Yeah. The Thais know how to party.
Last night I attended a celebration for a young man (I understand he'd just turned 20) who had just shaved his head and will be spending the next while as a monk. This is a fairly common practice, my brother was a monk for a week when he turned 20, one of the Thai teachers told me he was one for 10 days, and another man I talked to about it had monked it up for a month.
Anyhow, I had no idea what to expect. And it turned out to be rather similar to the festival I attended the weekend before. There was a stage with a band and dancing girls, though this time audience members who wanted to dance did so on the ground in front of the stage (of COURSE I participated). There were tables and chairs set up and wait-staff-type people kept bringing more and more food and bottles of Hong Thong (the drink of choice around here, a molasses whisky that gives GREAT headaches). There was a cabaret show at one point in the evening, and a bunch of bikini-clad, GORGEOUS men took the stage (from a distance, none of us would have known they were men without having been told so beforehand) for a few songs, and it was hard to tell when it ended and the real girls resumed dancing.
This morning, I went back to the site of the party with my brother where I was immediately offered food and whisky (which I declined this time). After a few minutes, everyone started moving into the street and we began a very slow procession towards the wat. Now, it may have been slow, but it certainly wasn't solemn. There were several large speakers being pushed along on a cart hooked up to a band who were walking along playing. In front of them people were dancing and passing around bottles of Hong Thong, and behind people simply walked, many carrying what I assume were things to give to the temple and baskets of beautiful flowers made out of ribbon. The young monk walked right behind the speakers, someone standing behind him carrying a huge orange umbrella.
When we got to the temple, we began to circle the main building three times (the music and dancing and drinking carrying on the whole time) very slowly. Every now and then the new monk (or someone else) would throw handfuls of the ribbon flowers into the crowd. They turned out to have coins inside, and kids scrambled all over to grab them (adults too, but generally the kids worked a bit harder for them). It seemed a little odd to me for a while, as it felt so irreverent to be drinking and making so much noise at the temple, and for kids to be climbing on things and diving under statues chasing the flowers, but I found that I really liked it. I'd already felt that Buddhism is more of a philosophy than a religion, stripped of a lot of the dogma that bothers me in other religions, but it was a whole new experience to see... I don't know what.
Anyhow, after the third trip around, the band wandered away, and the people who wanted to keep dancing followed them, and most of the rest of folks began following the new monk into the temple (they'd settled down a bit by the time they got in the doors). I wanted to go in and see what happened next, but my mom kept shooing me away, though I'm not sure why. I don't think there would have been anything wrong with me going in, I think she just figured I probably wouldn't really want to for some reason.
Yeah. Then I rode my bike around with another volunteer and swung by the houses of some other farangs to visit. On the way to the internet shop, some lady called us over and we stopped and tried to talk for a little bit, and it was cool to just have a random friendly interaction. The feeling of community and openness here is probably one of the things I am enjoying the most. Everyone offers food and drinks everywhere we go (and I need to remember that I should be just as quick to offer when I have the opportunity), and I'm just really enjoying Thai hospitality.
Ok. I'm gonna go enjoy the rest of my Sunday.