Whoever heard of Songkran (Thai New Year)?
Except every Thai person. And every Cambodian. And every Laotian. And yes, there’s probably a couple of other South-East Asian nations who know all about it. But apart from quite a few million people, whoever heard of Songkran?
Not me. Not before now.
And for every clever dick who has heard of Songkran, did you know that every antiques shop and hairdresser in Bangkok is closed on Songkran Day? Ha! Bet you didn’t.
It turns out I was horribly jetlagged when we arrived in Bangkok, so I slept a good deal of Songkran Day. Doug has a completely different metabolism, though, so after a quick sleep he leapt up and got moving while I slumbered on.
|Water canons are used for fun during Songkran|
The Songkran celebrations are said to be the biggest water-fight in the world, with everyone squirting each other with water guns. So they’re good fun in this hot weather. Doug came back a bit soggy. And he found the local hairdresser momentarily at her salon, so he made an appointment for me.
So at a civilized hour today, I arrived at the hairdresser to have my hair permanently straightened. ‘Permanent’ means about six months in the hair-straightening world.
They do a great job in Bangkok (and Singapore). They use strong chemicals – they kind of nuke your head – and take ages and special care to get it straight, straight, straight.
|It took 2 hairdressers to tame my curls|
But my hair has other ideas. It’s determinedly curly. Sideshow Bob would be proud of how steadfastly frizzy my hair is and intends to remain. The hair straightening chemicals used in Australia are like lolly-water to my hair. It’s even a challenge to Asian hairdressers, who have an arsenal of chemicals at their disposal that would put rogue governments to shame.
So as much as the hairdresser tried, my hair repeatedly Zoinged back into curls. She called in her trusty assistant, and between them they grit their teeth and got to work. And slowly, eventually, after four hours, my hair relented.
Now, as I type, it’s straight, straight, straight. When I wake up in the morning all I’ll need to do is shake my head like a girl in a shampoo commercial, and walk off with it looking fabulous.
|Enormous bronze Buddha for sale|
We’ll see how long it lasts. I can't get it wet for five days, so last minute Songkran festivities are out for me.
Meanwhile, most of the antiques shops had reopened after Songkran Day.
No harm in looking is what we always say. It costs nothing to look. But of course there’s plenty of harm because we never just look.
It’s Doug’s birthday on 18th April, and that was our rationale this time. So we carried off two Han Dynasty cocoon wine jars. They date to 200BC and they’re pretty fabulous.
Cocoon jars were used in the tombs of Nobles and Royalty, to hold wine. They were only ever used as funerary objects, and because you had to be an important person to get a tomb in ancient China, these jars aren’t thick on the ground. Let alone affordable. But these were a very good price, plus we received another discount because they’re birthday gifts for Doug, and another because it’s Songkran.
|If only it would fit in the hand luggage.|
Soon we're heading off to the airport, for the flight home. We expect the Immigration officials to be the same as they were on arrival - friendly and festive, all of them dressed in luridly bright, floral shirts to celebrate Songkran.
We expect the Customs officials to be same as they ever were. Black uniforms, scowls, jack boots. But you can tell they're thinking how much they'd like to squirt you with a water gun. I'm sure it's something like that.