4/13 – Happy Songkran to you! It is our first day in Chiang Mai, and we ventured out into town by mid-morning to see what we could see. It is a warm, sunny day, and we could hear the birds singing outside. Our sweet hotel lady reminded us that it was the first day of Songkran, and we were going to get wet today, so I put my camera in a plastic bag and we left most of our stuff in the room. I asked her for more details about the New Year holiday, and she said that because it is very hot in Thailand, getting someone wet is an act of kindness, and that we would be wet with love and respect. That sounds so nice!
We didn’t have an agenda for the day, but getting new eyeglasses was on our list of things to do while we are in Thailand, and our map showed that we were just a 10 minute walk from the RAM Hospital with highly recommended eye doctors, so we decided to try that first.
The main street was already crowded with people and food carts, loud thumping music and young folks armed with plastic buckets and super-soaker squirt guns. As their attention was aimed toward the street, we tried to walk between the food stalls and the rows of shops, as the revelers were very polite about not wetting the proprietors or their food, and we didn’t want to arrive soaking wet.
Right inside the entrance were huge signs identifying each specialty area, with smiling staff waiting under each sign. We walked over to the Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat area, and asked if it was possible to get an eye exam today. “All doctors on holiday”, we were told, “come back on the 16th.” Drat!
We walked back through the lobby and spied the ortho area. Maybe we could get my follow-up shoulder X-Ray while we were here? We explained to the lovely young receptionist (everyone seems to be young and lovely here!) about my broken arm and asked if it would be possible to see a doctor today? Of course! We were ushered right in, had my vital signs checked (I’m still vital, thank goodness), spoke to the doctor, was escorted across the aisle for an X-Ray, and back to review the results with the doctor, all within about half an hour. Happy to say that my broken arm is just about healed, but there is a little spur of bone that sticks out in the wrong place that is interfering with my ability to freely move my arm. The doctor recommended some physical therapy, and I was escorted upstairs where a lovely young therapist measured my range of motion, applied heat to loosen my muscles, gave me four exercises to practice every day, did some ultrasound therapy, applied a cold pack to reduce inflammation, and sent me on my way. Total for the exam, the consult, the X-Ray and the physical therapy, in a sparkling clean modern hospital where everyone speaks (some) English? $47.00. And they take MasterCard. Easy to see why so many retirees come here to live!
The sun is high in the sky, so no one seems to mind being doused. Everyone is very polite, wishing us happy new year as they dribble water down our backs or squirt our legs. They’re very careful not to splash faces, and they keep away from the street vendors. Trucks roll down the street, truck beds filled with young people throwing water out at passersby.
The air is filled with the thump of techno music and the squeals of drenched young girls. Kids are having a blast. I can envision a similar event in the U.S. deteriorating into a drunken brawl, but alcohol is conspicuously absent from this party. Everyone is just having a good time, and so are we!