Thailand knows how to party in style. Whether it’s celebrating the start of the rainy season, a new year or just the size of the moon, there’s a festival for nearly every occasion. And the festivals themselves are some of the wildest, weirdest and sometimes wettest on the planet, involving everything from home-made rockets to buffalo races.
Marking the start of the lunar new year, Songkran involves the entire country throwing water at each other. Thais and tourists alike grab buckets and water pistols and spend the day drenching anyone in sight – a welcome relief from the searing April temperatures. As well as hurling water, locals love to plant coloured paint on visitors’ faces and wish them a happy new year.Of course the light-hearted mayhem has a more serious side – the water represents cleanliness and a chance to forgive and forget any problems in the previous year. Khao San Road in Bangkok is where most foreigners head for, but every town will have its own water-throwing fun.
Bun Bang Fai
Farmers take a swig of local moonshine, light a fuse and step back. Seconds later their 6m (20ft) homemade rockets are blasting skywards. Welcome to Bun Bang Fai,
Thai food is eaten with a fork and spoon. Even single dish meals such as fried rice with pork, or steamed rice topped with roasted duck, are served in bite-sized slices or chunks obviating the need for a knife. The spoon is used to convey food to the mouth.
Ideally, eating Thai food is a communal affair involving two or more people, principally because the greater the number of diners the greater the number of dishes ordered. Generally speaking, two diners order three dishes in addition to their own individual plates of steamed rice, three diners four dishes, and so on. Diners choose whatever they require from shared dishes and generally add it to their own rice. Soups are enjoyed concurrently with rice. Soups are enjoyed concurrently with other dishes, not independently. Spicy dishes, not independently. Spicy dishes are “balanced” by bland dishes to avoid discomfort.
The ideal Thai meal is a harmonious blend of the spicy, the subtle, the sweet and sour, and is meant to be equally satisfying to eye, nose and palate. A typical meal might include a clear soup (perhaps bitter melons stuffed with minced pork), a steamed dish (mussels in curry