If you don’t mind getting a little wet, I highly recommend spending your next Spring Break in Thailand. Well I guess you’ll get more than a little wet, as moments of dryness were few and far between. Here’s a bit of footage…
Celebrating a year into my Peace Corps service and nearly half a year into Andrea’s own adventure abroad, we took a little trip to Thailand this past week for Songkran, or Thai New Year. With only a week on hand, our days were filled to capacity, the only minutes of rest to be found in 10 hour bus rides across the country. Although, when one finds oneself sharing the small bottom story compartment of a double decker bus with two Brits who’ve had a few too many…and then a few more, a Thai man with an addiction for mobile phone games without sound control, and a French fellow with a fluid baritone voice and the capacity to hold a one-way conversation for nearly half a day, one might not describe such minutes as “restful”. Anyways, we arrived in Bangkok late Friday night (the night before Songkran) and taxi-ed over to our hotel, the Warehouse Bangkok – a unique hotel which very much matches its theme and name, where we enjoyed a tasty bowl of green curry.
Following the consumption of long anticipated Thai food, we departed for Khao San Road – the headquarters of the Bangkok late-night Songran festivities. We made it several blocks from our hotel before seeing our first sign of the event – a group of Thai teenagers passing by with waterproof pouches dangling from their neck to protect their valuables. As we made our way further, more groups passed by, some just slightly damp and others drenched from head to toe. Walking down the street, the number of those soaked began to outnumber those dry, and the amount of hands holding water guns constantly increased, while the amount in ours remained a constant zero. Yet we continued on hesitantly, moving deeper into Songkran territory, yet somehow maintaining our dryness – yet to be noticed amongst the crowds. Then, a flood of ice down my spine, as a young man poured a bucket of cold water down the back of my shirt. It was as if we had gone just one step to far, tripping the wire, and within seconds we joined the masses, similarly soaked with a continual stream of water following our every move from one gun or another.
All thoughts of exploration soon left the mind – only vengeance drove us now. The first step was to acquire weaponry of our own. We bought the largest, most powerful guns we could find from the small old woman’s roadside table – that’s right, the Super Soaker 5000.
At first I only used my weapon in retaliation, though I do admit retribution was swift and often unyielding to those who crossed me. My first victim was a young man about my own age – a foreigner as well. Tall and somewhat portly, his sunburnt skin and beer-themed man-tank dubbed him a dime a dozen amongst the Khao San crowd. In his hand rested a small green water pistol, attached to it a thin hose running to a plastic starfish shaped water carrier strapped to his back. What pathetic water weaponry, I thought. Then, he shot me. He shot me right on my shirt. He only had half a second to smile in jest before the awesome power of the Super Soaker 5000 rained down on him, flooding his vision with a rushing stream of high-powered aquatic destruction, and shattering the entirety of his universe. This is Songkran. The night ended with myself scarfing down copious amounts of spring rolls and pad thai from a street vendor on our way home while Andrea stood by with a clear look of admiration painted across her face…although she may claim it to be disgust.
The next morning we woke up excited to start the day, our thirst for aquatic annihilation only growing after the small taste from the night before. However, we did feel it necessary to do a bit of exploring before re-entering the battle grounds. Around we went, meandering from one temple to the other, through a fruit market, then a flower market, and then one specializing in textiles. We eventually found ourselves at a sort of pavilion with an entirely different Songkran feel about it. Hands filled with flowers, incense, and vials of perfumed water, Thais lined up to cleanse a collection of shrines and images of Buddah.
Returning from the hotel, Andrea and I discussed the contrast in the celebratory style of the holiday, separated only by a few blocks. Turning the corner, we encountered a group of five young children and their grandparents. In front of them a large basin of water, and in each hand a bowl or bucket. Our eyes locked with those of the children as we approached and sidled through the group. Behind their stares I could sense the conversation in their mind, deciding whether or not to attack us dry defenseless out-of-towners. The grandmother pointed at us and smiled before speaking rapidly to the hesitant children in Thai. I guessed at the meaning and jumped out of the way, pointing a finger at Andrea and yelling “Her! Get her!”. And with that, two young girls turned their bucket away from me and towards Andrea, thoroughly dowsing her side. By the time we reached our hotel we were yet again completely sodden, and spent the next hour or so picking off victims from the safety of our balcony.
The rest of the day was spent in similar to the night before – a collection of water fights, and passing the afternoon as a never-ending cold shower. The cool water was much welcomed however in the sweltering Bangkok heat. Now, one could not leave their hotel without a splash to the face; and even if you did find yourself inside, safety was not guaranteed. This aquatic war had no boundaries – no one person was spared, including the infantile and the elderly. In fact, those seemed to be the ideal targets of the masses.
Although the Khao San crowd seemed to have multiplied 10-fold, making it difficult to walk at times, but easier to target victims of my handy Super Soaker 5000, the water fight was no longer confined to its streets. On every corner, children and their families stood on the side of road with basins and buckets, dumping water on those passing by in open air tuk-tuks and buses. Coolers lined the streets of the city filled with water floating large blocks of ice so those passing by might re-up on ammunition either for free or a small fee.
The next leg of trip was spent on the island of Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand where Andrea and I spent our time swimming with the fishies. Our days were filled with “class” as we undertook a course to acquire our Open Water Scuba Certification, so I regret to inform you that there wasn’t much time for photography. Koh Tao was a beautiful little island littered with dive shops and mellow beachside restaurants; however, we spent most of our meals at a little shack far off the main drag where we could get a delicious bowl of curry, a plate of pineapple/cashew fried rice, and a couple freshly squeezed mixed fruit juices for a more reasonable price. I’ll admit, it was quite hard to leave.
Coming back to Bangkok, we were able to do a bit more adventuring in the cultural sense – our time not consumed with water fights. We started with a visit to a small shrine of a sitting Buddha before ringing the gong adjacent for good luck and moving on to Wat Benchamabophit Dusitvanaram, the marble temple.
Next on the list was the Grand Palace; unfortunately, with an entrance fee of 500 baht, and our cash dwindled from the copious amounts of green curry consumed over the past week, we instead opted for Wat Pho next door to view the lengthy golden reclining Buddha.
Before heading out to catch our flight home, we made a stop at Wat Arun, the temple of the dawn, where we climbed its steep narrow steps for a final view of the city.