Saturday, December 07, 2013

Celebrating His Majesty's 86th

I stay in the so called rural areas. I was told that during Thai's Father's day (the King's birthday on every 5th Dec), it's good to visit this mysterious "tae-sa-ban" thing that goes on near the local sub-district office. And so I did. Finding it was not difficult. For some strange reasons, it seems people in the local community were given yellow shirts splashed with a dash of blue. There were hordes of them streaming into a small soi well decorated with colorful neons, much like moths attracted to lights. Just follow them we did. Parking was impossible, so we parked far out on the main road and took a brief walk in the cool winter weather towards to congregation at a temple.

The Crowd
There, we found a large gathering, a well lit stage with projector screens put up. Free drinks and food flowed, there was no need to pay for them. There were of course some other makeshift stalls set up in the vicinity where we could pay for food if we did not want the standard free food stuffs. There was a reception, kind of setup like a wedding one, where we signed our names and was issued with yellow candles which will be lit later on.

Later on means some specific timing, at 7.19 pm I was told, 19 because it had a 9 in there and 9 is a lucky number in Thai. Government officials, both men and women, dressed in their white attire soon took on the stage and started to address the crowd with their welcome speech. They looked dressed like sailors from teenage Japanese fantasy comics. And then, when the time was right, we were told to lit up our candles. Not all of them are smokers, they got no lighter in their pockets. And so as we lit up, we passed on the flame, candle to candle, for those who requested. There was a kid in front of me, it was quite pack and I had to be cautious all the time not to set his head on fire.

Then, the stage played the royal music, the same one that is played in cinemas before the show starts. We all stood on attention. And then my hair stood on attention too thanks to the middle aged sailor moon dressed lady addressing us who went on to sing aloud. They should have at least screen who can sing normally and who sings like a chicken being slaughtered. Soundtrack.. ... where is the original soundtrack.. . I looked towards the Buddha and prayed for original soundtrack. .. . . .

We lit our Candles
After the ordeal, the real show began with the onset of what sounded like a series of loud low resonating crack of cannons. The backdrop of night sky saw several trails of red phosphorus shooting up into heights before they exploded into a thousand streamers in an effect like a fast blooming flower. The crowd cheered, more fireworks followed and the show went on for a good 15 minutes or so. In between, we held our candles high in synch with the cheers that went on. We looked into the skies that was then a continuous kaleidoscope of luminescence. Each bloom of lights seemed impressively getting larger and larger. We tilted our heads high and it was hypnotizing when there was no reference of ground in sight, it was like we were traveling into the heart of display as the growing blossom of lights extended beyond the vision our eyes could cover. Then I realized, the fireworks were indeed getting closer and above the entire crowd.

The launch pad was a mere 50 meters behind where the stage was, I am not sure if having fireworks detonated above our head, even at heights, was a good idea. I am sure in some other countries there did be strict safety regulations, but here, getting the show as near to the audience as possible is more important. Minute flickering compounds of the display were seen descending onto the crowd occasionally, but no one was complaining, and no heads full of hair was on fire. So I supposed that's what's the free drinks were for too, just in case.

After the arsenal of impressive fireworks were exhausted, the stage was cleared for the live band and dance on stage. The entire place was then fogged up and the smell of gunpowder was rather suffocating to me at least. Many did stay on to enjoy the show. Thais are quite accustomed with smoky environments after the recent spate of police firing tear gas at the protestors. However, we decided not stay on because I did not bring along my anti-gas chamber mask. We left on the same well lit soi we came, the celebrations continued in the temple.

Candles Issued
Free Drinks
Fireworks Above

Very Smoky Aftermath

Well Lit Narrow Soi

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