Songkran: getting wet in 3 cities

15 Apr

Even the streets could not handle the tons of water

Even the streets could not handle the tons of water

Happy New Year – (many pics below) the Thai just arrived in 2052 (according to the Buddhist calendar). And they do celebrate this by splashing out – literally. The tradition wants that the houses are cleaned for the new year, the Buddha statues are washed in the temple, and people throw water at each other. This wet affair last for 3 days, except this year, the government decided to extend it for 2 more days because of the unrests that troubled the first 2 days of Songkran.

We had the wet pleasure to experience this Songkran water festival in 3 different cities: we were in Pattaya for the first day. The next day we moved to Bangkok to take the night train to Chiang Mai – but with an hallucinating stop in Silom road – getting more wet than wet. And in Chiang Mai, the streets had turned into rivers because of all the water throwing. Amazing.

13 April Pattaya

The streets were wetter than the sea

The streets were wetter than the sea

We vaguely new that something was about to happen. People had warned us that maybe we should pack our valuables (like wallets and mobile phones) in plastic bags, and that turned out to be a clever precaution. When we went to the beach in the morning, nothing much was happening but the occasional family or shop shyly starting to splash some water on passers-by. By mid afternoon however, when we tried to get back home, it was impossible to avoid the wishing well water

Falang taking strategic positions on the side of the road

Falang taking strategic positions on the side of the road

Songkran in Pattaya was a bit of a funny affair, because of the mix of tourists and locals. The locals would go around town (on the back of a pick up truck) and scoop water on people’s heads. The tourists had interpreted this though as a water battle, and soon sellers jumped on the occasion to sell all kinds of water guns, icy water, squirting rods, and the like. So instead of wishing well, the Arab and Russian tourists were waging war instead. And to hold up the Pattaya reputation (read hear), sometimes it turned into a Miss wet T-shirt competition more than anything else.

14 April Bangkok

Bangkok streets at Songkran - full... and wet

Bangkok streets at Songkran - full... and wet

Bangkok was a completely different story. There Songkran (at Silom) had turned into a massive street party. Thousands of people just spilled onto the street and traffic around the area came to a halt. We left our luggage at railway station and dived into the festivities. The metro shuttled hundreds of people to Silom, armed with water guns and waterproof wallets.

Cops in waterproof boots for the occasion

Cops in waterproof boots for the occasion

The whole city was prepared for it. You could buy waterguns, icy water and powder on virtually every street corner. There were special signs put up in the metro, asking people to kindly empty the water from their guns and dry off before entering the stations. There was an army of cleaning staff mopping up the water in the Skytrain stations. Even the police was wearing Wellington boots to keep their feet dry!

Please empty your water gun before entering the subway...

Please empty your water gun before entering the subway...

The biggest of parties was at Silom – the gay area. Loud music was blaring from different stages and courageous cars that dare-deviled through the crowds. Beer was flowing generously, as well as the water and the powder smeared on your face. It was a merry atmosphere. So many people (complete strangers) wishing us Happy Songkran or Welcome to Thailand. Soooo sweet.

Gays are so 'gay' (joyful)

Gays are so 'gay' (joyful)

The gay area wouldn’t be gays if the gay guys wouldn’t do ‘their thing’. Along the BKK Boys Town, the boys were dressed up for he occasion (a bit like carnival or gay pride), shaking their booties, skirts or other parts. The guys were taking advantage of wetting each other, smearing talcum powder on each others face and at the same time try to pull down the trousers of passers by – or have a feel of what they have in store… Making up with a kiss after the attack. Funnily enough it was only the male (and handsome) passers-by that got this VIP treatment. LOL.

15 April Chiang Mai

Cosy night train - breakfast included

Cosy night train - breakfast included

It was with pain in my heart that I had to leave this wet and hot party in Silom (quite nice to be squirted by ice water in the urban 35degrees, especially if followed by a nice smile or ‘Welcome to Thailand). But we were scheduled to take the night train to Chiang Mai (seeing a bit of Thailand and getting a free night’s sleep at the same time). We weren’t the only wet ones boarding the train – hehe.

Simply spraying the audience

Simply spraying the audience

After a peaceful (and dry) night we arrived in Chiang Mai, the pearl of the north. And the Songkran party was even bigger than in Silom. CM apparently puts on the biggest Songkran festival of Thailand. The streets around the moats of the old town are completely full – with people – but also with water that is thrown around and that is too much for the sewage system to swallow. It goes without saying that there is easy access to water – from the moats – but you can smell the difference – if the aim is to cleanse, then that’s a fail.

Getting seriously wet...

Getting seriously wet...

You can’t go 50 meters without getting squirted, splashed or a bucket of water thrown on you. Children, older people, families on the back of pick up trucks, groups, falang or thai, they are all at it. Amazing. One of the main streets was cut off and full with people and podiums – competing with each other. On stage was music, but also dancing girls in skimpy clothes with hoses – garden hoses, fire brigade hoses, garden sprinklers etc – anything to get you wet. Lovely.

The streets were filled with such a nice atmosphere that I just had to cry of joy. So many people were smiling at us seeing that the falang had been soaked or smeared. And when I got out my water gun or squeeze bottle, people would be surprised and engage in face-to-face water battle. So sweet. And invariably people would wish us happy new year or say welcome to Thailand.

  • I will be back here for Songkran (or in Laos) that’s for sure.
Water water and water

Water water and water

There was an attempt by the government to have a Songkran festival without alcohol this year (lots of posters put up) – but without much success it seemed. You could buy beer on every corner of the street. They even sell it with a straw so that you don’t have to open the beer can completely – because at one stage I think I was drinking more water than beer… And if the water was coming from the moat, then that could become an expensive affair for my health insurance…

Already without drinking moat water I had my share of health problems: for 2 weeks after my hand was hurting from squeezing my water bottle too hard to spray people… Also in the newspaper they published statistics on the number of people that died during the 3 days of Songkran… Only 300 this year

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