Sleepless in Ayutthaya

The neighbours are having a party – not that I’ve been invited. How do I know? Well, the first clue was last night with a motley group of labourers erecting a canopy in the front garden and tying swags of blue and gold cloth to the front railings. And now the whole house is shaking to the heavy thump of over-amplified music – and I use the term “music” only loosely. If I didn’t know about the party I’d be tempted to call the RSPCA suspecting gross cruelty to cats – or even cruelty to a gross of cats. It’s only midday, so I can look forward to several more hours with the doors and windows clamped shut, stifling in the heat, and struggling to hear the TV.


At one o’clock I headed out to lunch at a riverside restaurant. I see that a giant bank of loudspeakers has been erected not in the garden of the party family, but on the opposite side of the street in the road. In the garden there are three middle-aged women lounging around. All this racket is, so far, solely for their benefit.


At the restaurant I see a floating platform, the sort used to ferry cars across rivers, accompanied by four barges, one to each side, one in front and one bringing up the rear heading up the river. The vessels are packed with party goers. Then I remembered, we’re just about to enter the rainy season retreat when young men traditionally enter the monkhood for three months to make merit, often for their mother or grandmothers. It’s a source of great pride for each family concerned and is often marked by an extravagant party. On the way back home I spy a number of other parties in progress.


7 p.m. the party next door is still in full swing. The street is clogged with parked cars. The first couple of restaurants I visit are packed with groups celebrating. I head elsewhere.


Midnight. The music has stopped.

Under other circumstances I might feel a little miffed by the intrusive noise, but I understand that this is a very special day for the young men and the families concerned. Let them have their fun.


Sunday, 5 a.m.. They’re back to strangling cats. I’m woken abruptly by a song calling on all to wake up and start working. I resist that siren call and struggle to regain oblivion.


11 a.m.. Now someone is reciting the life story of the young man concerned. After an hour they’ve only reached the day of his birth. It’s going to be a long, long tale. I also now understand that they will be partying until he goes to the temple tomorrow (Monday) morning, in time for lunch (the last meal of the day for monks) which is taken before midday.


4 p.m. and the music throbs on. In fact, the volume’s so loud that it’s taken to setting off the alarms of the cars in the vicinity. I’m just glad that I’m now returning to Bangkok and will flee the ongoing cacophony. The other neighbours have to put up with this until some time tomorrow.


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