Songkran 2016

jsl009:

Call me a sadist, a masochist, or even both, but a part of me looks forward to the days proceeding these kind of purely hedonistic weekends. During this time I become far more preceptive, intuitive, and aware of my own thoughts. It’s a time when my emotional state becomes precarious and fractured. To some degree the pseudo-writer in me enjoys this self-inflicted disarray because I get to examine the fragments of myself. It’s as if I’m a surgeon who has intentionally chosen to operate on himself.  

Coming into this circumstance is nothing new to me. It all began in 2013 when the phrase “circuit party” entered my vocabulary. Easily the pinnacle of the gay scene, circuit parties are an experience unlike no other. They may seem like any other gay dance event, but this is dark side of the gay world–indulgently carnal yet unforgiving and destructive. Circuit parties bundle tribal rhythms, sculpted bodies, and manufactured bliss into a snowstorm of sin. It takes an experienced sherpa to scale these peaks and ridges unscathed, and I’ve just returned from the summit of Mt. Everest. 

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The Songkran Festival marks the Thai New Year. Over three days Thai people use water to purges their past sins. Today, this cleansing is typically represented through water fights across the country. And somehow the gays of Asia have hijacked this holiday and now hold a coinciding three-day long circuit party in Bangkok every year. To the scene gaysians of the world Songkran is our Hajj–our annual pilgrimage to the holy city Mecca.  

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This past weekend was the 10 year anniversary of the Songkran circuit parties, and the gaysians of the world descended onto Bangkok. It was truly unreal. Gays from Sydney, LA, Taipei, San Francisco, Manila, Hong Kong, Brunei, Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur, New York, Singapore, and more flew across the world and all came together for a single purpose. For three nights we danced, we laughed, we formed new relationships, and we pushed the limits of our minds and bodies. 

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This may seem all so glamorous, but everything comes with a price. It’s been nearly four days since, and I am still recovering. I’ve used these technologies of perception to tear myself open, to bring me closer to those around me, to be within grasp of rapture. Raw and exposed I must continue to rest. In the days to come I hope to delve more into this temporary chaotic state of mind. I’ve been in need of inspiration to write lately and I can’t waste this opportunity. 

“I stared into the fury, and the beauty of it’s overwhelming strength.”

Quite the psychedelic experience as described by @jsl009 on the gay(sian) circuit party scene. I appreciate that while exulting the gaiety (pun intended) and camaraderie of these parties, he acknowledges some of its dangers, not the least including these “technologies of perception.” I also note from the blurred pictures that many participants (or perhaps a biased selection by association) share a similar, muscular physique. While not having the look is certainly not a disqualifier from participating in the parties, I can imagine one feeling self-conscious and out-of-place, especially when the desire to fit in is so strong as social beings. Finally, I found it interesting to see @jsl009‘s invocation of a religious pilgrimage to describe Songkran and I’m curious how the local Thai people view these visitors as they celebrate their New Year. On one hand, the tourism dollars no doubt greatly boost the local economy but it comes at the cost of spiritual traditions. In many ways, I see Songkran in the same light as Holi, the Hindu spring festival, a cultural celebration that has been co-opted and secularized. It’s a phenomenon we also see in another cultural institution: the bathhouse. But more on that later in a couple of days.

-Jeffrey

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