Deep in the San Fernando Valley, springs the Wat Thai (which literally translates to "Thai temple") - like an unexpected dollop of Sriracha in the oatmeal of suburbia.
Designer had heard about it from an actual Thai friend (versus me who read about the Thai Town Songkran fest in the Hollywood Patch :P) and I'm glad it was in time for us to make it - the festival was amazing (and yes, made us feel like we were on vacation).
From the moment we set foot in the temple space, we found ourselves wandering wide-eyed, excited to take it all in. There were the gorgeous temple exteriors, with its ornate guardian statues...
...Awesome food vendors selling all kinds of authentic street foods from meats on a stick, rolls, noodles and pancakes (which unfortunately we skipped as that was the fateful night of the epic fail (in terms of access to food) known as 626 Night Market in Pasadena - where we expected to be able to gorge on all kinds of fantastic pan-asian street foods...great expectations dashed...in retrospect we wish we gorged at Wat Thai!)
There was a marketplace of vendors selling everything from Thai paper umbrellas (I knew I didn't need one, but really wanted one!!), to canvas shoulder bags (I picked up a cute one for $7!!!), to all sorts of jewelry - and even hi-fis (not sure who their intended customers were - hipsters??!).
And then we wandered to the back area where there seemed to be some sort of live entertainment...and found that they had the dance performances I had so missed at the Thai Town fest!! LOVED the beautiful, graceful traditional dancing backed by classic Thai instruments. (And loved that most people in the audience were from the Thai community, out to support!)
Aside from traditional dance they also had a more playful choreographed dance/skit with dancers dressed in school uniform. I think this was a nod to the portion of the temple dedicated to Thai school, where kids can come to learn their language and culture. There was also of course, like the Thai Town fest, a beauty pageant. The ladies were in gorgeous traditional garb, a sight to behold. Pretty much all of the MC and live entertainment (except where pageant contestants answered in English) was done in Thai, so we weren't entirely sure what everything was about, but loved every minute of it.
Designer was so into it, she was a bit sad when I dragged her away to explore the rest of the grounds - she needed to know who won the pageant!
There was a lot more to look at, at Wat Thai versus the Thai Town Songkran fest, understandably as Wat Thai already had all its structures and lovely statues and displays in place. Wat Thai also had an area set up for people to take potted 'money trees' and sand by small buckets and place them around a buddha statue for good luck.
You don't have to be buddhist, or Thai, to enjoy an immersive afternoon in the culture at Wat Thai. We felt transported from LA for the hour or two that we were there. I was excited to learn that their food marketplace at the temple actually takes place every weekend. Will have to confirm that asap and will let you guys know!
Til then: I have my calendar marked for next year's Songkran (April 13 & 14, 2013) and I'm definitely celebrating it at Wat Thai!!!
[For more photos from Wat Thai Songkran Festival 2012 and other cultural festivals around LA, check out my photo album on Facebook]
Songkran Thai New Year Festival
April 14th & 15th, 2012 9am-6pm
8225 Coldwater Canyon Ave., North Hollywood, CA 91605
Ph: 818.780.4200 x45