It was a week of parties for me last week that began at the train station in Taoyuan. I had bounced up there to attend the Thai New Year celebration being held in the stadium there, at the invitation of my friend Michael K, AKA the Bushman, who was playing with a Thai band that day. Unfortunately it was a crappy, overcast day, not good for picture-taking.

Just another slow Sunday morn in Taoyuan.

Seen at a small temple as I walked the short ten minutes between the train station and the stadium.

As I arrived at the stadium, participants in the day’s activities were busy readying themselves…

….and snapping the views.

Also setting up were vendors, who laid in stocks of delicious Thai sausage for the coming horde.

A smiling young woman oversees the offerings.

A pair of women wait for the procession to begin.

The crowd settles down on these plastic sheets — but why?

Preparing snacks.

A small area for worship was erected.

Everyone shall have their 15 minutes….

Thais came from all over Taiwan to participate. Most appeared to be here as indentured servants guest workers.

The condition of the stadium, with peeling paint and shabby concrete, was just pathetic.

The monks came by the seated crowd and collected offerings of food and flowers.

A number of local service organizations set up booths, including the Taoyuan county government, the Buddhist charity organization Tz Chi, and the government-run legal aid society.

Meanwhile, up on stage, Michael was getting ready.

Thais crowd the food stalls.

Finally the warm-up band came out. The lead singer, a young woman, had apparently never sung in front of a large crowd before, and retained the glum look of well-controlled stark raving terror throughout the performance.

Backstage performers waited their turn.

The stadium slowly filled. By lunch there were probably 10-15,000 people in attendance.

Michael makes some last-minute adjustments.

A wonderfully happy procession of celebrating Thais paraded around the stadium.

Powdering is traditional for New Year’s.

Michael rocks the crowd with a shout of “Happy New Year” in Thai. Michael graciously permitted me to come up on stage.

The first number.

Elvis lives!

The lead singer pours his heart into his music.

The crowd goes wild.

Backstage a performer says hello.

After the show everyone stood around taking pictures of themselves.

The hose is ready. After the next round of speeches, the crowd was sprayed with water from the firehose, a traditional blessing of some kind. Not wanting my expensive electronics to be so blessed, we gave that round of the festivities a pass.

The emcee throws out prizes to the crowd.

After the performance, the band had lunch.

At the other end of the week, on Saturday, Taichung had its annual chili cook-off, a big expat party. This year there were many entrants, who had a chance only because my man Karl forgot to set his alarm and thus didn’t have his entry ready. Pictured is one of the many bands entertaining the crowd.

Gilbert shows off his entry. As you can see by studying the crowd, I was way overdressed for the occasion. For example, I was wearing socks.

Testing the chili.

The Red Cross offered vegetarian chili, which is rather like touting alcohol-free whiskey.

One of the best entrants, Chris from Colorado on the left. One problem everyone faced was cooking chili in a nation of thin-walled pots. For many entrants, the dominant flavor was that of carbonized beans…

Karl judges an offering.

At the contest I had the very great pleasure of meeting Sean Reilly of The Gentle Rant, the James Dean lookalike on the left. On the right is the famous Boston Paul (camera).

One of my former students, Becky, stopped by to inform me that she was heading to Australia for further study, no doubt to the joy of every red-blooded bachelor in Oz.

Mark Forman, the BBluesman, snapped Karl and myself in conversation…