Well yes, it has been more than two months since I started this great adventure in Thailand, although it feels like at least two years have passed as every day here is unique and unrepeatable due to the intense way if living everything. This month I have experienced two completely different projects: on the one hand, I have been collaborating almost the whole month in a wonderful place called “Chestnut Hill Eco Resort”, located near Hat Yai city. On the other hand, I had the chance to live in a Buddhist temple with my fellows for a week. This temple was just in front of the famous “Floating Market Klonghae”, where I had the luck of enjoying first-hand the “Festival Songkran” or “Buddhist New Year”, one of the biggest and most famous celebrations in Thailand.
I could easily define with two concepts how my stay in the resort was; these would be ‘relax’ and ‘nature in its purest form’. Relax because the resort is located deep in the jungle, isolated from any kind of civilization. There I could breathe in the silence and tranquillity that Mother Nature brings us. Nature in its purest form because you can find and enjoy, all surrounded by a river, plenty of tropical fruit trees like banana, coconut and mango trees but also orchids and gardenias. All of these trees, of courses, accompanied by a huge diversity of reptiles and insects. My function in this resort has been based on multiple activities such as cleaning and conditioning the surroundings of it, due to the fact that in Thailand there is not so much awareness about recycling and you could find residues thrown down the trees and the river’s shore. Apart from these cleaning and conditioning activities, three days a week we went to a small school next to the resort where we spent the entire morning teaching English to children of different ages through games, songs, mimics and drawings. During our stay, new volunteers from France joined us, and all together, westarted to build in the resort a place with games and musical instruments so children from a town near could come along and spend a nice time with their families having fun.
During my stay in the temple I had the chance to live one of the most important celebrations in Thailand, but what I could not imagine is that during those days a big war was about to start. A water war! For the three days that the Songkran Festival took place (New Year’s celebration), through every corner of Hat Yai city you could see how people threw water or played with ice. They also painted each other’s faces with a mixture of white powder, this gesture symbolizes that the person who paints your face likes you. All along the streets you could find people with bottles full of water, water tanks, hosepipes and water guns ready for the battle! So… As you can imagine, there was no way of escaping there dry, although a good bath on cold water is always a good remedy against the typical warm weather in Thailand.This celebration comes from an antique Thai tradition in which water was thrown to Buddha’s statues in temples, then, once is blessed is taken back and thrown to the elder’s back to show them respect. As the time has passed, this tradition has evolved into the crazy war that it is nowadays.
My duty in the temple was to help with the cleaning and conditioning of the place so everything was ready for the celebration. As it is well known, during these days people attend to the temple in order to pray, meditate and offer food to the monks. I was given the chance to dress up with my fellows with the typical Thai suit in order to enjoy and participate in different rituals and celebrations that took place during those special days.
All in all, I can say that I have lived New Year’s Eve for the second time this year but changing grapes for water! I have entered the year 2560, as the Buddhist calendar starts with Siddhartha Gautama’s death. This is a very curious fact, as I know many people who, before I came here, said that Thailand was a far backward country in comparison to occidental countries. What they did not probably know is that they take us 543 years of advantage!