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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Happy New Year from SE Asia

Here in Southeast Asia, New Year is approaching. In a few days it will be 2556 BE (Buddhist Era) in Cambodia. Laos celebrates on the same days (April 13 through 15) as it is the end of the harvest season. The Thai New Year is a little off; maybe they like going to two parties. At any rate, throughout SE Asia, the monsoon should be coming soon, and with it the rains. It is hard to travel in the rainy season.

It's a big holiday for the Khmer people, and they are not content to settle for the three official days, as this is an opportunity to return to the provinces and see family and just have fun. The Khmer people have a great aptitude and appetite for partying.

Theoretically, each of the three days has a specific function that is tied closely to activities at the pagodas. The first is Maha SongKiran, when offerings are made; the second is Virak Wanabat, which is supposed to be about charitable work and helping the poor; the third day is Tngay Leang Saka, and if you do it right, you cleanse the statues of Buddha with perfumed water.

It is a little crazy all over the country this time of year. Khmers sort of warm up with celebrating the Chinese New Year in Feb, and brought in the year of the dragon with some great revelry. So we expect stores will be closed. We've been stocking up and getting ready to hunker down. Traffic gets wild, and there is more than the normal amount of drunkenness, as you might expect. After all, it will soon be 2556, so check your calendars.