One of my favorite cultural moments while serving as a volunteer was attending a Hindu Festival in Bangkok last October. I went with a friend I met at Saphaipae Hostel, my regular stomping grounds for when I come into town. The hostel is located over off the BTS Surasak station. If you’re looking for a clean place, modern, and with cheap coffee all in one place, then it’s your kind of place.
As I walked the streets in the morning around 8 am, large crowds of people were setting up religious displays. I asked around to find out what was going on and they told me that a Hindu Festival started around 8 pm that night. I was in for quite a surprise. I went out into the streets with my friend around 8 pm as we looked for a place to grab a drink. By this time, the sun had set and thousands of people flooded the streets. Billows of grilled-sausage smoke and incense filled the air and mats sprawled across the streets acting as makeshifts altars. At one point, the thousands of people that filled the streets froze, then picked up a coconut from piles that lines the sidewalks, then everyone simultaneously smashed them on the ground, breaking them open. The water flowed into the streets and gutters. I later found out that it was an act of cleansing to wash the streets of filth.
I wish I could begin to describe the energy in the air. It was unlike any other Thai cultural festival I have been to in Thailand, mainly because it was a Hindu festival and not Buddhist (the leading religion among Thais – 95% of the population). The videos I shot below help draw a better picture. They are some of my favorites here in Thailand.
These are chimes that still rung through the streets at 3 am.
A performance dance at the Hindu festival.
This video and the music is my favorite.
There is a calmness to it all. I’m so lucky and so blessed to have this opportunity. I hope you enjoy seeing some of my experiences. Don’t forget to follow along (click the blue “Come Along Now” button on the right) and get updates via email so you don’t miss a beat. I try to post 1-2 times per month. Or follow me on twitter @JuliaSchulkers for daily photos of Thai village life and the average life of a Peace Corps volunteer.
For more PICTURES and a short story about my weekend at the Hindu festival, please check out Human Touch in the Peace Corps
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P.S. Peace Corps Thailand group 126 invitations are now being sent out. Please feel free to contact me and touch base to get a firsthand experience of what the next two years of your life will be like, especially if you have questions related to serving as a LGBTQ volunteer. I’ll do my best to answer any and all questions. Get ready for a life-changing experience.