New Year’s Eve day started as it normally does as a volunteer at the Thai Animal Sanctuary: feed dogs, clean enclosures, medicate/change bandages, walks, play time, shuffle dogs around, lunch, finish whatever daily project that was scheduled, night feeding, workout, shower, dinner time!
Instead of having to prepare our own meal for dinner however, we were invited to Sai and Charlie’s place to dine for New Year’s. Sai and Charlie, a Thai-British couple, are one of the many gems in Sangkhlaburi. Just about every morning they drop off a dish of rice and chicken, with bits of egg in a chicken broth so we can mix a bit into the morning bowls for each dog. For Christmas they made a huge vat of a similar soup with the added bonus of veggies for all 60 dogs in the shelter. They made so much that each dog had their own large bowl of Christmas breakfast, instead of just a bit mixed in with their normal kibble.
We were all looking forward to the dinner and even planned to eat less during the day to save room for what we knew would be a feast. But as we all know, getting there is half the battle! In our defense, there were 7 of us and only one bathroom in the volunteer house, so needless to say trying to organize that part alone became a bit of a task. We arrived about a half hour late with all 4 porch dogs (Noodles, Nipper, Balua and Piglet) who weren’t actually invited but just thought they were. 😉 The dinner spread was a delicious and impressive display of Thai cuisine. From the soup, fresh baked WHEAT bread (if you’ve been to Thailand you know how hard it is to find anything other than plain white bread, especially in small towns!!) fried egg with veggies, and a spicy pork on rice dish to dessert. We dined like Kings and Queens over great conversation and lots and lots of laughter. We even learned how to say Happy New Year in Thai (Suk San Wan Be Man Ka) after about a hundred failed attempts, but finally got it down:)
We stayed a couple hours then headed into town to the school soccer stadium for the muay thai kickboxing competition. All I had anticipated was just that: a ring set up for Muay Thai. What we walked into was so much more! It was seriously like a full on carnival or circus (minus the animals)! Neon lights lit up the stadium in every direction along with tent after tent selling food, clothing, fried insects, flip-flops, underwear… You name it, they just about had it!
As we had arrived a bit late for the start of the muay thai kickboxing we were only able to see a couple of fight rounds. The competition was going on for 5 nights (New Year’s Eve being the second night) and each night featured a different age group. New Year’s Eve night was for the youngsters (they looked only about 6 years old!!) to the teens. I can’t tell you how impressive the fights were! First were the teen boys who wailed and kicked and punched eachother until a brow was split open and after only 2 rounds the fight was called. Next up were the little kids whose heads didn’t even make it up to the top portion of the ring!!
Before each fight the competitors walk around the ring with a little hop in their step, kinda like a little dance, to each corner and bow. Next they go to their corner and have their headdress removed and are rubbed down with deep heat oil, which is sort of a liniment oil to slick their skin making it harder for their opponent to get a good grip. Then the fight is on! Those little kids wailed and kicked and fought their little hearts out! When the bell rang to signify the end of the round, their coaches would come in and sweep them up into a bear hug and gently shake them up and down. It seriously looked like they were getting a nice cuddle after each round, but really what the “hug” was all about was to help stretch their spines. Then they got a very thourough rub down with cold water, had their arms and legs stretched out a bit, then off again to fight. The boys lasted through 5 full rounds until a winner was called. So impressive!
The kids fight was the last for the night, so we wandered the rest of the field checking out the various tents and their goods for sale, then headed to the other stage set up on the field. We hung out watching traditional lanterns light up and float into the sky, decorating the night with extra stars, and the various traditional Thai dancers up on stage. The hours passed with drinks in hand, the company of good friends and the entertainment all around. Then about 10 minutes to midnight the Mayor of the town got on stage to give a speech. Of course it was lost on all of us, but it sounded like it could have been interesting.
About 7 minutes to midnight a bottle rocket from the stage shot straight over our heads directly to another stage area where it struck and lit up a huge firework display! I’m not going to lie, I was kinda freaked out by the bottle rocket launching above us because at first I thought it was rogue. But once I realized it was actually a planned launch, all was well. The first firework display went on and on showering the earth with white sparks. In the center glittered what I assume to be “Happy New Year” in Thai.
Once the first display started to peter out, the next display was shot off. Hundreds of brilliant fireworks shot into the sky with every color possible! I was mesmorized by the show of lights and the glitter of the lanterns still dotting the night sky behind them. We were so close to where the action was that the ash from the fireworks rained down on us, sometimes even getting in our eyes and gawking mouths, lol!! I was just in absolute awe. It was one of the most impressive New Years displays I’ve seen in a while. Especially considering how small this town really is, it was just awesome!
Knowing we had 60 dogs to feed the next day, I opted to head home to sleep (after a brief impromptu game of football using a balled up jacket as a football much to the amusement of the Thais) while the rest of the gang (minus one volunteer) proceeded to get hammered once we got back to the volunteer house. Needless to say myself and the volunteer who didn’t drink were up bright and early while the other 5 volunteers weren’t even able to get out of bed until about 3pm New Year’s Day, and even then were useless because of their hangovers, lol!! For once I was actually glad I wasn’t the one who was drinking, lol!!