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Post 301: Songkran ..... the Reality

Normality has been temporarily suspended. It’s the festival of Songkran and Thailand has gone collectively bonkers. It’s just after 9:00am and looking down from my balcony, I can see that the festivities are already underway. I didn’t even need to look outside for confirmation. The sound from the banks of speakers stacked high in front of every house and shop along the Soi has been ‘Banging’ for at least an hour. Thai music, too much treble and too loud for the ancient speakers, but the only acceptable volume level is ‘Full’. From my reasonably priced vantage point I can see approximately 100 metres of mixed residential and commercial street and count at least forty 50 gallon water containers at the side of the road. Each full container is manned by a small army of people ranging from Kids to Grandparents. All traffic and pedestrians are legitimate targets and most targets are armed and ready to return fire. It’s Thursday 15th of April and this is the third consecutive day of non-stop partying. Don‘t these people ever get tired?

To become fully involved in the festivities of Songkran, there are several essential ingredients. Firstly, you need to acquire a ‘Songkran Shirt’, the louder the better. Secondly, you need water. Lots of water and something with which to dispense it. Most seem to go for the traditional bucket but super-squirting-water-guns are also very popular. The more technically able locals use immersion pumps to ensure a greater range of fire, but in my mind that’s just showing off. Once armed and dressed accordingly, you then need a large quantity of talcum powder mixed with mentholated oil so that it sticks well to it’s target. Then, find a plastic bag for your money and camera and your ready to go and find yourself a ride.

I tried circling on the Honda, but on a bike it’s just an unfair contest. The best option is just to jump aboard a pick-up truck. Any pick-up truck will do, you don’t need to know the people but if there are less than twenty others already clinging to its back, then there’s always room for one more. As the only Farang in these parts, I’m spoiled for choice. The Farang gets all of the attention and thus gains respect for the others on the truck. I end up jumping from pavement to truck, to pavement to different truck and eventually find myself heading slowly out of town in a stream of traffic …. mai pen rai

We seem to be in a convoy, but I’m not sure if anybody knows where it will take us. Behind my ride is another pick-up truck. They’ve identified the Farang and try to make me feel welcome by playing their only Western tune over and over again through a loud speaker mounted in the rear. Rihanna bless them … ‘’you can stand under my umbrella .. ella ella eh eh eh eh’’ …. give it a rest. Collectively they want me to join their group. The two girls in the front want to take me home to meet their parents while the third girl in the back is slightly less reserved about her intentions. I fear that alcohol might have lowered there levels of taste and expectations but once again, that’s not a complaint, just an observation … mai pen rai

In the middle of absolutely nowhere, we crawl along a dead straight road. At the side of the road, high powered pumps lift water from the canal and replenish the 50 gallon water drums on each and every vehicle. My personal progress is slower than most, I can’t move more than a meter without being showered with water and plastered in mentholated talcum powder. Some of the younger revellers speak a little English, they ask me very politely if they might possibly shower me with water and coat me in powder. The others, well, they just do it anyway …. mai pen rai

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