10 Years Ago, Part 7: First Songkran

This is the sixth of a series of photographic blogs highlighting my last days in the U.S.A. and my first full year as an expat in southern Thailand.

My girlfriend-soon to be fiancé-later to be ex-wife at the time was from the north of Thailand and shared her birthday with one of the grandest of the nation’s holidays, that of the Thai New Year or Songkran

Rot Nam Dam Hua, a traditional way to celebrate with elders. Most Thai people go back to their hometowns to meet their elders.  Photo taken at Wat Khung Taphao Ban Khung Taphao, Khung Taphao subdistrict, Mueang Uttaradit, Uttaradit Province, Thailand.  Courtesy of WIKIPEDIA

Traditionally, this was a sprinkling of water over one’s wrists from a small bowl during the hottest time of the year as a sign of good luck.  In the past decade or so, it has become an all-out water fight fueled mainly by sweaty foreigners bringing their SuperSoaker water guns on holiday and fully embraced by Thais who love a bit of fun.  Now, it’s one outlet for Thai youths to peacefully take their revenge on foreigners (farang) by dunking them with water filled with ice cubes and smearing powder on their faces.  It can be a lot of fun but can also wear one’s patience to the bone, particularly in the north where it can go for as long as five days and more.  At least in Phuket, the water festivities are limited to a single day – 13 April – and many businesses are closed in order to keep out the damp.


As Dtim’s birthday occurs on Songkran Day, we originally planned a birthday party but eventually pushed it back to a later date so we could celebrate the Thai New Year together in full-on water fight mode.  She felt for me to truly experience all that Songkran has to offer, Patong Beach was the only place worth going.  As with many things, the first time was the best. 

We set out on a tiny Honda 100cc motorbike fairly early in the day.  As we lived in Chalong, it was quite a long ride to Patong.  The narrow road west was soon clogged with motorbikes and pickup trucks.  The beds of the trucks invariably were packed with people and huge barrels of icy water.  My girlfriend delighted in slowing down whenever their were groups of kids alongside the road armed with buckets and water guns so they could get a good shot at the farang (me!).  I was soon drenched and shivering.  At least I had thought to wrap my camera in a plastic bag but the shots I made while it was inside left a lot to be desired.  Each year, I make the vow to buy a waterproof camera but I never seem to get around to it.  Once we finally arrived at Patong, we spent some time just walking up and down the beach road and the main bar street of Bangla Road just watching the water battles.  Even the local fire truck got into the act with it’s high-powered hoses!


The following two years, we spent Songkran in Patong as Dtim set up drink stands and made a little money selling water and soda.  We separated in 2008 and I spent the next couple of Thai New Years with friends in Chalong rather than brave Patong.  Twice, I tried to escape the holiday by leaving Thailand altogether – first, I went to Laos where I found that Luang Prabang had a similar water fight and another year I traveled to Cambodia where they don’t throw water but I got stuck in the mayhem when I took the train back into Bangkok.  It was so bad that it was impossible to get a taxi to take me from the main train station to the Southern Bus Terminal.  Last year, I returned to Patong for my first Songkran there since 2008.  My bus broke down on the hill going into that coastal town and we had to talk a few kilometers, walking targets the entire way.


I’m not sure how I’ll celebrate the Thai New Year this year.  I don’t want to stay home nor do I want to deal with the crowds in Patong.  The government is urging it’s citizens to practice traditional Songkran celebrations due to the dire water shortage but I’ve seen the giant water cannons on sale at numerous locations around town.  We’ll see…

10 Years Ago, Part 6: First Thai House

This is the sixth of a series of photographic blogs highlighting my last days in the U.S.A. and my first full year as an expat in southern Thailand.

Now that I was a full-time expat in the Land of Smiles, the time came to find a home to live in rather than the dingy but cheap Thai motel in the center of the island.  It was important that we have someplace by the Thai New Year (Songkran) holiday on 13 April as this also happened to be my girlfriend’s birthday and she was planning a huge party. 

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10 Years Ago, Part 5: USA To Thailand

This is the fifth of a series of photographic blogs highlighting my last days in the U.S.A. and my first full year as an expat in southern Thailand.

20060406-090505_10yagoTen years ago – on 5th April 2006 – I left U.S. soil for the last time to date.  However, I have very little recollection of the journey.  Seeing how I had been in Kansas City for a week prior to leaving, I assume I began my flights that day from there.  I really don’t remember, to tell the truth!  I have vague memories of having overweight charges levied against me at Los Angeles International Airport – I was carrying my computer backpack as well as a very large (person-sized) red duffle bag with roller wheels that broke before I’d left the States.  The first set of airport photos seem to be in the terminal and from my plane (China Airlines) in Taipei, Taiwan (the only clue to that location being the “R.O.C.” mentioned on the drug warning signage).

The time-stamp on the photos was read from the metadata, and is some 18 hours behind.  Thus, the first photo in Taiwan (stamped 16:32 5 April, was actually 07:32 6 April local time).

The leg from Taiwan to Thailand went via Hong Kong.  I do remember that we had to deplane on one level, make our way down a series of long hallways, go up a level and we eventually arrived at the gate to board the SAME airplane we’d arrived from Taipei on!  The weather in Hong Kong was much better than my previous 18-hour layover during which the city was being battled by a monster typhoon.  I arrived at Don Muang International Airport in Bangkok mid-afternoon on 6 April 2006, landing alongside a golf course between the runways.  That airport was downgraded to a domestic airport a few years later when Suvanabhumi International opened on the eastern fringes of Bangkok but I believe it is once again handling a few international flights.


I probably flew on to Phuket later that same day and by the evening of the 7th, I was enjoying my first sunset on Patong Beach as an expat rather than as merely a tourist…

10 Years Ago, Part 4: Louisburg & Lawrence

This is the third of a series of photographic blogs highlighting my last days in the U.S.A. and my first full year as an expat in southern Thailand.

The 3rd and 4th of April continued my “photo tour” of places I loved as a kid living in the Midwest.  My sister took me out to the Louisburg Cider Mill.  Interestingly, the land surrounding this spot in Northeastern Kansas had once been occupied by the Confederated Tribe of Peoria which has been formed by several displaced tribes from nearby states.  Eventually, they were forced to Oklahoma and the land occupied by settlers who named the community Little St. Louis; it was renamed Louisburg when the railway tracks came through in 1870.  Visiting the cider mill was a family tradition when I was in high school.  While the apple cider is awesome, my true favorite is their Lost Trail Root Beer.

The next day saw my father, my sister, and myself driving to Lawrence – about 30 miles west of Kansas City – where we spent some time walking around Marilyn’s alma mater, the University of Kansas.  I used to drive to Lawrence frequently to browse in the cool shops on Massachusetts Street (awesome places to find rare vinyl by local bands) and to attend gigs at places such as The Bottleneck and Liberty Hall.  This particular day, an entire decade ago, we had lunch and a beer or two at the historic Free State Brewing Company.


10 Years Ago, Part 3: Kansas City

This is the second of a series of photographic blogs highlighting my last days in the U.S.A. and my first full year as an expat in southern Thailand.

On 2 April 2006, my dad and I spent the day exploring Kansas City, Missouri, so I could take photos that I thought I would show my friends and students in Thailand.  We started out in the historic market area north of downtown KC and made our way south to Union Station, checking out nearby Liberty Memorial (which has since become the National World War I Museum) and The Scout (statue of a Native American astride a horse) before heading through the Westport area and ending up at Country Club Plaza.  Our final stop of the day was a visit to my old high school, Shawnee Mission Northwest.

10 Years Ago, Part 2: Shawnee

This is the second of a series of photographic blogs highlighting my last days in the U.S.A. and my first full year as an expat in southern Thailand.

Ten years ago this week, I arrived in the American Midwest to visit my family before I returned to Asia for what has turned out to be an entire uninterrupted decade.  I flew into Kansas City International from Albuquerque and, par for the course, my father forgot that he had been assigned pick-up duties.  This is one running joke in our family as it wasn’t the first time he’d left me waiting at the airport.  When he did arrive, I was whisked off to my sister’s home in the suburb of Shawnee on the Kansas side of the state line.


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10 Years Ago, Part 1: Albuquerque

This is the first of a series of photographic blogs highlighting my last days in the U.S.A. and my first full year as an expat in southern Thailand.

DSC03645_10yearsTen years ago this week, I made my final trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I’d lived since June 1994, along with my brother-in-law.  We were there in order to clean out my home as I was starting a new life here in Phuket.  Keith and I spent a couple of days putting my furniture and boxes filled with the memorabilia of a life in music, books, and travel into a large storage unit under the watchful majesty of Sandia Peak.  Even my beloved car – a lapis lazuli Dodge Neon – went into storage when we were finished.  I thought I’d return to the States within a year or two in order to retrieve my things.  Alas, it was never to be.

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