Sunday, April 13, 2008

Happy New Year!

Today was Thai New Year Day's Songkran Festival in the part of Hollywood called Thai Town. The Festival included a parade, a curry contest, booths with food, Thai crafts and merchandise, a stage with dancing and even a ring where Muay Thai boxing took place.

The festival organizers had arranged for off-site parking at the Kaiser Permanente facility at Sunset and Vermont, and were running shuttle buses, but I ended up taking the Red Line one stop to Hollywood and Western. It was a lot cooler waiting on the train platform. The Hollywood and Western station with its confetti-like design was a good start for a festival.

It was hot today, and the booth selling waxed paper parasols got a lot of business. Beyond the small stage where ornately costumed dancers performed was a series of green-roofed booths with shrines to the Buddha where visitors could make a small donation for the chance to sprinkle the god with water. Songkran is known as the "Water Festival", and part of the fun is to sprinkle - or throw - water on one another to celebrate. Today was a perfect day to be sprinkled!

In one booth, Buddhist weddings were being conducted, and - for a small donation - you could dip water onto the folded hands of the bride and groom, blessing their union. I did so, and congratulated the happy couple. After I'd made my tour of the festival and passed the booth an hour later, they were still there getting married by other festival-goers, so they must have had a truly memorable wedding day.

In another booth, an array of the most mouthwateringly beautiful desserts were displayed on tiered trays. I asked if they were also selling the desserts, but the attendant said no, they were just for display. Pretty incredible, though, aren't they?

Other booths had everything from crafts and clothing to on-site masseurs. There was a demonstration of something with the intriguing name of a "Wrinkle Iron" that claimed to do away with facial wrinkles - but I didn't check it out. There was a roulette wheel, and a miniature golf course to try, and a raffle for a car.

The marvelous smells from the food booths drew long lines of hungry people. I didn't see an eating area, but many people took their containers of curry or pad thai into the shady entryway of the big Ralph's complex to sit on the low walls and eat.

I passed a booth selling textiles and jewelry, and as I passed it, a rack of earrings fell over, scattering them on the street. I helped the young girl who was attending the booth pick them up and re-organize them, and then I bought a bracelet embroidered in bright yarns from her. I had a taste of duck curry. I photographed the guys grilling skewers of satay.

I donated a dollar so that I could pour water from a styrofoam cup over the golden Buddha. It just seemed like a good thing to do in exchange for such a great experience.

1 comment:

Jill Palethorpe said...

Now I can travel L.A. without leaving the minefield of my office. I love this blog, it's literate without being up itself (as the poms would say) -- wry, engaging and INTERESTING. it's like having another set of eyes out there. Blog on, baby.