April 13, 2018
Today is the first day of Songkran, the Thai New Year. It is also the hottest time of the year. So naturally, what Thais do for their annual celebration is to have a national water fight and it is brilliant. A couple of years ago I spent Songkran in the much smaller town of Chiang Rai. I was staying out of town and didn't go into the city during the celebrations and almost managed to avoid getting wet. I did get a little of it but only enough to cool me down a little.
Today in Bangkok, my girlfriend and I, dressed appropriately for the festivities, walked to the end of our street to catch the BTS Sky Train. A walk of about 200 meters. On the way, we couldn't avoid those lying in wait and had buckets of water poured and splashed on us and were hit with several water guns. Also along our short walk, we passed numerous street vendors selling said water guns. They have been on sale everywhere for the last week or so. These are not your father's old squirt guns, heavens no. These are mega rifles with high capacity tanks; some even with even higher capacity backpack tanks. Plus, there are big blue plastic water drums everywhere you can refill your weapon. Water hoses are also common weapons that don't require refills. The two of us, however, were going unarmed, intentionally. I figured it would only make me a more obvious target. But I digress.
Already quite wet from the short hike to the station, we waited only a couple of minutes for the next train. They run about every five minutes. Once on the train, the air conditioners were running full force and we were wet. Almost unheard of in Bangkok, we were uncomfortably cold. Well, I was cold and enjoying it, Tunsiri not so much I suspect. At the thir d stop, we changed to a different line and two stops later disembarked at Sala Daeng station in the heart of the Silom district which was, I had been informed, the epicenter of Songkran celebrations in Bangkok. They weren't wrong.
About a half mile of Silom Rd was closed to vehicle traffic. Silom is a divided road, three lanes each way, with the Sky Train running above the center. We were quickly disgorged into the street in the middle of the war zone. Both sides of the street were filled with thousands of revelers, most with water guns, walking slowly in the normal traffic directions. On the sidewalks were the many refill stations and throngs of combatants with everything from hoses to buckets, many filled not just with water but with ice water. Now that can be bracing!
As it turned out, not having a water gun did not prevent me from being a target. When you are a fair-haired guy standing at least a head taller than everyone around you, you are a prime target, at least I was. I did manage to avoid some of it because others were in protracted yet joyous battles with others similarly armed to the gills. We were caught in the cross-fire in several of these battles. I think my silly grin the whole time prevented some attacks while encouraging others. In the end, I think it was a wash.
We ran, actually we sauntered, the gauntlet down one side of the street and back on the other and eventually made it back to the train station. I wished that I hadn't had a big breakfast because of all the appetizing food available on the side streets. Now thoroughly soaked, we made it to our station and the water warriors were out in force on our street. We did manage to stop withoug being molested at a couple of street vendors for some chicken noodle soup to go at one cart and an iced mocha from another. This iced drink vendor is one I frequent, and I learned that the pleasant and very pregnant proprietor is the wife of the maintenance man at my condo. He was there at a table with friends or perhaps relatives.
In addition to all the water gun vendors, brightly colored floral shirts have been on sale for a couple of weeks. It seems that this, too, is traditional and many have been sported on employees at places around the city for the last week or so. My sweetie already had one and was wearing it. I had on a tee shirt with funny surprised caricature faces all over it. I thought it the best choice for the day.
One final note, if you ever want to visit Thailand, December through February is the most pleasant time temperature-wise. But for a rollicking good time, you can't lose by coming for Songkran which technically is a three-day holiday. I am told that the wildest time is in Pattaya where it can go on for a week with both family friendly fun as well as more adult (think gyrating dancers in wet tee shirts) water sports. Phuket may be similar with the celebrations in both cities being alcohol fueled. This did not appear to be the case on our adventure this afternoon though who knows what is happening tonight. I can still hear revelers on the street below continuing to party and it is approaching 11pm.
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