My third trip to Thailand was much more laid back than my first two visits. Highlights included celebrating the Songkran festival on Khao San Road, giving a talk on my research at Thailand's National Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC), and visiting Khon Kaen.
Songkran is the Thai New Year. It's based on a tradition where scented water would be poured on other people as a cleansing ritual of sorts. These days, it's a free-for-all involving supersoakers and other assorted water throwing devices. This is a lot of fun considering that Thailand can get pretty hot over the year. The application of a white paste (clearly calcium based) can get irritating after a while since it gets in your eyes. Khao San Road is where the action is. The most fun I had was spraying water (with my supersoaker) on people from behind---even the ones who are completely surprised are startled, but they repay you with a smile (assuming you do too). There was a cute girl who came up to me on Khao San road shouting "Farang! Farang!" and applied the paste and sprayed water on me. Needless to say, Mali wasn't happy.
My trip to Khon Kaen was enlightening. The people are extremely poor in terms of money but lead simpler lives which is an attraction in and of itself. It's hard to figure out whether our technology-driven lives are necessarily better (for me personally it is) since there's an appeal to this simplicity. One of the cooler things we did was go out to a lake for a swim.
Overall, it was a mellower experience than my first trip (and this is my way of exploring---the first time I go to a place, I tend to check everything out and then future visits are when I really get an in-depth feel of the place), even though Bangkok was as crowded as ever. There were a lot of nights out for karaoke and dancing and a ton of movies: Hannibal, Valentine, Dude, Where's My Car, Behind the Painting, Thirteen Days, and The Wedding Planner.