Yes! Yes I am actually writing a post to convince you to not go to Thailand during a time when most of the Thai women will be sporting wet t-shirts, touching your face and inviting you to get wet n wild with them. Since most of my readers are women, it should be easy convincing, ha ha.
Quite a few friends of mine plan on being in Thailand during Songkran Festival which runs 13-15 April. For nearly all of them, this will be their first Songkran experience.
What is Songkran? For the uninitiated, the festival is a Thai national holiday- the Thai lunar new year. It is considered the most important festival in Thailand and many workers get a full week off work to celebrate. Songkran is closely associated with water. In the past, people would gently pour water to elders and family members to give good fortune. Take note of where I say, “In the past.”
Today, Songkran is perhaps the world’s largest water fight. Whether it is with a hose, a water gun, a bucket of water or a pail of water, if you are any where near where people are celebrating, you will get wet, very very wet.
Is it fun? You bet your ass it is, especially if you are visiting Thailand for the first time, like I was back in 2010 when my ship made a port visit to Pattaya at the start of the festival.
We had some forewarning about what was to take place. Mostly our captain wanted to make certain that Sailors weren’t out starting fights with locals because their new Air Jordans or Polo shirts were soaked with water. Songkran isn’t a time to be impressing Thai bar girls or go go dancers with your fashion sense. Actually, is there any time of year that you need to do that?
We hit the streets hard that first day. Leaving our Amari Nova Suites rooms, we set out in Pattaya to check out the scene. Immediately upon stepping out of the hotel, we were greeted with some sort of muddy concoction being wiped on our cheeks. After a few seconds, you could feel the vapors tingling the skin. That was immediately followed by a drive-by shooting of ice cold water right on our chests! I’m talking ice, ice baby too cold.
See, what happens early in the day is people buy these blocks of solid chunks of ice. These aren’t ice cubes, these are ice bricks. They put these bricks of ice in trash vats that you’d see chemical companies put hazmat in. Filled with water and these ice bricks, the vats are loaded onto the backs of pickup trucks where groups of party happy Thais are, all armed with an assortment of things to get you wet and cold.
The water guns and hoses aren’t too bad. It’s the buckets that will leave you wishing you stayed in your hotel room at times. People take these buckets of ice cold water, run up to you and pour them over your head. Ice cold! For most of the day, that’s how you’ll be feeling but it’s okay because by now you should have purchased your water gun and you should be giving as much as you’re getting. Towards evening though, the ice cold water vats have been replaced with warm water, only your clothes still feel cold so that warm water hitting your cold, wet clothes does not feel good.
But you still feel good. It’s a fun time to be any where in Thailand I’m sure. In Pattaya when I was there, all the streets, especially Beach Road leading up to Walking Street were filled with people. Every one was participating in the water fighting. We parked ourselves at a bar and just reveled in the revelry. All full day of getting sprayed with cold water, drinking Chang, chasing wet t-shirts and Thai heat will leave you exhausted. You’ll need a good nap before you attempt to go out for the nightlife.
Don’t go to Thailand during Songkran if you’re put off by people having fun at your expense. You’re going to get wet, soaking wet. Strangers will laugh at you the more pissed off you look. It’s a fun time in the country known as the ‘Land of Smiles.’ If you’re being a downer, people will do their best to cheer you up and that means hurling more cold water in your direction.
And don’t think you’re safe by hopping in the back of a tuk tuk. The drivers have a little trick they do. They flash their high beams at water sprayers along the road to let them know they there are passengers in the back. Just when you think you’re safe, the driver slows down and you get sprayed from all sides of the tuk tuk.
I swore after experiencing my first Songkran that I would never go back during the festival but writing about it has me feeling a bit nostalgic now. Where’s my Super Soaker?