Songkran – Part 3
In the picture above, you’ll see a group of fellow students and teachers, with myself, from the language center where Brook and I are currently studying. Last Saturday, we had a special session all about the celebration of Songkran and the traditions that come along with it in Thai society. After the session, we were all asked to gather for a group photo out front of the building, since a few students will be leaving soon, and we all happened to be together for once. Little did we know, as the students were lining up, all teachers snuk out of the group and made their way up to the balcony above… and SPLASH! They got us all with buckets of cold water from up high, all of us completely unaware! What a way to kick off the weekend, and kick off the Songkran fun. No one had any idea, they planned it moments before, and it was a great (and very funny) surprise. Interestingly enough, I happened to be in the center of the group, and soaked up most of the water by myself. Happy Songkran, eh?
Songkran is known around the world mostly for its notorious water-fights that take place throughout the entire country. Roads are essentially shut down as small gangs with large buckets of water form along the sidewalks, calling for vehicles to stop for an anointing of sorts! All of the kids are also out on summer break, armed with giant water guns and hoses, ready to douse the next person who passes by. Side roads all come to a crawl as people sitting in the back of pick-up trucks battle it out in the air, and families come running from their front steps to attack them from behind. All ages participate, and everybody has fun. It is no coincidence that this all happens to take place during the hottest week of the entire year.
Another thing that goes on during this staged war of water is the hurling and smearing of powder and a sort of mud-paste. There is a certain type of talc produced in Lopburi (that is later used to make some types of baby powders) that can be bought in blocks or small chunks. During Songkran, these blocks and chunks are widely distributed for making a sort of slurry that can be smeared on people. I honestly have no clue where this part of the fun came from, but it sure gets crazy. Some people hold the hoses and buckets, and others carry around bowls of this “mud,” ready to paint somebody wherever they like – usually the face. But, don’t worry, there’s always someone 5 feet away, totally willing to dump a bucket of ice water on you to wash it all right off.
We were told ahead of time that dousing and smearing the farangs (foreigners/white-skinned people) in a city like ours (where there really aren’t any farangs other than us) is sort of an accomplishment that can be told of for years to come. A proverbial notch on the belt, you could say. So… we were prime targets. As soon as one kid spotted us riding by (at a snail’s pace, of course), the whole group would come running, all eager to have a chance to touch our faces. Kids, teenagers, even grandmothers made the rush to smear us with paste. It was quite amusing. Luckily, we were out for the purpose of Songkran-ing, had nowhere else to go, and were already wearing destroyable clothing. What fun!
Something really incredible about this whole water fight thing, though, is how everyone – literally EVERYONE – comes out to play. The photo to your left was taken standing at the end of our soi (tiny sidestreet), looking down the main road. Traffic at a standstill, truck after truck filled with people and their tanks of icy water, splashing from vehicle to vehicle. It was nuts! The only thing you could hear was “Sawatdii pii mai (Happy New Year),” “Suk sahn wan Songkran (Happy Songkran),” and insane amounts of laughter… for hours! And there was not an angry one in the bunch. Everyone from 5 year old boys to teenagers, moms, and grandfathers were out playing in the water together.
I’ve heard many comments about how this would be awesome to do back home, but honestly, it would never fly. It is understood here that if you are on the road, you are fair game. Everybody also accepts the fact that you may get a cold, an ear ache, or red eyes after 3 days of water splashing and getting mud in your face. It just comes with the territory. If you don’t want to get wet, powdered, or bothered, you don’t go out. Buy your food a few days ahead and just stay at home, and no one will look down on you. It’s your choice. But… if you go out, be ready for action! Going out = willingness to “len naam” (play water) with your entire community, whether you know them or not!
Seriously, could you imagine a whole city in the States (not to mention the whole country) shutting down, having roads blocked by water wars traffic, splashing in the streets, anybody being fair game… and not having any lawsuits, screaming, people getting in fights, or insane doctor bills over the little side effects? Nah. Perhaps we should just keep Songkran in Thailand, and all of you can come visit us sometime in April. Deal?
Since I can’t seem to fit all of our photos here on this page, here’s a link to my Facebook album. The link is public, so you will be able to view it even if you’re not a Facebook user. Click right here!
No comments yet.