the whiskey tonite to cheer him up a little. He’s determined to keep smiling though, bless his heart, and wouldn’t accept any help or money from us.

Later in the evening, yet another water battle ensued – after we’d changed into dry clothes, which seems to be a futile activity really. Artist guy had moved his stereo system to the Nice Kitchen front yard and it’s been on full volume the whole evening. Gill watched some older woman give the locals a telling off about the loudness of the music then get drenched by a bucketfull as she stepped back out on the street. Gill thought it was hysterical and apparently everyone around her was falling about laughing. It really is ridiculous to be serious at a time when every man and his dog is celebrating and having such a good time. People like that need to learn to stay inside their homes during Songkran.

Later again, back off to the ‘Heavenly Beach’ nightclub for some more dancing with locals and the other falang down our street who live at a Guesthouse called The Rabbit Hole, which we think goes rather nicely with the Wonderland sheets we sleep in. We went past the tree again where frogs sit there making funny noises. Chow and Steve the welsh guy tried to tell me that the frogs are snoring, but I think they’re pulling my leg.

A mum shows her son how it's done at Songkran.

A mum shows her son how it’s done at Songkran.

Gotcha!!

Gotcha!!

One of the characters in the Songkran saga.

One of the characters in the Songkran saga.

The Folks from the Rabbit Hole ready for takeoff...

The Folks from the Rabbit Hole ready for takeoff…

A woman finds a safe place (maybe) on the Old Chiang Mai wall.

A woman finds a safe place (maybe) on the Old Chiang Mai wall.

Chow caught sneaking up behind me. He then comes over to the 'Other Side'.

Chow caught sneaking up behind me. He then comes over to the ‘Other Side’.

Carwash on the main street...

Carwash on the main street…

Another Songkran action shot.

Another Songkran action shot.

Neighbour patrolling the verandah. (Face blurred for Ninja capabilities)

Neighbour patrolling the verandah. (Face blurred for Ninja capabilities)

The war goes on...

The war goes on…

This canal on Moonmaung Road, Chiang Mai, was almost empty by the time Songkran had finished. Bucket by bucket...

This canal on Moonmaung Road, Chiang Mai, was almost empty by the time Songkran had finished. Bucket by bucket…

The most impressive water gun I have ever seen. This woman was serious!

The most impressive water gun I have ever seen. This woman was serious!

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