Although I have been to Thailand several times on holiday before moving here, this was my first experience of Songkran. I knew it would be fun, but I didn’t know quite what to expect. Speaking to some expats who have been here for years, I got two different takes on the occasion. Some were well-prepared, and stocked up on water-dispensing weapons, and others groaned at the thought, finding the whole idea a drag, preferring to stay in bed for the day.
My family and I decided to completely immerse ourselves into the mind thought and spirit of things, and make our first Songkran one to remember, after all, as the saying goes, ‘If you can’t beat them, join them!’
Our day started at 9:30am, when most respectable adults (well those without primary school going children) are still enjoying their first morning cup of caffeine while reading the paper and picking on a buttery croissant, and wondering what to do with their day. Joining some friends, we piled the children and a few moms and dads into the back of a pick up. Two large barrels of water and a large assortment of ‘weapons’ and we were ready for some action. Our army consisted of five children ranging from three to seven years old – an easy target for the serious Songkraners. We headed out from Big C, and within metres, I was soaking wet. After this initiation, I soon got into the swing of things and joined the kids in firing at targets. Nobody escaped our fire. It’s amazing how easily one can regress to childhood, when it is acceptable to do so. Songkran really gives you the opportunity to let go and just have fun.
The route of our war path took us along the ring road, down past Fishermans village and Bang Rak, past Choeng Mon, and towards Chaweng. Getting baptised with buckets of water over the head didn’t seem so bad; after all, we are heading into hot season. Chaweng is where the serious Songkraners hang out. There they mean business. Entering Chaweng, I got my first dousing of ice water. Not nice. The combination of brain freeze and your body going into shock was a rude awakening that some people meant business - game on!
When the younger children had had enough, we parted ways, and joined other friends at a bar in Bang Rak. By this stage, the action was in full swing, and the streets resembled the floods again. You would think that after the recent floods, Samui would be sick of water, but evidently not. We positioned ourselves, stocked up on weapons, and joined locals, expats and tourists alike in the world’s biggest water fight. Nobody escaped our aim, but when you are the frontline in a war, you are also an easy target. No matter how many buckets of ice water you become the target of, you never quite get used to it. When the battle is not going your way, it’s time to change tactics. A phone call and delivery truck later, and our water barrels were loaded with 20kg blocks of ice. Now we were ready to play with the big boys. The look on someone’s face is priceless when they are expecting a splash of balmy water, and they get an arctic surprise. Their bodies tense up, stomachs suck in and the look of horror on their faces is priceless. Most people take it in their stride - after all, all is fair in love and war. I don’t speak Russian, but one tourist let out a string of words accompanied by a hand gesture, that I don’t think was considered polite Russian.
Songkran was by far the best New Year experience I have ever had, and alcohol did not play a big part of the picture – there wasn’t time to drink, we were too busy having fun and defending ourselves from icy hails of fire. Thinking back, I don’t think the concept of Songkran would work in any other country. The Thai’s fun and chilled approach to life meant that no one got upset, everyone got involved and everyone was fair game. Those that had to work on the day, just donned a raincoat and umbrella, and smiled as they made their way through the gauntlet to work. The fact that everyone, even little old ladies, joined in, is what makes the festival work. All in good spirit, and after all, we all like to be a big kid sometimes, whether we admit it or not.
© Rosanne Turner