Monday, April 14, 2008

Thai New Year Songkran Festival

Yesterday was L.A.'s Thai New Year Songkran Festival. It was pretty darn hot, so weather wise, the festival was pretty authentic (Songkran falls during Thailand's hottest time).

For the festival, a good chunk of Thai Town's Hollywood Boulevard was cut off. I got to eat some nice BBQ from Siam BBQ, participate in the curry contest, buy a parasol, and watch some festive performances. Unfortunately, I didn't make it to the Singha beer garden. And I could have used a nice, cool glass of fresh Singha. To tell you the truth, the intense, record-breaking heat, lack of shade, long lines, and the huge turnout, made it difficult to enjoy anything. And I wish the curry competition had been a bit better organized. You had to pay for a ballot, but part of the enticement was that you could try all the curries you wanted. Only some of the booths were giving out free samples and others were charging you. Very annoying since it seemed as if all the samples were going to be free. And I thought the curries would be all Thai but there were at least two Indian curry booths.

The Indian curries were fun. One booth had curries that tasted very Asian, as in Japanese and Korean. Interestingly, curry was introduced to Japan by the Brits, which explains the peculiar, sweet taste (and the Japanese introduced that brand of curry to Korea). The other Indian booth I tried tasted very British -- like a typical local curry house in most British towns. Not too surprised to find out that the owners of the booth had a restaurant in Santa Monica, the ground zero of Brit expats, I've noticed. I'd go to the restaurant because, having lived in England so long, I too get a craving for the taste of a local curry house.

I later found out that the Songkran festival is also known in Thailand as the water festival since people go around shooting at each other with water guns. Boy, do I wish I'd had a water gun. The closest I got was a kid dropping his water bottle and splashing my leg. That was so nice...


I got to try the subway system (the festival was right at one of the stops). Mixed feelings. Like why can't you buy a round trip ticket? If you're only going to take two trips, it doesn't make sense to buy a day ticket. So you end up buying a ticket at each leg since there isn't a validation machine (I mean, come on, that's just basic). Still, nicely air-conditioned and clean.

I finally got to buy a cloth parasol! I'd been meaning to do it for awhile. I paid a bit more than I wanted and the bamboo mechanism looks like it's going to break at any moment but I can't tell you how glad I was to have it at the festival. If I spray some UV spray on it, it'll be perfect for LA summers!

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