Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Village Encounter - Continued

Spend a couple good hours yesterday migrating me blog from spaces to this new one. Seen silly cat and RK using this. Well… it’s a pain to set up Blogger truly, but yes it does offer lots more control, especially if u are a tech freak and knows exactly what u are doing. Well here I am anyhow and to continue my village story I will.

Been working frenziedly, averaging 12pm to 3am everyday for last 2 to 3 weeks. Decided to take a break and severe all associations to work and modern world for a while. Gig (gig is a Thai thing) asked me to go with her to some isolated strange out of this world province where her relatives are for a “festival”. And so I agreed.

Drove 5 hours in me Volvo, following a busload of aunties to finally reach a village. Was in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by scorched farms (because of drought), cows, buffalos, chickens and all the things u can find in Babe the movie. Temperatures soared high as usual, and me perspiring in my underpants.

Then came a very colorful village lorry, those that are powered by a lawnmower and which hogs up single lane roads real well. The mechanical snail was fully loaded with amplifiers, drums, guitars, electric generators and all that seem to come from another parallel dimension. It parked outside the house. And at about 4pm, three kampong teens clad in bright orange boarded and started what sounded like Guns & Roses gone really really really bad. Those sharp strange melodic tones woke me out of my wobbly melt in the sun mode instantly. They call it E-San music and apparently it is very popular in the rural areas. U can even get to see their MTVs on TV. It is song and dance from another age.

Then came along an old guy, reeking of bad alcohol, and he started dancing and terrifying a toddler that was initially standing in front, amazed by the band. I thought it was strange, but what followed was even more alien. Aunties came out of the house and people from the village emerged and followed. Soon, the whole road was filled with about 200 dancing souls of all ages. All seemed to be hypnotized by the tune and in a state of trance, hands performed twirling motions and bodies swinging in rhythm. My jaw was then reaching the floor as I stared with bewilderment.

North East Thailand Village

The procession started and they danced, transverse the road for a good few kilometers as I followed and snapped away on my Canon. In front of the crowd, leading, was an aged woman, hugging a grayed photo of an old man. And so I realized, this was a death anniversary of my gig’s grandfather.

North East Thailand Village

North East Thailand Village

They reached the village entrance, passed what look like small white church with a high chimney, and proceed onto the main road blocking traffic and all. They didn’t care. I asked what the small house was and got replied they burned dead people in there. They have personal village crematoriums.

North East Thailand Village

North East Thailand Village

Occasionally there were oncoming traffic but they had no choice but to slow and ginger their way through the crowd. Men, women, children, all dancing to music so loud u can hear in the next village. Some were already drunk from downing beer as they danced. Village law enforcers holding crude wooden batons were out patrolling and keeping order. It was rowdy and raunchy. Fireworks were let off interrupting Guns & Roses from time to time. Sweets and money were strewn high into the air, falling on a crowd of children who scrambled for them.

It went on forever, and after one and a half hour, gig’s mother came in a van and said she was going to visit some relatives in the next village. We boarded and sat behind on a truck that followed, leaving the procession behind.

Droved passed farms, rivers, and dams till we reached our destination. This village produces silk cloth. They grew particular tress which leaves serves as food for the silk worms in their wooden hut and almost every house has a weaving machine made out of wood in them. As they talked and I wondered around, one of the relatives plucked some really strange fruit from a tree and ate it. Gig came and did the same, but shoved it into my mouth instead. And soon, she was plucking different crop from different trees, all shoved into my mouth. I was afraid to offend the relatives and so I consumed. They tasted sweet on the inside, but I did have to overcome the taste of dust, mud and maybe even insecticide from the exterior first. No joke… u can taste mud on first bite. I did not wanted to eat I am not an overgrown silkworm.

After sundown, we returned to the village. The procession was over, the musical lorry parked outside the house. But, the band was still playing, and people were still dancing. They never got tired. Had dinner, went to a temple next door which strangely had an open-air cinema set up. People swarmed in from surrounding villages for the event.

Power failure - whole village in chaos. Guns & Roses stopped. People under the influence displeasured and began creating trouble. More villagers whom held crude wooden batons beefed up security. Drunken motorcyclist arrested and held in custody in house premise (gig’s uncle is a police). Struggle occurs then followed by fight. Heard baton go “bish bish bish” and then suspect wailing. More police came and arrested two people suspected to be on drugs.

Power restored after an hour. Watched a Thai movie, sitting on the floor. Didn’t pay a single cent because families involved with this “festival” sponsored the event. Bought freshly BBQed cuttlefish from makeshift stall setup around the temple and ate as I watched. Guns & Roses played in the distance. 11 pm movie finished. Watched live Thai boxing in temple. See village kids as young as 10 years old thumping the life outta each other on the ring. 12 am, tired, go back home. Guns & Roses still playing to the crowd outside the house.

Cant sleep.. too noisy. Guns & Roses stopped but cinema and boxing continued till morning. Didn’t sleep well as cheering and movie was still on. Should be about 6am then. Movie stopped and maybe the boxing kids bled to death. Finally……. PEACE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can sleep. 5 minutes later… Guns & Roses started. Went to the toilet and brushed my teeth with anger, cant get no decent sleep.

Procession started again and they danced their way to the temple. Monks came and they had their rituals and rites. It did not end until about lunchtime. It was time for us to return to Bangkok and so we bid farewell to all. We left for our long distance return trip, stopping along the way at some attractions. Guns & Roses was still playing.

North East Thailand Village

Full photo sets at cllim photography.

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