Thursday, April 13, 2006

Songkran - Thai New Year Celebration

I had heard so much about Songkran, Thailand’s new year celebration that I had to make it back there in time to see it. Dubbed “Extreme Holiday” by a Thai television news station, it’s a 1 to 5-day, country-wide happy water fight.

Because Songkran is a Buddhist holiday, and southern Thailand has a high percentage of Muslims, I was told that Songkran was not so big of a deal in Hat Yai, the biggest city in Southern Thailand. Well, don’t let anyone fool you! Everyone participated, from little kids to senior citizens. I arrived from Kuala Lumpur somewhere around 7:30AM and already, there were grandmas sporting super-soaker guns and buckets of water ready to douse you as you passed. Walking down the sidewalk, I heard a timid “Sorry...” and got shot in the back by a boy with a water rifle — pretty hilarious.

After breakfast, the water throwing and had picked up pace and I was dying to jump in on the action, but had to catch the bus to Koh Samui, and unfortunately ended up watching all the fun from inside the bus, all day...

It took forever just getting out of Hat Yai. The streets and everything in them were glistening with water and crammed with quick-moving attackers and slow-moving vehicles. People on motorbikes probably got the worst drenching. While able to weave their way through the traffic, they had to go slow, making themselves easy targets for the truckloads of people armed with buckets, bowls, giant syringe-like squirters, and huge barrels of water as an almost endless supply of ammo.

Helpless motorbike riders

Another part of the Songkran tradition is to mix baby powder with water and cover everyone you see with that as well — making for many more white people (and cars, for that matter) in Thailand than usual — even the bus got hammered.

As the bus made its way to Surat Thani (the take-off point of the ferry to Koh Samui) it was hard to find 100 meters between water squads next to or in the road, throwing water at others across the street, helpless motorbike riders, cars or mobile attack units. Even when it started raining in the afternoon, the action kept going.

You may be wondering, so where’s all the photos? Sadly, my camera battery had basically died. And with no way to charge it on the bus, it wasn’t until I got on the ferry that I was able to find a power outlet. At least I was able to get a few shots after that, but there wasn’t any water tossing on the boat — only on the television in the ferry lounge.

That’s where I met little Ning, a little cutie that introduced herself by attaching a Hello Kitty sticker to the back of my hand. Thai kids seem to love practicing their English, and she had a number of essential phrases down pat, like “What’s your name?” and “Where are you going?”. Soooo adorable.

Ning, aspiring photographer

nui and I (photo credit: ning)

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Blogger Soul said...

DUDE! You LIVE! Ning is darling, Nui is beautiful, and what's with those glasses?!?

4:37 AM  
Blogger PlugInBaby said...

hellow rafael..i was just browsing and accidentally found blog..nice to read..u won't mind i add u would u?...

4:59 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Wow, that's a great blog - you would do well writing travel articles! Made me feel as though I was there.

I think the spectacles are quite the mod thing. I wonder if they come in prescription form? heehee.

11:52 PM  
Blogger PlugInBaby said...

hey...waiting for ur latest post...

8:35 PM  

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