Songkran takes place mid-April and is the Thai New Year and water festival as it usually coincides with the first rains of the rainy season.
We decided to take a river trip today. We went by river taxi, past the beautiful Temple of the Dawn
up as far as Nothanburi where we had hoped to visit the klongs – an area of Bangkok where a network of waterways replaces roads – but the trips were prohibitively expensive. We decided to head back to the Koh San road area as we knew that Songkran festivities were going to be celebrated there. It is considered lucky to splash water around and to have water splashed on you. While we sitting having a snack in one of the bars a very angry monk came up to the entrance and started shouting at the owner and gesticulating with his mobile phone. Apparently a farang (foreigner) from the bar had sprayed him with water – it is considered VERY disrespectful to do this to a monk. I really thought he was going to phone the tourist police and have the guy arrested. As we emerged out into the street we started seeing people with white stuff smeared on their faces.
A mixture of flour and water is made into paste and sold in little cone shapes. It is then smeared on to people’s faces. More and more water-pistol-brandishing people could be seen as we neared the Kho San road proper. The entrance was barricaded to traffic and police stood guard at the entrance. Barricades had been placed along both sides of the road and all the shops had been closed or boarded up. We soon found out why. Walking down that road, running the gauntlet of the water pistols was like doing the bull run at Pamplona.
You dodged out of the way of one water pistol only to be caught by one from the other side. And I am not talking about small, discreet water pistols either. These were rocket-launcher sized things and contained cold or iced water.
The temperature that day was only 32°C which felt distinctly cool after the 38°C we had had on the island.
I thought we were going to escape having our faces floured. Paul escaped but I got caught just as we came out at the bottom of the road. Needless to say, it raised a smile on the faces of some of the locals when they saw it later on in the day.
While on the boat that morning it had rained. Visibility not being very good, Tom had immersed himself in the guide book and had discovered that there was another means of river transport we could use to get back to our hotel. We walked as far as the Golden Mount to find the boat stop and, having ascertained that the river taxi did indeed go where we wanted to go, climbed aboard.
Tarpaulins stretched along the outside edges of the boat could be raised and lowered by ropes, attached at strategic intervals the length of the boat, by the passengers to prevent themselves being sprayed with water from the fast-moving boat. Everything gets thrown into the canal and I mean everything. Paul got sick last year from accidentally swallowing a mouthful of river water and ended up staying in hospital for a couple of days with severe dysentery. Ticket collectors, wearing crash helmets, clambered like monkeys along the edges of the boat to collect our ticket money. The boat only stopped for a couple of minutes at each stop and you had to hurry to get on and off.
Half way along the course, we changed boats – a fast and easy way of increasing the frequency of the boats. A couple of stops later we disembarked and walked back to the hotel – about a ten minute walk. More smiles from people who saw my still-flour-smeared face. As we passed the Nana Plaza we had to run the gauntlet again of water pistol wielders.
One girl here had a very dainty pistol in the shape of small yellow duck which she brandished in front of me but nothing came out! Wet again we went into the bar called the Bus Stop where we sat under these beautiful red umbrellas
and a had a final meal before catching our return flight home later that evening.
Information can be found here http://www.songkran.net/en/announce.php