Monday, May 3, 2010

My New Favorite Holiday

Imagine, you're on vacation in a foreign country and are excited to get out and start exploring the historic town you're staying in.  As you walk down a wet street in search of a place to eat lunch you notice a man standing near the entrance of a bar with a beer in one hand and a menacing look on his face.  You decide to be careful and give the man a wide berth. As you mentally begin to celebrate for being able to avoid such "danger" you suddenly feel the deathly chill of a bucket of ice water being poured down your back.  Immediately you recoil but you can't get angry.  It's the Songkran Holiday and being soaking wet from 8am to 6pm comes with the territory.

 Songkran is a celebration of the Thai new year.  It has been celebrated in North Thailand for hundreds of years and is now celebrated around the country.  Originally Thai's would mark this occasion by pouring a small cup full of water on their friends and neighbors as a blessing for the new year, today the celebration has morphed into a 4 day, all out, nationwide waterfight.
    Because Songkran coincided so closely with the end of our school year at GES, I vowed that the year I left Thailand I would stay to celebrate Songkran.  Since my departure came at the end of this last school year, along with several other of my teacher friends we began planning a trip to Chiang Mai, which was rumoured to have the best celebration in all of Thailand (being that Chiang Mai is the largest city in Northern Thailand, that makes total sense).

When we first began planning the trip to Chaing Mai we had wanted to take the 14 hour sleeper train ride there from Bangkok.  It would give us space to stretch out, unlike a bus, and we had heard it was a "must do" experience.  While I'd been in a sleeper train before in India (and let me say, that WAS an experience), I wanted to give the fabled Thai sleeper train a chance.
    We waited and waited until a month before Songkran when we could finally book the tickets.  We had Kru Nee in the GES office call the station.  She reported back to us that the berths we wanted were no longer available.  Well Crap!  This was the second time in a year where I had tried to take a train and been "rejected."  So the bus it was!
     Our bus to Chiang Mai actually wasn't that bad, maybe even the nicest bus ride I've had.  The seats were only three across, which meant extra arm room, and Kelly and I sat in the back/exit row, which meant we could recline as far as we wanted and we had tons of foot space.

    Our trip to Chiang Mai was for a total of 4 days.  One day I knew I wanted to do the "Flight of the Gibbons," a zipline adventure through the tall rainforest, but the rest of our days were free to play in the water.

   The first day we didn't know what to expect.  We bought water guns and dressed to get wet, but we didn't really know how it would all work.  We didn't have to wait long to find out.  As soon as we reached the main street people were already viewing our dry clothes as something that must be eliminated ASAP.  The closer we got to the Taepae Gate the more chaotic things got.  Traffic crawled along, barely.  Pick-up trucks and topless tuk tuks were loaded with people and endless buckets of ice water.  Dance music pumped from the Coca Cola stage.  It was like one big, wet, party.
    Never before have I wanted a waterproof camera so badly!  Some of the pictures would have been amazing!  Early on on Wednesday, after a quick and very wet trip to the hospital to make sure Shaela hadn't broken her elbow we walked around in the waterfight for a bit but then decided to rent a tuk tuk and take advantage of the large bucket of water, ice water, that came along with it.  Sarah and I planted ourselves on the seat back while our two gimps, Kelly and Shaela, sat on the seat.  Our driver took us around the inside of the city moat (where all the songkran water was coming from, I don't even want to know what was in it) and we had a grand old time throwing water at people and surprising them with the ice water.
    We had so much fun riding around on the tuk tuk on Wednesday that we decided to do it again before we left on Thursday.  That time, looking back, it was a bit more of a mistake.  We got a much later start and found ourselves absolutely freezing.  We were so cold that we actually dreamed of jumping into the klong (moat), dirty water and all.

This is me fighting with a little kid in a truck, I think he won

   Staying to celebrate Songkran was one of the best decisions I have ever made.  Any country that will have a national waterfight is all right in my book.  I hope I can get back to celebrate it in Chiang Mai again one day, hopefully armed with a waterproof camera :)

No comments: