For about 6 months now, I've been involved in playing cricket for UCC. We are the only team of mixed nationalities in the Saigon cricket league. You may be surprised to hear that there is quite a large Indian community in the city and I've been lucky enough to play alongside and against some very talented cricketers. I've also made some great friends through the cricket club and we've grown into a tight group of close teammates and friends. During games we all back each other and after games we celebrate our victories or hail our team spirit when the result goes the wrong way. In preparation for our game, and subsequent defeat at the hands of India B, we all went to the Indian festival of Holi. So let me tell you about it.
Holi is primarily a festival of colour. I asked the guys about its origins but it seems to have been lost over the years. However, it's certainly a joyous occasion to be enjoyed by people of all ages. I can only imagine what it's like in India, but if our relatively small party in Vietnam was anything to go by, then it must be a blast!
When I arrived, the party was in full swing. There must have been about 300 people there, which isn't bad considering I didn't know that the Indian community in HCMC was that big! I think Dan, Ramona and I were the only non Indians at the party which automatically made us a target for the carnage to follow. Unfortunately for my blog, I didn't have a camera on me, but that turns out to be a massive positive because if I had have brought it, it wouldn't be working now!! But here's a picture of me upon my return home....
When we walked through the door, or gate, onto the lawn, we were greeted by men who looked like walking, talking colour by paint drawings! We soon recognised them as our teammates! Unfortunately, we were a blank canvas so they quickly rushed to the nearby table, picked up some powder, mixed it with whatever liquid they could find and smeared paint all over our faces and in our mouths. Nice! I tell you it wasn't delicious, it was difficult to wash out of your mouth and it stains forever! My pearly whites with never be the same again.
If we thought that was all, then we were severely mistaken. Next, a bottle of paint was poured onto our heads. This paint was a lovely, fetching pink. With it being noon at this point, the paint dried rather quickly and our skippers advice that 'it's harder to wash off when it dries' seemed more mocking than useful. It's been 5 days since, and 8 hair washes later and my hair is now still noticeably red tinted. Just as well I kinda like it!
As you've guessed, there was a lot of paint involved! Everybody was covered! And if you exposed any undecorated skin, you would soon be got by the stalking pack, of mainly cricketers, armed with paint. However, paint wasn't the only weapon. Some bright spark had decided that leaving a garden hose lying about for people to wash out the paint was a good idea. Well that was flawed in several ways: 1) the paint didn't wash out 2) it inspired water fights 3) paint and water just doesn't mix! Needless to say I was trapped by the cricket lot. Realising that my position was hopeless, I gave up and let them dose me with the hose! Unfortunately I had my phone and wallet in my pockets at the time, but lucky they didn't get too wet so potential disaster was avoided!
Of course there were other things going on. For the kids there were two paddling pools, which were later dunking pools for those helplessly caught by the, you've guessed it, cricket mob, a three legged race and the old time favourite musical chairs. For the adults there was beer, whiskey and a 16 a side tug of war. Amusingly, the rope spilt in two midway through the second in the best of three competition. I'm proud to say that we were 1-0 up and in control of the 2nd round when the knot came loose. I'm less than proud to mention I fell flat on my ass when the rope went though!
The food that was provided was also great! I love curry and the various complements that come with Indian food so that was definitely worth coming for. There was also some traditional music playing with dancing, lead by our wicketkeeper Negi, that looked like it had come straight from Bollywood! Had I been drinking I'm sure I would've been up there too, but being sober and self conscious I didn't. Next year I'll be sure not to book a tennis game on the same day as the festival!
It truly was an amazing couple of hours. I've been told that it's sensational in India, but if my small experience was anything to go by, I think I'd be blown away if I went there for it. Hopefully next year I'll be able to, although I wonder how long the paint would take to wash out!