Sanuk, water guns and pigeons

Making new friends at the flower festival.

Sanuk is an essentially Thai concept. It means fun, but also enjoyable and satisfying, all at the same time. It can be about things, activities or people. Laughing is sanuk. Making new friends is sanuk. Even a funeral can be sanuk – if it’s done right.

That’s what makes Thai people so easy to get along with. They enjoy things – all things – food, relationships, work, life. For Thai people something that isn’t Sanuk isn’t worth bothering with – unless you can make it Sanuk.

Dinosaur doughnuts. They make both the frying and the eating sanuk, and bring in the crowds – and the baht. 

Last weekend’s event, the Chiang Mai Annual Flower Festival, was Sanuk mak mak – Very, very fun. Fashion, food, flowers, music. The parade was a procession of extraordinary flower floats – cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower included, with some eggplant and strawberries thrown in – and people having fun.

Cat float, larger than an elephant, made of live flowers.

Talking and laughing are sanuk. So is joking and bargaining with vendors or tuk-tuk drivers. These ladies walking in the parade were sanuk too and seemed to enjoy the attention.

Hill tribe ladies in traditional costumes and sneakers marching in the parade

One of the spectacular floats was too tall to fit under the electric wires. Watching the gentleman untangling it with a long mop was sanuk for us onlookers though less so for the pretty ladies decorating it.

IMG_5462.jpgYesterday, as I bought some fried chicken and green onions from a street stall the friendly lady gave me a free Thai lesson. She taught me how to say green onions and chicken. I taught her English in exchange – green, yellow and snow peas, all with a Beekmantown accent. It was sanook and the chicken was great.

Food, fun and flowers – all sanuk – at the festival.

Thai food is always mak sanuk. No ugly boring bland dishes here. Everything is tasty, pretty and a joy to eat.

Spicy SomTum – green papaya salad served in its own papaya boat. The umbrella and the orchid are pretty, but the oars? They are sanuk!

Sanuk is important in all activities and the idea translates well. Yesterday our supermarket delivered our shopping to the condo, (they do it for free when you buy more than about $30 worth) including 6 unexpected toilet paper rolls. “We didn’t buy this!” Steve said, using both hands and speaking LOUD and SLOW as one must so that foreigners can understand. “It’s free” the delivery boy said, smiling. sanuk gift. I wonder what we did to deserve it. It made up for them delivering the neighbor’s chicken to us and giving them our wine.

Sanuk signs for the restrooms at a nearby Indian restaurant. 

Any cheap old thing, even an old bicycle can be sanuk if you treat it right.

Old bike decorated with discarded beer caps. 

Sanuk is essential to the Thai but many farangs (caucasians, in colloquial Thai) don’t think much about it. It interferes with work, reliability and efficiency, they say. Not everything must be fun. I disagree. Enjoying life is a way to happiness and success.

Sanuk and efficient roller blading. 

My friend Boong’s girly iPhone is sanook mak mak – and so is she. Sanuk works.

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When in Thailand… we try to live Sanuk. We do OK except for the pigeons. They love our balcony and they poop. A lot. Mai sanuk – no fun. With them, Steve is at war.

After shooing them away and having them return with diarrhea, Steve borrowed Joyce’s water gun. His new goal in life is squirting pigeons. He spends hours laying in wait. They learned and stopped coming. He got bored and started squirting me.


He forgot that once, long ago, I was an officer in the civil guard, not to mention that I’m ruthless and I fight like a girl. Who would you put your money on?


Be safe and have fun, and let’s get together again next week, shall we? I’m thinking we should talk about food. What say you?