Songkran Festival In Bangkok
As mentioned before, our visit to Bangkok luckily coincided with the Thai New Year celebration which is better known as The Songkran Festival. The Songkran Festival is a chance for young Thais to pay respect to their elders and of course to have a little fun. Given the sheer number of foreigners in Bangkok though, the Thai youths aren’t the only ones seen prowling Bangkok’s back alleyways with water guns. In fact, the celebration has become so popular among Westerners that one of the main water gun battle spots in town is located right on Khao San Road, Bangkok’s backpacker mecca.
During our first few days in Bangkok we experienced a small taste of what Songkran is, but felt that there was still much more fun to be had. With this in mind we decided that Monday was the day for us to get down and dirty. After putting on some comfortable clothes and sticking the camera inside of a plastic bag, (hence the cloudy pictures) we had some lunch and then caught a taxi to Khao San Road. Since the road and a few on each side were completely blocked off, we were dropped several blocks away with a few grunts in Thai from our driver and a finger pointed in the direction of the party.
After walking for a couple of minutes, we could hear the noisy crowd and loud music getting closer. With our anticipation hitting a peak, Jasmine and I quickly purchased two water guns for ourselves, (Shawn Reece already had one from the day before) ensuring that we would be ready to go upon arrival. Just after purchasing our water guns we found ourselves in a large queue waiting to go through a security barricade. Once that was over, we were unleashed into the chaos.
The scene on Khao San Road was fascinating and incredible. Lining both sides of the streets we saw closed up shops and people hiding out trying to stay dry. It appeared that most of the shopkeepers had found a way to make some money while their businesses were closed though. Every few feet along the road there were small water stands set up to make for easy gun refilling. For a few cents you could get a large 1.5L bottle at normal temperature or pay a bit more for ice cold water. In being the frugal traveler and general nice guy that I am, I decided to stick to the warmer water, but regretted this decision every time someone would nail me with the ice cold stuff.
For around three hours we walked the street end to end several times, often pausing on a side street for a quick break before heading back out to the war. Along the way we got soaked several times and quickly found ourselves covered in the white paste that everyone plasters each other with. With me being a tall white guy, all of the Thai kids had to take their turn at spreading paste all over my clothes and head. By the time it was over, I was covered from head to toe.
It is hard to describe the sheer chaos and fun that is Songkran. The closest thing I can relate it to is the water gun battles I used to have when I was a kid. Of course in those battles we had 10 or 15 kids, not a few thousand and people didn’t have buckets and hoses spewing out ice cold water. Sure it was exhausting, but I would do it again right now and of course Shawn Reece had an absolute blast!!!
The whole street battle wasn’t without incident though. It seemed that every few minutes or so an unsuspecting foreigner would wander onto the street not knowing what they were in for. A few of them even got quite upset after being shot with water, but it was all in good fun. There were plenty of places to stay dry in Bangkok during Songkran and they just happened to pick the wrong one.
When we finally decided to leave, the three of us were quite exhausted and in dire need of a shower. We ended up sitting around for a few minutes before finding a tuk tuk and agreeing on a fare to take us to the guest house. Once on board the tuk tuk, we drove for a few minutes enjoying the carnage that was still going on everywhere in the city. Just as we began to relax and let down our guard, a tuk tuk pulled alongside us and its passengers quickly opened fire. For the next minute or so we blasted each other with all that we had. It was SO MUCH FUN!
After ditching the other tuk tuk, we had to dodge groups of kids and their water buckets at every corner on the way to the guesthouse. A few of them got us quite good, but for the most part our driver stayed away because he didn’t seem too keen on the idea of getting wet. Thankfully, the trip passed rather quickly and we soon found ourselves in the familiar surroundings of the A-One Inn.
After taking hot showers and a quick nap, we headed back into the city in the afternoon, this time unarmed. Without anything of importance to do, we decided to visit another of Bangkok’s mega malls, Central World. This mall is just as big and impressive as the other ones in the area. We particularly liked the massive balloon displays found throughout the first floor.
Central World was quite nice and gave us a chance to try The Pizza Company which is the Thai alternative to Pizza Hut. The food was good and provided a nice cap off to our wonderful day. Of course, after such a calm and uneventful night, we let our guard down once again and Shawn Reece got pasted and sprayed on the way back to the room. He fussed a bit, but in the end this was his kind of day!