War stories from the inside

(AP Photo/Precha Keatchaithet)

In my previous blog I talked about the four ways I experienced Songkran, and wrote about the first, traditional one in detail. Standard waterfights followed on the first day of Songkran, but with a little twist: I did it the Thai way, as expected from a person who is Thai inside. 😉

2. Songkran the Thai way
The average Farang who happened to visit Thailand during Songkran had few choices; either retreat from the water, or participate. Participation is usually limited to walking on the crowded main streets or staying in one place and squirting/dousing others. Such a person can only watch in envy as the mobile units pass by with barrels of water in the back of pick-up trucks, accompanied by sometimes more than a dozen Thais spraying everyone and everything wildly – and driving away as quickly as possible!

Some spectators might have wondered about the thin, white-skinned guy in traditional (soggy) Songkran outfit, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Thai guys and gals, also sharing the back of one such pickup with six huge rain-barrels full of icy water. You don’t see many Farang participating from this position, I guarantee. :p

The barrels were fixed to a position by ropes, which was a good thing. Those heavy, sliding weights would have crushed us at the first quick turn or break. When we were not dousing people, we chatted with each other (mostly in Thai, so it’s good that Sis was with me).

We doused everyone we could: old and young, men and women, near and far, Thai and Farang (though strangely there weren’t many of the latter – most of those we could see hiding deep inside, in the safety of fancy glass-walled restaurants and hotels, just watching. What a shame!)

Anyway, didn’t care much about sugar boys and girls who acted like they could melt from a little water and paste. Going with the natives was just too much fun! Favorite targets included policemen standing in the middle of the road in a futile attempt to create order in the chaotic traffic jams. Another favorite catch was passengers in tuk-tuks – simply because it was challenging to get water inside the fast-driving vehicles. Songtaews were easy, and so were the larger, slower trucks.

When we briefly stopped at a wat, the devil inside me played with the thought of giving the old monks an icy mid-day shower too, but luckily I refrained from putting my thoughts into action. Just imagine what would have happened, lol. 😀

On occasional stops, some guys from our truck jumped down the road barefoot, with some paste in their hands. They run up to people (mainly girls), mashing some powder on them. When the truck started moving again, they bolted back and jumped up quickly. (Actually, I think one was not so quick, as we lost him somewhere in the crazyiness. Mai pen rai. Some others jumped up at a gas station where we refuelled).

The real water-wars broke out only when we passed rivalling pickup-teams. It was a crazy fight, and I pity anyone who got caught in the middle, lol. To give you an idea of how intense it was, I gotta tell you that we had to refill the six rain-barrels twice . Now, that’s a heckuva lot of water! First, we refilled at the proper “water-station”, near an ice-factory. Giant ice blocks, almost the size of the barrel, were also fitted into each barrels here. Some extra water-wars also broke out with the other mobile units who also went there for a re-fill.

Our other refill was much less pro, just from ordinary water hoses. That time, we had to do with smaller ice blocks, and somewhat warmer water. But at that time it was a blessing already. Can you imagine standing in the back of a speeding car getting wet every couple minutes or so? Although the temperature was high, our bodies were damn cold after a few hours. But we continued to fight anyway.

At the end, we were cold, hungry and tired. But we had lots of fun, got some truly great memories, and that’s what really counts. 🙂

3.4. Songkran the Farang way
The other two ways were not so interesting (Farang ways, not surprisingly). On the second day, I stayed at home. I was too exhausted from the first day… you know, when you eat an entire cake, then you just can’t even look at cakes for a while. Same here. So, I just stayed home and killed time, as a typical Farang would.

The next day, my sister and I went to see Songkran on Khao San Road. Although been in Thailand for an entire year, that was the first time I visited the place. It’s just not my style. Sis wanted to go this time, and I figured I better go with her.

Just as I thought: had to walk inch-by-inch through an incredibely thick crowd. Lotsa katoeys in seethrough pink dresses with black underwear (yuck). Loud music, and did I mention big crowds? What surprised me is that we saw so many Thais there, while the farang were mostly resticted to a few sois. One of the funnier moments was when we noted a couple of Farang women with huge backpacks and fancy clothes, walking quickly (almost running, if they could in the crowd), perhaps to find a hotel. I guess they didn’t expect this, judging from their grim faces and panicky looks in their eyes. I gave them a few squirts too, for good measure.

All in all, it wasn’t as fun for me as the first day. But it was okay. After Khao San, we also stopped briefly by Sanam Luang (where we ran into my friends, owners of a restaurant where I’m a regular), and the Democracy monument before heading home. Unfortunately, we had to go air-con – it wasn’t good at all, dripping wet. I was all right, but Sis got the flu later. (She is OK now.)

Anyway, so that was it for my first Songkran. Ready for next year now. 🙂

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