Historically April is the hottest month of the year in Thailand. Presumably the warmest days are mid month – conveniently this is when Songkran is held every year. For several days one of the world’s biggest waterfights takes place throughout the country. Our Songkran began slowly – joining a colorful procession of people parading through a temple grounds. Hawaiian style colorful shirts are the norm during the days of Songkran – the brighter the better.
Then it was off to a village for a more local Songkran celebration – as part of a tradition called Rot Nam Dam Hua, the elderly sat in a row while the younger people kneeled in front of them. Then the village elderls chanted for a bit and received envelopes of money. We took turns pouring plastic containers of water over their heads.
Finally it was off to the big time water fight. We loaded a garbage can full of water into the back of a truck – and tied it with suspect looking twine which would probably snap off if the driver braked hard. Knowing full well the dangers associated with driving during the “7 days of death”, a phrase referring to the hundreds of deaths, thousands of accidents and tens of thousands of drunk driving arrests that occur every year during Songkhran (according to numerous online sources) we all sat in the back of the truck and headed down the highway along with thousands of other cars.
Our truck bed felt quite spacious despite the containers of water – there were only 6 of us in the back. We passed some pickup trucks of equivalent size with 15 to 20 people somehow mashed together with many clinging on to the sides of the truck hanging over the edge and the tailgate.
Arrviving in the city, we realized we had arrived to the big time as soon as we saw trucks with water tanks spraying everyone in site – the waterfight showdown as it were. We felt under prepared with our small buckets but then we saw hundreds of people lining the sides of the road and other similarily equipped trucks. Soon it was a free for all!
We threw water on those on the side of the road – they squirted us with giant squirt guns, the worst was being hit with buckets of ice cold water.
At one point drunk men jumped on top of an empty flatbed that happened to be rolling through, rocking away to the loud music. People would continuously walk up to you and smear wet chalk powder on your face – only to be washed away when you received a bucket full of water on top of your head.
Our last Songkran was at Wat Thai in Los Angeles where the day was barely warm enough for children splashing around with water – and the following week where a mile of Hollywood Blvd in Thai Town was closed down for a parade. Both events were quite exciting, but nothing prepares one for the scale of Songkran in Thailand!