we arrived in thailand in mid-april, 2009, on the first day of the 3-day new years celebration called songkran! i was told this multi-day celebration focuses on cleaning, cleansing, and restoring. everyone spends some time cleansing their bodies, they clean their entire house, they clean up images and statues of buddha, and they visit their elders to spend some time together. the whole process sounds lovely, but the most memorable part for most visitors, i think, is the self-cleansing period... which essentially means having a country-wide water fight where you not only dump water on yourself, but you make sure every other person that comes within your vicinity is also "cleansed" with refreshing water!!
we crossed the cambodia-thailand border around noon, having seen no evidence of the purported water fights in cambodia. almost immediately as we rode south along the quiet two lane roads in thailand, the taxi was pummeled with buckets of water by kids, and sometimes entire families, that stood along the side of the road, dancing to music, and laughing together waiting for more people to drive past! our excitement rose as we headed toward koh chang island!
we packed ourselves and our backpacks into a taxi which drove us along the single road that went around the island. the driver rudely motioned to the twelve taxi riders that we should hide our electronics (i realized from hindsight), but we got annoyed because it just seemed like he was yelling at us loudly in thai, pointing and waving his arms wildly! we began the 45-minute journey complaining about the driver, until it hit us - icy cold water from buckets and warm fountains of water from hoses and waterguns!! we screamed and scrambled and begged in vain for people to take mercy on us and all of our stuff. we got wet. were were sitting ducks trapped in the back of the taxi!
we found ourselves needlessly angry about getting refreshingly soaked with water, and i felt a bit silly after we made it to the bungalow and i realized not much got wet inside my bag!
we took some time to plan before we left to explore the town: we didnt mind getting wet, but we needed to waterproof our wallets! i have a waterproof case for my little digital camera, and this experience made the investment unbelievably worth it!!
we were warmly welcomed with buckets of water not more than 20 feet from our bungalow!
this kid got me with his ice water and face paste :(
we enjoyed our brief encounter with the water rituals that night, but they ended in the evening as the sun set. the next day we headed to the beach for a swim in the ridiculously warm water before fully joining in the songkran fun! remember these watery hair dos? haha!
after a quick bite to eat, there was no avoiding the fun.
we dropped everything, bought some beers, grabbed some buckets, and took our places with the people dancing along the side of the only road!
welcome to the party...
scooter drivers had no chance of staying dry!
when the traffic was slow...
i realized that people stuck in the back of taxis really were the best targets. i got my undeserved revenge ;)
truck loads of families and friends would drive by...
... usually with their own water supply to dump on us!
and occasionally, someone would come along and cover us all with some type of powder or paste!
we were the last ones left with buckets in our hands as the sun began to set ;)
best. waterfight. ever.
more (high-res) photos of koh chang island and thailand: here.