Happy Thai New Year!!
04.12.2008 - 04.13.2008
April is one of the hottest months in Thailand, but I didn't realize it was also going to be the wettest!! April 12 and 13 are the Songkran holidays in Phuket (in some parts of Thailand it lasts a week!). Traditionally, families and friends gather to celebrate by visiting temples, sprinkling water on Buddha images in reverence, and sprinkling water on each other's hands as an act of respect and wishing good luck. Here in Phuket, shortly after dawn on the 13th, devout Buddhists gather at the neighborhood temples to offer food for the orange robed monks and prayers for the New Year. Buuuut, by mid-morning, the tradition vastly changes and the town degenerrates into a battlefield where every person in sight abandon themselves to a mad free-for-all crazyness of throwing, squirting splashing, heaving, hurling and dumping freezing cold water on each other.
Farangs (the Thai word for "foreigners", aka: us) are special targets. Knowing this, Carlos, mom and I took a special trip into Phuket Town and loaded ourselves with super soakers and were ready to strike back! Hey, it's the New Year! Little did we know what we were preparing ourselves for...there were water balloons, squirt guns, buckets, hoses and pretty much anything that could soak you in full effect on every street. We were hit when we least expected it. It was flat out hilarious and our smiles did not fade for the full two days the festival lasted.
Mini water fighter in training...
Around streetcorners, we found little children lurking armed with buckets of ice cold water, who happily ambushed anyone who happened to come close. People on motorcycles weave wildly through traffic, ready to pounce in hit-and-run squirtgun raids. Pickup trucks packed with drenched thais prowl about the streets in search of victims for a watery mugging. Even a bus driver opened his door to get people as he drove by with a super soaker!! Mom stayed dry the first day, but that didn't stop her from filling buckets of water and throwing them to those that passed close to the hotel from our 3rd floor room!! Hilarious...
The streets were jammed packed with "farangs", lady boys, children, grandparents and everyone in between. Each one armed and ready to strike. It took about 6 seconds before I was attacked after walking out of Carlos' hotel. By the time I had reached the end of the block, I was out of water and totally soaked. The fun continued until the wee hours of the morning and then started again soon after.
She got me!
Mom went to the Buddhist temple in Patong and experienced the food offering and blessings. On her long walk back to the hotel, she ran into several water warriors who happily blessed her with a ton of water. By the time she reached the hotel, she got a huge block of ice, got a trash can filled with water and started her own little army of water fighters made up of Banana Tacos staff and their kids in front of the hotel. After a few hours and with pruny, white hands, she was back to work on the gorgeous mural she is painting on the restaurant wall.
As for me, on my way into the hotel my cousin Pablo and I took a moto taxi from their house and within 1 minute of leaving his house got completely soaked - unfortunetly, our driver lost control and we crashed - nothing bad, I somehow jumped right off without a scratch, but the moto got a little banged up...that was just the first 5 minutes of the day. I ended up losing my whole group, but quickly made new friends and ended up organizing a couple of great freezing water attacks on the people across the street from us!
Getting wet is unavoidable and the celebration is a great cultural experience and we can't wait to come back next year and do it again!
Check out this long, but very accurate youtube video of one tourist's view of the festival from 2007!
Songkran requires a sense of humor, a water gun and a waterproof camera to try to catch the happy madness. It was fantastic and we loved every minute of it. :o)
Until next time....