Well, it’s really just that: a big water fight.
I’ve been describing Songkran to people as this big water fight, but it wasn’t until we drove down the street and you actually watch hundreds of adults, children, teenagers, grandparents, foreigners and locals soak each other with water that you believe there is a holiday devoted to this.
Today we had the privilege of joining some of our fellow Partners’ staff in celebration of Songkran. We all met at the office and split into three trucks, each filled with: a huge tub or two of water, multiple toilet buckets, a few water guns, and four to five people. We then paraded through town, with everyone else in Mae Sot, and enjoyed the biggest water fight I’ve ever seen.
Water is everywhere. People are using hoses, toilet buckets, water guns, homemade water guns–whatever they can find to drench you. The streets are full of trucks with the backs filled with people (and a large tub, of course, filled for free around town). The streets, also, are lined with all ages, water going everywhere. A few (including us on our second round) add ice into the tubs…we purchased eight blocks of ice about 10″ x 4″ x 5″ (this is completely a Kelli guesstimate so take that with a grain of salt) for 5 baht (16 cents) each.
In addition to water, there’s powder. Supposedly it’s for good luck, but they mix baby powder or talcum powder with water to create a paste, which they then throw on you or smear on your face and clothes. That’s probably the worst part, I’d vote, particularly if it gets in your mouth.
There’s quite a bit of dancing, too. People on the streets pull out big speakers and blare Thai music for everyone to dance to.
Oh, and a lot of alcohol. I’ve never seen so much alcohol in the middle of the streets, in the back of cars, and on motorbikes.
They love to see the farangs (Thai for white person) and gulawahs (Karen for white person) out for the day, too. We thus heard an array of English phrases as we were drenched, including: “Happy New Year” (which made sense, this is traditionally a new year celebration), “Merry Christmas” (not as much sense…), “I love you” (odd, especially when someone is rubbing your cheek with powder), “How do you FEEL?”, and “Made in Thailand!” (while pointing at himself…).
I loved seeing all the smiles. Everyone became so animated,and you suddenly become friends with hundreds of people you can’t communicate with as you cross a million cultural barriers for a silly water fight.
The best part of the day, by far: we passed a lady on the road spraying everyone with a powerful hose. As she sees the foreigners coming, she points her hose downward, gives us a polite Thai wai & bow (a proper greeting, so Thai-level proper that we don’t receive it much in Mae Sot)…and then proceeds to drench us with the hose. She simply needed to welcome us first.
We were sad we couldn’t take the camera with us to capture the fun, but after we saw how wet we got we’re confident it was the right decision. We did take a couple quick shots when we got home, though.
To prevent our new helmets from getting wet, moldy, and smelly like our previously borrowed helmets, I came home with a plastic bag on my head and Stephen used a pillowcase that we keep in the bike. (It’s generally used for drying the bike off after rain or siting on if the seat gets too hot in the sun.) Either way, it’s a good thing decency and style got thrown out the window awhile ago.
And I’ve now decided this might be the best time of year to visit us. It’s definitely a fun experience!