Sawsdee be my! (Happy New Year!) Songkran is Thailand’s New Year and is held on the same dates, 13th-15th April every year. Even though it is officially these three dates, apparently it’s a weeks long festival and the biggest water fight in the world! Every city in Thailand becomes one giant water fight amongst locals and tourists, using from water guns and spray bottles to hoses and buckets, the biggest events occurring in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Children, adults, ladyboys, everyone gets involved, everyone walks the streets with a water gun in their hand and don’t expect to leave your house without getting soaked!
The main area in Chiang Mai was by the north and east side of the gates, but then again there were people everywhere. Stages, hosted by Coca Cola, Air Asia and many more were set up around the city, blasting music and spraying water over the crowds. Some malls such as Maya Lifestyle shopping centre and Kad Suan Kaew Mall had stages set up with entertainment. InSpyRation was hosting Maya the first day.
The streets started to get busy around 11am. Some would walk around with their water guns, others would ride at the back of a pick up truck well prepared with a bin of water, others would drive around on their scooter and some would stand in front of their shop/stall with buckets ready to attack the next passerby. Farangs (foreigners) were especially targeted by the locals in a friendly way and we didn’t stay dry for very long after leaving our guesthouse. Some people would politely sprinkle water as a blessing for a good year ahead. Having the moat extending through the city was extremely handy to get hold of water but locals would let you reload your water gun from their supply.
As you can imagine, a city with water being thrown from every angle can be and is dangerous. Alcohol doesn’t help the situation and just on the first day we had heard there had already been 90 deaths in the whole of Thailand. We didn’t witness any incidents but it’s very easy to imagine when people throw buckets of water at drivers, even at their face! Driving in that area is definitely ‘at your own risk’. Certain areas especially where some of the stages are located were jam packed with people walking in amongst cars and scooters and police directed the traffic but it was pretty much at a standstill.
We joined our friends from the Care For Dogs shelter on our first day. They all had small water guns and humorously we rocked up with big ones.
There was a section of the north side that is known for the other foreigners (Burmese and Laos people) to be at and our Thai friends avoided that area. Max and I walked by there the following day and understood why, they are not the most gentle of people. They would throw buckets of water as hard as they could and it wasn’t just one, but a few at the same time, which was just not enjoyable. Around the rest of the city it was more of a fun thing as a two way game but not with the ‘foreigners’.
During the Songkran days the Thai were in a very good mood. It is a tradition to apply clay on peoples faces and body so some applied clay on everyone that passed.
On the second day we headed out to meet two of Max's friends in front of Hug Hostel and remained there for the rest of the day with an endless supply of water, launching buckets at people, pick ups and tuk tuks. The best were targeting the red taxis as the poor people had no where to run. We would attack in a group, through the windows and the open ended back.
Songkran in Bangkok was completely different to that in Chiang Mai. The main areas were Silom, Central Plaza and of course Khao San Road. We opted for Silom with Gavin and Nam (our two friends living in Bangkok).
The roads were closed off to traffic meaning it was just packed with people walking around so there were no pick up trucks and motorbikes in this area. Stalls selling water for 5baht and 10baht for small and large water guns respectively was also unlike the north which is understandable as they do not have an endless supply of water from a moat. Even though we had already participated for two days shooting water at people didn’t get old and was still as fun as the first day. There was a stage set up near the centre of Silom street blasting music and spraying water over the entire crowd.
Next was Khao San Road, as we were staying at the Lucky House situated at the beginning of Khao San, Gavin and Nam joined us for dinner there. When we arrived we had not expected for it to be as busy, almost impossible to pass through. Surprisingly, it was ridiculously crowded by young local teenagers dancing to rap and hip hop music. We managed to squeeze our way through and have a nice dinner at one of the restaurants along that road, watching people pass by. The walk back to the hostel wasn’t easy. Tons and tons of people covered in that clay paste walked by, some stood in the middle of the road applying it on everyone and girls danced on pick up trucks to up beat music. The street floors were covered in clay and at 11pm a truck cleared the crowds and power hosed the entire street clean. People definitely enjoyed the clay more here than in Chiang Mai.
This was our last day in Thailand after having spent three months in total in this wonderful country and we couldn’t have asked for a better way to leave than with a great celebration and friends.