Sunday, November 23, 2008

Making it to the Hash (Friday, 10/24)

The light and sound show at the ancient capital of Sukhothai

For those who have never ridden in a third-class train car for nearly eight hours through a tropical, mosquito-filled country; let’s just say I don’t recommend it. It was crowded and the benches were almost as soft as concrete. I managed to find one bench that was empty and managed to get about an hour and a half of sleep while laying on my side, folded in the fetal position. While on the train, I met another hasher from Bangladesh named “Rail Jerker” (hash name that is), who also got stuck in third-class because it was the only thing available. We decided to combine forces to try and get to our destination.

We arrived at our station at 5:30am, almost an hour behind schedule. Once there, I decided to wait on the platform for a few minutes to see if I could spot any other hashers. My theory was correct and we found four other hashers trying to make it to Sukhothai, so we combined our forces to help get us there. We were all half awake and only one guy spoke enough Thai to communicate decently, but somehow we managed to get a taxi to the bus station, catch a bus to Sukhothai, figure out where we were supposed to go, and catch another taxi to the hotel.

We arrived at the hotel at 7:00 and found out that registration did not start until 9:00, so we decided to get some breakfast. We went to an open air restaurant for some traditional Thai breakfast. After that I went back to the hotel and pretty much passed out in one of the chairs in the lobby. Rail Jerker woke me up and let me know that he had managed to get a room at the hotel with two beds if I wanted to split a room. At this point, sleep deprived and exhausted, I was quite thrilled at the idea of somewhere to lay down, so I happily accepted the offer.

I woke up about noon and decided I needed to register before I fell back asleep. I walked across the street, registered, came back to the hotel, and passed out again. I woke up about 4:30 and fumbled around the room trying to wake up. By the time I managed to get a shower and actually read through the schedule, I realized it was almost time for dinner, so I grabbed my camera and headed out the door just as people were loading up in the busses. These were of course open-air truck busses: the staple transportation for many Thai. I had seen people riding on top of the busses before, and this was one of the ones with a small railing around the edge, so I decided to give it a try. Driving to the ancient capital, I got the chance to watch the sun set over the Thai countryside with a nice warm breeze blowing in my face… ah, such serenity.
The view from on top of the bus

We arrived at the ancient capital to find large woven mats laid out with short tables on them and dinner already prepared and waiting. I looked around for some native English speakers so I could be included in the dinner conversation, and wound up sharing a table with a guy sitting near the front. After talking with him for a while, I found out that his hash name is “Alcoholiday,” he is from Vegas, and he is six months into a year long hashing vacation around the world. Kick ass. We ate dinner, and told stories about our traveling experiences, all the while being entertained by some traditional Thai music and dance on the stage… all this while having huge statues of the Buddha and the ancient Thai capital as the backdrop, and you have for one amazing evening.

The scene upon arival

Traditional Thai dance with traditional costumes

After dinner we were invited to move to some chairs that had been set up for the “light and sound show.” Whatever. I was expecting something more along the lines of music and a laser show, but what we got was much more interesting. They gave us a large scale performance that had several hundred kids from the local high school re-enacting the history of Thailand, from the beginnings of the empire through the moving of the capital to Bangkok (a period of several hundred years). Probably one of the coolest parts was when they had sword fights with real swords, and were hitting so hard that they were throwing sparks. Over all a pretty spectacular production, and something I am glad that I got the opportunity to see. After the performance, we were invited to take pictures with the actors.

Floating lanterns flying above the ancient capital

Alcoholiday posing for a picture with some of the actors

Me being beheaded by one of the ancient kings

We loaded up on the bus and were driven back to the hotels, where the kegs were tapped and the beer was flowing. Much drinking, singing, and general debauchery ensued into the wee hours of the evening. Eventually a crowd of several hundred dwindles down to about a dozen and we run out of beer. Someone suggests that it would be cool if we had a tap and could re-tap one of the kegs. I walk over to investigate and realize that they have left the taps in the kegs and just turned them off. Sweet! The beer starts flowing again and the few of us who remain sit around talking until no one even knows what time. Eventually, some how, I end up making it to bed for a good nights sleep.

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