|  November 30, 2011

Many moons ago, I brought over a dozen friends home with me from university for the summer holidays. As we backpacked, Honda Dreaming around the north, getting into all sorts of awful trouble, we were on the lookout for some adventure…as you do. One evening, tootling along on our bikes, we stumbled upon a rather festive, and promising, looking gathering. There were rows of motorbikes and pickup trucks parked along the sides of this village street; music was blaring, and peeking in we saw at least 100 people milling around and sitting along tables overlaid with a mosaic of beer, booze and soda bottles at different tiers of consumption as well as degrees of potency.

The party looked like fun, and before we could make up our minds whether to intrude or not, a ruddy faced elderly gentleman rushed up and welcomed us into what looked like a rural residential compound. Looking back, now that I am older and wider *cymbals clash* I am horrified at our lack of manners, but at the time, we all happily traipsed into the party and were immediately siphoned off by villagers into different directions: pretty blond girls found themselves dancing ramwong with spry old men, handsome blue eyed guys found themselves clucked and crooned over by matronly women spoon feeding them local delights, some joined a rather intense card gambling game, yet others ended up swilling beers and singing English football songs to the great amusement of everyone. It was a fabulous night. We ate, we drank, we danced, we had a ball.

As the night wore down, we decided it was time to contribute towards the festivities and return to our guesthouse. Because I had been so busy translating for my farang friends all night, I had to ask around to find the host, whom I hadn’t met. Giddy with alcohol and festive love, it was hard to convince everyone it was time for us to leave, but we finally found someone willing, though reluctantly, to take us to the host. As we were led towards one of the houses’ entrance, I was horrified to see, standing majestically amongst a flotilla of flowers, the most glitzy and gilded coffin of my life. It had just dawned on me that we had managed to gatecrash a funeral.

Mortified to the bone, we all crawled up to the coffin with our joss sticks and candles to pay our respect to our host, Uncle Kham, before, sick to the stomach, insisting on leaving some money and high tailing it out. No one took any notice of our repeated apologies, they refused to take our money and we were nearly forced to stay on. We were slightly mollified to hear that we were a great hit and that Uncle Kham would have loved the fact that we were there to celebrate his life. Dozens of hands joined in repeated wai as we politely – though with a lurch here and a wobble there – bade our farewells, backing away from the revelry.

Festivities in the face of tragedy is not a uniquely Thai trait; it is not even a universal Thai trait. But what it is, is a certain resilience and fervent optimism of humanity which should be applauded. Thailand’s landscape has been devastated financially, socially, politically as well as literally in recent months and there is meagre cause for celebration. Yet here we are with Citylife’s rather unsubtle Festive Issue.

Are we insensitive? Perhaps. Are we unfeeling? Absolutely not.

I believe in the resilience and optimism mentioned, and know that in the months to come, Thailand will pick up its broken pieces, and go along as best it can. If we all have a bit of fun along the way, then all the better for all of us. Happiness doesn’t negate situational gravitas, in fact, it alleviates, it eases and it brings promise.

So, let’s get festive!

this month:
Light, fluffy, irreverent and at times cheesy, Citylife this month aims to entertain the little grey cells rather than challenge them. We offer up great ideas for New Year’s festivities, as well as some morning after options. Our writers highlight the best and worst of the past year and James Austin Farrell descends from his lofty social agendas to join the rest of us on terra firma for a joy ride on a Segway around the old city. I also interview one of Chiang Mai’s resident celebrities Areeya ‘Pop’ Chumsai, an unassuming and intelligent beauty whose two feet are firmly planted in the earth.