I can tell you right now, throwing ice-cold water into a stranger’s face is really fun. It’s even more fun when they laugh and get you back by squirting you with their massive water-gun. How do I know all of this? Aurelien and I spent a day in Bangkok participating in the biggest water fight I have ever seen. We flew into Bangkok on Saturday from Hanoi to end our tour of Vietnam. We found out that it happened to be Songkran, Thailand’s New Year’s festival, which takes place April 13th-15th each year. During Songkran, people in Thailand (as well as other places in SE Asia) celebrate by throwing, squirting and dumping water on anybody they can get their
hands water on (minus infants and the elderly).
The water is supposed to be good luck for the new year. Originally, it started with a tradition of gently pouring water that had been used to cleanse Buddha. This showed your respect and gave good fortune to your family and elders. Nowadays, it has turned into a crazy water fight. Chiang Mai is known for it’s fabulous six day festival, but Bangkok celebrates for three days as well.
Let me see if I can describe the scene properly. First off, as soon as you leave your hotel, you are liable to be attacked at any moment, from every direction. If you are riding in a Tuk Tuk, you will get soaked by people on the roads. If you are innocently walking down the street, the hotel guard will grab the garden hose and drench you. Kids will come running up with super soakers. Trucks with a groups in the back will whizz by and soak you, and vendors will dump water on you as you walk by. The best part is everyone will be smiling and laughing. IT IS SO MUCH FUN! Just make sure you have your “weapon” of choice to get them back. The thing that really struck me about this holiday is that everyone gets involved. It was hilarious to see grown men with their water guns strapped to their backs, street vendors with their buckets and little kids with their angry bird guns. Side-note: Angry Bird paraphernalia is everywhere in Asia, but most people don’t actually know about the game.
The Thais, like most Asians, are a very entrepreneurial bunch. Throughout the entire city vendors were selling water guns of all sizes, buckets, talc powder (that people mixed with water and smeared on your face as you walked by), waterproof carriers for your cellphone and, of course, food and drinks. We decided not the waste our money and the environment on a few hours of entertainment, so we went for tiny buckets for 10 baht. Turns out the buckets were for the talc, but we had a ton of fun dumping water on people instead of squirting at them.
We headed to Silom road on Sunday (the 14th), which is normally a big busy road, but was closed off for pedestrians. It was PACKED. We came out the metro and froze in our tracks. It was overwhelming. Crowds walked up and down the street. Everyone was drenched, covered in talc and looked quite intimidating. It almost felt like we were headed into battle. Some people were hooked up with three cylinder water guns and goggles.
After a few minutes of staring with our mouths open, we decided to be brave and join the crowd. First stop though was filling our little buckets (while getting sprayed at from passerby’s and vendors). Turns out the water comes from water bottles, 20 baht for three water bottles. I felt a little bad about wasting all of the plastic, not to mention water, but when in Rome… We found the coldest water we could (keep in mind it was in the 90’s so cold water actually felt good) and off we went. After about one minute we were both soaked. Firemen with their massive hoses were in the middle of the street, drenching everyone. Groups of teenagers with their super-soakers attacked anyone they wanted. A few other tourists were there, it was fun getting them wet.
This experience was one of the funnest things I’ve ever done. Truly. I couldn’t believe how much fun it was to just run around, getting soaked and soaking other people. If you can get to Thailand during Songkran I highly recommend it.
Where We Stayed
We stayed in the Park Plaza Bangkok Soi 18. It was in a great location just off Sukhumvit Road, one of Bangkok’s most popular streets for hotels, and close to both the MRT and BTS public transports. We have a separate post about the hotel coming soon.