My last few days in Thailand were possibly the craziest, maddest, funniest and wettest of my entire life and really was the best way to finish up my time in Thailand with an almighty BANG!!
We arrived back ‘home’ in Phrae to pick up our main luggage we left behind whilst in Cambodia and to say our fond farewells to all our close friends that have been a life line here in Thailand. The plan was to spend a couple of nights before heading off to Chiang Mai for our last few days and to celebrate Songkran, Thai New Year.
Being ‘home’ was nice as it was a chance to relax after an extremely mental few weeks and stressful few months. We spent the time catching up with everyone and sorting out last-minute details for Australia. I also received a lovely goodbye present from George and P’Lek, a black pearl necklace and earring’s set which couldn’t be more my taste!! (And have not left my neck since!!)
Our last day in Phrae was the day before Songkran began and we had lots of running about to do before leaving. Now let me explain, Songkran is Thai New year. People use this time to wash the Buddha image (statue’s) in their homes and at the temple as a way to cleanse themselves for the New Year. The water that has come off the Buddha is then used to pour onto people as it’s seen as though it’s been blessed and they smudge people’s faces with talcum powder to represent the powder the monks use to show someone has been blessed. This tradition has evolved ‘slightly’ and has now become a 3 or 4 day water fight with power getting thrown on you and NO ONE is out-of-bounds, it is hard to convey just how mental this festival is!!
So back to my story, we were running about on the motorbike (Andy driving and me on the back) and were heading to
the internet shop to print off our flight details. Up ahead we saw lots of children playing on the side of the road and before we knew it we were SOAKED as buckets of ice-cold water hit us! The internet shop was only a couple of meters further along the road from where the children were playing and as Andy drove off I noticed a small fat boy plod over to the shop with a huge orange bucket! A man gave me a small plastic bag and gestured to my phone, so popping my phone in the bag I walked into the internet shop to use the printer. When I came out the fat boy was sitting waiting on me with a look that I can only describe as ‘I dare you to run… just try it white girl!’. I started laughing which clearly was the signal as ‘she is fair game’ and ran past him only to get ice-cold water poured over my head. With screams of laughter I looked up to see a herd of children speed towards me with super soakers, buckets and mischievous grins. Next minute I was being covered on all sides with the coldest water possible and screams of ‘ahhh teacher sawadee be mai!!!’ (Happy New Year) yes these were all my students!! Little rascals!
With my first taste of Songkran in the bag we headed off to Chiang Mai for the main event and the most mental experience of my life!!! After checking in to the hotel we made our way to the main square getting as far as about 10 meters before being drenched in water! This time I was ready for them with a giant super soaker of my own however it was no match for the pick-up trucks with tanks of ice water and 5 people in the back with a bucket each!! Crazy!
The main square was insane! There were stages set up all with water being pumped everywhere and girls on the stage with hoses splashing everyone possible. Now at Songkran EVERYONE is fair game, and if you are dry you are basically a massive target! There were a few grumbling ex-pat’s who clearly were not impressed at getting wet, but when the city has hundreds of thousands of people all with water pistols and buckets do they really expect to stay dry?!
Half way through the day the parade started with Thai dancers and floats… I have to admire the Thai dancers who carried
on their very graceful dancing despite being pelted from all sides with water. The floats also contained massive Buddha images which people could splash with water to cleanse themselves. Then a fire truck came though, we noticed it at first as they were using the fire hose to spray everyone in the crowed, however as it came closer we noticed a figure on top. As it came close we all realized it was Yingluck, Thailand’s Prime Minister! She rode up the street to the main square to make her Songkran speech then to all our surprise she walked back down the street. Now as I said before EVERYONE is fair game at Songkran and this goes for the Prime Minister as well!! As she passed water was flying EVERYWHERE! And we were all maybe a bit too pleased with ourselves about shooting her right in the face with our water guns. Despite the police surrounding her and some army personal (who were also getting drenched) she carried on walking with a huge smile on her face! Don’t think you would get to do that back in the UK!
The day continued and we even attended a foam party in the middle of the street! By 5 o’clock we were shattered and had to go home for a nap before heading out to party in the city! Luckily most people stop throwing water after the sun goes down so by night you can go out and stay dry! Lots of my friends had come to Chiang Mai to celebrate and it was great to see so many familiar faces before I say goodbye to Thailand… even if it was a very drunken goodbye!!
Celebrations continued on the next day however this time we went to the North Gate to a friend’s shop who was hosting a party. As with the previous day before we even got to our destination we were drenched in water… but it is all part of the fun. As April is the hottest month here with temperatures close to 40 degrees it is actually lovely to be splashed with water continuously as it keeps you cool!
The party was just as mental as the day before with the exception of the ‘cocktail’ of Jungle Juice that was supplied which
contained 12 bottles of Whiskey! (After the previous nights party I only had one or two drinks before swapping to Gatorade-yes I know hardcore! HA!) The party also contained our own supply of water with massive blocks of ice in it to ensure it was kept freezing! The day was much more chilled out than the day before and we even got to go listen to a free concert that had classics such as Bon Jovi’s ‘It’s my life’ in a strange Thai mix!
After a full day out in the sun I was shattered and could only make it out for dinner, a look around the markets and then one drink before having to go home to bed… I think this is a sign that I am getting too old! HA!
The final day was another mass water fight however Kevin and I decided to sneak away and off to the cinema to see Titanic 3D. I can’t express how exciting this was for me!! The movie came out the first time when I was 10 years old (well technically 9 as I had not turned 10 yet!) and started an obsession that was possibly the making of my friendship with my best friend Hannah. Our love affair with Leonardo Di Caprio and all things Titanic cemented our relationship which to this day despite the thousands of miles between us is still as strong as it was back when we were making Titanic models out of boiled eggs, pizza boxes and our famous “Titanic Picture Book”. It was quite sad that we could not see it together however I know that when we meet again this is first on our to-do list! The film was even better than I remember and Hannah if you are reading this I could not get the image of us acting out the entire movie in the playground all those years ago!
Once back from the cinema we went out for our last dinner in Thailand, then on for a quick walk around the markets before setting off a Chinese lantern, sending our wishes for the New Year up with it. And with that, Songkran was over! Like I said at the start it has been one of the most insane festivals I have EVER experienced and worth coming to Thailand in April just to experience the madness for yourself. Songkran marked the end of my year in Thailand and I could not imagine a more perfect ending, surrounded by friends, having fun and giving me an awesome lasting image of Thailand.
In a year that has literally been life changing, moving on feels quite daunting as once again I am moving to a new country with no idea what to expect. All I know is that if it is half as good as Thailand then I will be doing well.
So the long journey to Australia begins and the start of a new adventure commences…..
…. To be continued…