April 15, 2016

Visiting Southern Thailand for the Songkran Holiday

In Thailand, they celebrate the new year in April. It's the hottest time of the year, and people splash each other with water to celebrate.

Alan and I decided to take a new AirAsia route from Chiang Rai to Hat Yai, Thailand. It is the only direct flight out of Chiang Rai, other than Bangkok.

Hat Yai is a huge city in the deep South of Thailand, not far from the Malaysian border. Where we live is just a short drive from the Northern border with Myanmar, so basically, it's as far as we could go and not have to deal with getting visas.

Alan chose the flight, and I was in charge of the accommodation, so I chose a small, German-managed beach resort in Songkhla, about an hour from Hat Yai. The beach always helps me relax.

The scene here is serene and tropical. The flower blooms are absolutely technicolor bold, and many buildings and fences are painted to match. My favorite are these big bushes with super-bright magenta flowers. The sea air is warm and clear, which is even more enjoyable because we've been living in crop-burning smoke for the past month. The water is turquoise blue and clear as can be. There are millions of beautiful seashells and lots of tumbled sea glass. The water is the temperature of a warm bath. There is a reason that Thai beaches are famous.

Interestingly, we are way off of the beaten path (still) for foreign tourists. The beaches are empty save for the occasional fishing boat. Most foreign tourists don't come this far south. Most Thai adults don't do the beach the same way that Western people do. Westerners put on their bikinis and sunscreen and lay out in the sun or go swimming, maybe stopping for a drink now and then. In my observation, the Thai way to have a beach holiday involves lots of beach-side picnicking. If you swim, you wear gym clothes for modesty.

The past two days, Alan and I have borrowed bicycles from the resort to ride down the beach road. It was a highlight of my trip for sure. Our purpose was to get to the grocery store in town to buy a few big bottles of drinking water, but the journey was wonderful. We cruised the road with blue-green sea to one side, and lush tropical plants to the other. It was downright hot and the sun was relentless, but occasionally we would get festively splashed by Songkran celebrators.

We picked up green mango salad for lunch both days, a light and cheap option for hot days.

A few people wanted to take selfies with us. We usually oblige, despite how weird it is. It makes me feel like a celebrity, sort of.

We're headed into Hat Yai City today for our last vacation day. I'll miss the tranquility of this resort, and the easy vibe that beach towns usually have. It has helped me unwind and slow down. I guess I can't stay forever.