I was lucky enough to have arrived in Bangkok just in time to celebrate the Thai New Year or “Songkran” festival which lasted from the 12 through the 16th of April.
12.04.2006 38 °C
I was able to experience the hedonistic party side of Songkran in Bangkok as well as the more sacred and spiritual side a few days later as I was touring the ancient ruins of Sukothai, about 8 hours by train to the north of Bangkok.
The festivities in Bangkok kicked off on the night of April 11th with a very formal and sanitized government sponsored show in the public park. It featured a sound and light show, traditional Thai dance and songs, fables and a tribute to the much beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej. It was good clean family fun.
This in no way prepared me for the scene around my hostel the next morning the massive backpacker center of Khao San Rd. It was like a cross between Marti Gras (Khao San being the equivalent of Bourbon St.) and MTV Beach Party attended by tourists and Thai’s alike from age 10 to 80. There were bands in the streets, foam machines, DJ’s, lots and lots of cheap beer and dancing girls up on speakers. So of course I bought myself a cheap water gun and dived into the fray. Unfortunately I was not able to get any pictures as my camera would have been destroyed the moment I took it out of my bad.
So you will have to mentally picture thousands of Thai people and tourists roaming the streets all day having massive water gun battles or just turning hoses on one another. The streets around Khao San were closed off to cars and were completely jam-packed with people from morning till late into the night. Even the shops and restaurants alone the streets were scenes of water gun battles with people darting in among the tables to shoot their victims and running off. Other than the water guns the second great theme of Songkran is smearing talc paste on one another’s faces and bodies. There were countless roving bands of teenagers smearing talcum powder mixed with water on everyone's face who passed by with a smile and a "Happy New Year" in broken English. My favorite revelers were the skinny shirtless teenage guys plastered with talc from head to toe running around in frenzy and pasting anyone who came in their reach.
The rest of the city outside of Khao San was the scene of drive-by water battles between pick up trucks and groups on the street corners. The pickups, laden with 10-20 “armed” people in the back and massive garbage bins full of water would pull up to a group on the corner and everyone would thoroughly soak each other for a few minutes before the truck would drive off to the next corner. It is impossible to stay dry during the 5-6 days of Songkran, which is actually a relief in the 100 degree F (40+ C) heat of Thailand in April.