‘Diwali is the most important and auspicious festival in India. It signifies the victory of good over evil, the return of King Rama and a celebration of Light, Love and Music to bring in the new year.’
So reads my invitation to last night’s Diwali celebration, hosted by Krishna, a Pai expat who lives a fifteen minute motorbike ride out of town on a rural property in a large wooden house on stilts, with a separate building housing prayer rooms. The yard has beautiful gardens and was decorated with balloons, lights, music from a local artists, sparklers, fireworks and a giant Indian elephant. Food, chai tea, fruit shakes and drinks were served by local businesses, who set up stalls under the house.
The evening started with everyone being invited to pat the elephant and feed it sugarcane stalks, and choose fireworks and sparkers from a big box and let them off (these two activities took place worryingly close to each other). Soundtrack by the Bebop Bad Boys and Gypsy Lily, a American hippie in her sixties wearing shiny gold pants, sequins and a shawl. There was then a jam session by the ‘Pai music family’ which included belly dancers and a Russian guy playing a didgeridoo (very well). Then people danced into the night to the sound of a DJ playing Indian trance and Bollywood music. Truly a night to remember, with most of the expats and more hippie-inclined locals attending to celebrate Indian new year with a blessing of the elephant, dancing and drinking.
Couple of other updates – I lived through my first earthquake on Sunday morning. Pretty minor here in Pai, but it woke me up as my whole bungalow was trembling for about 15 seconds. I’m told the most damage was in Myanmar where some people were killed 😦
That afternoon we rented a motorbike and went to Wat Pra That (the temple with the steps of doom). We actually drove up to the top, but then scrambled 150 metres up a gravelly slope to where a gigantic Buddha is being constructed. It’s about 30 metres tall and overlooks the whole valley. At the moment it’s covered in dodgy scaffolding and about ten locals were laying concrete high up. We walked around to the back and actually went inside – it’s hollow with a shell of wood and metal. I’m sure it’s going to be beautiful when complete but who knows when that will be!