Getting wet in Bangkok

As I left my apartment I looked carefully in all directions; making sure it was clear, I immediately flagged down a taxi. I had to be quick, I knew they could be waiting, just out of sight, ready to get me. As soon as I was in the taxi the driver locked the doors and warned me not to open the window. We both knew the danger.

The roads were busy, but the driver was good, he rushed down some side streets. I might still make my appointment.

The trouble was, how would I get close enough to the building by taxi to get inside safely? The driver took me to the back entrance, making sure no one was around, he pulled over. I paid and got out.

It looked clear, I could see the stairs to the entrance. I made a run for it.

Half way, a black SUV came careening around the corner. As it came towards me the rear windows started coming down. Too quickly two barrels appeared. I wasn’t going to make it.

As I put my first foot on the step, two powerful streams of water came out the rear of the SUV and soaked me.

Despite my best attempt, I became the latest victim of Songkran; the Thai new year celebration. I didn’t reach the cafe for a coffee with my friend without getting soaked.

A kid on the bus with a supersoaker ready to soak some pedestrians

I was in Thailand for two months earlier this year. My stay in Bangkok coincided with Songkran – the Thai new year festival. For 3-5 days the country turns into a huge water fight.

The festival does have a traditional basis. Thai people will visit the temple. Water is placed in the hands of elders as a sign of respect. However, formal side of the holiday aside, the mass  water fights are where the real stand out experience lies.

Water fights happen everywhere. It isn’t safe to go outside with someone you don’t want to get wet. If you are carrying a laptop, make sure it’s in a waterproof bag. Most people wear a waterproof bag around their neck with their phone, keys, money etc.

One of the designated areas to fight in is just behind Siam Square One; a complex of stores and restaurants opposite the famous Siam Paragon. I do recommend Siam Square One, it’s more popular with Thai people while Siam Paragon is packed with tourists.

I took part in the action at Siam Square One. Here are a couple of shots to give an idea of the scale.

It’s bright and colourful. People from all age ranges take part, but at Siam Square One you can see a lot of young people and families.

You may notice flowery shirts in orange, purple and green. There is a kind of Songkran style of shirt. It’s really cool.

I spent a good hour hanging out taking pictures and I caught some nice shots of people getting wet.

This next shot is one of my favourites, it captured the mood in the drops of water flying through the air and the soaked clothes. It was hot at 38 degrees C in the afternoon sun, but the water was just as refreshing as it looks.

Songkran has an excellent festival atmosphere. In addition to the water fights there are stages, music, dancing etc.

Another area; RCA, has a major dance festival. And of course there is a water fight at the infamous Khao San road; but as I don’t like to drink when I travel I tend to avoid the too crazy party areas.

Even the stewards get involved in the action, I caught one pouring water on people as they passed by.

Seeing Songkran in a huge city really was one of the stand out experiences I’ve had. Nothing I’ve seen has an event with this mood and scale. Perhaps the carnivals in South America are similar; in as much as the whole city parties, but in Thailand the combination of the getting soaked and cooling off in the stifling heat really makes it unique.

I can see why Thai people get excited about Songkran every year.

5/5 – highly recommended.

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