Chiang Mai, Thailand

Songkran water festival on our honeymoon


Tuesday was the first day of Songkran, the new year festivities, to:
Say sorry to the river for dirtying it,
Respect elders
Have some fun

We were up early, packing for our room move, turned out we didn’t have to go anywhere and could stay in the same room. Sam got a taxi at 9am to go for an out of town one on one vegetable carving session. She learnt how to carve carrots into leaves, tomatoes into roses, cucumbers into lotuses and guava and watermelon into pretty structures. Meanwhile, I worked hard at the pool, perfecting my sunbathing techniques.

Samantha and her carved vegetables
Samantha and her carved vegetables

Water gun toting citizens

At 3pm we ventured into the city, ensuring any belongings we took with us were waterproofed.

The Nawara bridge was closed to traffic and lined with bucket wielding, water gun toting Thais of all ages. Sprinklers were mounted on both sides of the bridge, creating an archway of water into the city. Welcome to the water festival.

Songkran parade
Songkran parade

Crossing the bridge, bone dry, we were obvious targets. In the traditional manner, wide-grinned Thais poured water over our shoulders and wished us a happy new year, we reciprocated.

Songkran parade

A procession (or cavalcade to Sam) came down the road, playing instruments, carrying flowers or images of Buddha, wearing traditional dress, dancing and holding banners. Soaking them was fair game, in fact they became prime targets. One elderly lady, with her cup of water, made sure to wet as many as possible.

Buying water guns

Following the parade down the road the numbers grew. Time to load up on some water weapons: a 300B pump action super soaker and bucket. Fill up and we’re in the fight. Sam indiscriminately poured her cups of water over those least expecting, whilst I ducked and covered in cat and mouse water fights. With each step closer to the city the fight grew less civilised.

A permanent grin was attached to our faces (and everyone else’s), with the pure unadulterated joy of soaking a complete stranger amidst the 40C heat.

Songkran water party

We reached the edge of the old city. Enter the music stages, the pumping music, the pubs and food stalls, the party atmosphere, and most importantly of all, the Chiang Mai moat - an unlimited water supply. Here the water fight went up a notch. Water guns were supersized.

Sam, drenched and with water cannon
Sam, drenched and with water cannon

Groups lined the moat, throwing buckets in, pulling them out full and launching them at anyone. The roads were still open, adding to the chaos, as all vehicles were fair game. Trucks with barrels on the back and groups with buckets or pistols had mammoth battles with moat dwellers, mopeds weaving between trucks would be carrying passengers on the back firing their water soakers into the air.

The beat pumped louder, and with each big chorus the water flew, the roads became rivers. Ice blocks were sold at corners, for that extra shiver inducing squirt and hilarious shriek. At 41C no one was cold.

DUNK! Sam gets five buckets of ice cold over her as she attempts to refill her blue elephant water (back) pack (notorious for having its connecting tube fall out and pouring water down your back).

Around the moat we fought, laughing at the superb surprise attacks whilst dodging the odd bucket load, smiling at the puny water guns people used, or those with built in umbrella shields, or the strange wolverine-like arm mounted ones.

Water trodden trainers were traded for oversized flip flops, and road side pancakes and noodles kept us sated (whilst sushi and wasabi blew my head off).

We danced and played and laughed until the sun went down; clear skies over the Chiang Mai city walls turned orange and the party went on.

We sat in Ratana’s kitchen, dripping wet, making puddles on the floor. Nothing like some chicken noodles, spicy beef and jasmine rice to refuel on.

Sam and Paul with Songkran armory
Sam and Paul with Songkran armory

Songkran (day two) →