14 April 2003 - Bangkok

If you're outgoing and don't mind getting wet, then the only time to be in Thailand for you is during Songkran, the Thai new year festival. It is cutomary during Songkran to wash the hands of elders with scented water. It symbolically represents the washing away of bad luck. There's also talcum powder involved, but I'm not quite sure what that represents.

OK, that's Songkran in theory. Songkran in reality is this: free for all water fights. I challenge anybody to walk up and down busy Bangkok roads in the afternoon or the evening and not get wet. Or get pasted with chalk. Or both.

Officially, Songkran falls on 13 April, but the fun begins the day beffore. Water guns start appearing and you have to expect the odd squirt now and then as you walk down the road. It can come from anywhere. Drive-by splashings are not uncommon. You notice that tuk-tuks cover their seats with cellophane, and you begin to get an inkling of what will happen later

As midnight approaches, things get more hectic. Water guns get replaced by bottles of water and squirts become splashes.

Sometime close to midnight, all hell breaks loose. Pails, buckets and hoses now are called into action, and your face, your hands, your clothes - everything - becomes covered with a sticky paste of water and chalk.

I guess everybody needs to sleep sometime, because on the morning of the 13th itself things quieten down a bit. However, things pick up again in the afternoon.

People run around in groups and have mass splashings. You can do it in two ways: You can stand on the roadside with your posse and wet everything that passes by, or you can ride a pickup truck with your posse and wet everything you pass by. Of course, when a pickup truck passes a waiting posse, all chaos ensues.

Generally, it's all pretty good-natured. People usually just squirt you with guns, but once in a while, somebody with a bowl or pail will stalk and attack you. It's good fun, really.

Pretty girls are favoured targets. Think "wet t-shirt"and you know what I'm getting at.

After dark, Banglamphu becomes a war zone. It is imposible to move and not become a target.

The next morning is cleanup time. The road is white from the chalk, and icky to walk through. The thing is, they go and mess it up all again that night.


posted on Saturday, April 19, 2003 - permalink
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