When I lived back in the UK, a slight reduction in the price of strawberries may indicate that you were somewhere close to the month of June but, other than that, it was very different to know the seasons from the supermarket.
In this area of Thailand you can't help but know what fruit is in season. The big clue...if it's in the market, its in season. Currently the markets are teeming with tamarinds and rambutans. Tamarinds are an ugly fruit, all things said and done. They're long and brown. They don't improve much when you break them open either- inside they're long, brown and sticky with a kind of string running the length of each side. Am I selling them to you? But, don't judge a fruit by it's cover- just pop one in your mouth you'll see. And rambutans...well, they look like they've had a bad hair day.
As well as being tamarind season..and cowboy festival season..it's also wedding season...and monk making season.
We recently had a wedding here right outside the hut which was super convenient, for Thai weddings extend pretty much over two days.
There's the preparation party- which is where the family hosting the wedding make things even harder on themselves, by opening up the preparations to anyone who wants to pop along for an impromptu visit. This may not sound to onerous, until you realise that these impromptu visitors are to be fed and watered. So, in addition to preparing the wedding room where the monks will chant, the wedding flower wall, where the guests will have their photo taken with the happy couple and the wedding seats, where the newlyweds will be blessed by the community....they must also prepare enough food for anyone who happens to drop by. The dropping by can be done anytime between lunchtime and late evening.
For this wedding I was joined by friend/colleague, Sinead. Sinead has been living and working in Pakchong since November, but was getting frustrated with not seeing much of 'the real Thailand'. In order to rectify things, I invited her for a stay in the hut.
It was a tiring but fun filled couple of days. We began with a visit to the local waterfalls in Muak Lek- where she nearly took an unplanned dip. The Thai kids make tripsing atop the waterfalls look so easy! Following that we had the preparation wedding party for a couple of hours, before heading off to take in a cowboy festival.
Of all the cowboy festivals, the cow's milk festival of Muak Lek is my favourite. Here you are treated to stalls of all kinds as well as cowboys. Indians and Jack Sparrows. It's like a who's who of all the last things you'd expect to see in Thailand. Sinead took the festival like a duck to water and was soon seen being photographed with all the key characters.
An earlier start than even I expected. At approximately 4 a.m the music started. The monks arrived at 6 a.m and the traditional part of the wedding began.
What is good about a Thai wedding is the tradition that combines with informality. You can go in and watch the monks chant...or not, take photos...or not. So, you only want to watch half the ceremony?...up to you!
We ended up staying for the monk ceremony and part of the traditional community ceremony too. At about 9 a.m with two hours sleep and two ceremonies under our belts we headed outside for "lunch". Was it really only 9 o'clock?
There was one more ceremony to go- the evening one. I wasn't sure that I'd make it that far through the day, but I was determined to try.