Thursday, April 12, 2012

Happy Songkran: Panic/Partying on the Streets of Bangkok -- Again?

"Are you okay?"

"Watching news..."

So read the subject line and the opening line of the email I read first thing this morning from my friend Deirdre in New York City. The last time I received such a cryptically worded email was six years ago when I was on vacation in Buenos Aires. After a brief Internet search, I found out that I was out of a job, thanks to the folding of Teen People magazine, and free to move to BA. Tears... of joy?

Although there could very well once again be a dark and bright side to whatever situation I was about to encounter, it's not exactly the sort of thing you want to read first thing in the morning. But I had woken up. I was still alive. That had to count for something, right? And I was feeling pretty good. Better than usual, in fact.

I looked out of the window, just to be on the safe side. All of the buildings were still standing with the blue clear morning sky practically glowing in the background. There were no reports of disaster on BBC, Fox News or Channel NewsAsia. Was no news good news?

I consulted my Facebook News Feed just to be on the safest side possible.

"real tsunami or media bullshit again," I read several status updates down from someone who recently told me that he was in Japan last year just in time for the big earthquake there. As I eventually found out on msnbc.com's World News page, there was a 8.6-magnitude earthquake yesterday in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Indonesia, in a similar location as the 2004 9.1 Boxing Day temblor that resulted in 230,000 deaths.

Tremors were reportedly felt as far away as Thailand, though if Bangkok shook at all yesterday, I must have been too busy to notice. (And thankfully, I skipped both the news and Facebook last night.) From what I immediately gathered in the status-update comments, Phuket was bracing for possibly impending tsunamis.

I flashbacked to last October when central Bangkok was bracing for an inundation that never really arrived. I blamed the media then for inciting panic on the streets of Bangkok, which resulted in a rush on local supermarkets and 7-Elevens and a weeks-long dearth of bottled water on store shelves. My best friend Lori is arriving in Bangkok next Tuesday. We've survived near-disaster together before -- specifically, the Northeast blackout in the summer of 2003 -- but I don't want us to have to ration water again when she gets here!

Apparently, all's clear -- for now. Phew!

Happy Songkran/Thai New Year, by the way.

I'd wondered on December 31 why one of the party capitals of the world had celebrated New Year's Eve with such a notable lack of gusto, but after talking to my editor at the Bangkok Post and the lady who cleans my apartment twice a week, I now know why. From April 13 to 15, Thailand will be celebrating its own New Year with a three-day celebration known as Songkran.

I'm not sure what to expect, having only heard about it for the first time last week, but I'm assuming that there'll be lots of eating, lots of drinking, lots of dancing, lots of shouting, and, according to Wikipedia, the distinct possibility of being doused by water while walking down the street.

Ooh, I can't wait! But wait, does that mean I get to make another round of New Year's resolutions? I can't even remember the ones I made a few months ago, or if I made any at all, but I already know what my next one will be: No more checking email first thing in the morning. It can be hazardous to your mental health.
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