It’s the infamous Songkran festival in Thailand this week. The annual event celebrates the Thai New Year and involves 3 whole days of Thailand’s inhabitants throwing water at each other. Basically – a nationwide water fight. This obviously places the festival on a lot of backpackers’ bucket lists!
But is it all it’s cracked up to be?
I went to the festival in Bangkok a few years ago and let me start by saying that it is more like 5 days. Everyone gets a bit too excited and starts a day early, then it drags on an extra day afterwards. I thought I would be fine walking to the cashpoint the day before the festival and came back drenched and covered in paste.
Oh the paste. I hadn’t heard about this part of Songkran prior to attending. I imagined fun and frolicking whilst happily throwing water at strangers. I hadn’t imagined strangers slathering a white paste over me as they passed. As I’m sure you can tell, I was less than impressed with the paste. It’s just water mixed with talcom powder and apparently the meaning behind it is to offer protection and ward off evil. Which you know, is nice and all, but it would be great if strangers weren’t touching my body uninvited. Especially the few that were getting a bit handsy and aiming for my chest. Just saying.
Anyway, on day 1 of Songkran I decided to walk from my hostel on Rambuttri (Sawadee House) to the backpacker haven that is Khao San Road. I had seen the pretty decorations the day before and heard it was the place to be for Songkran, but actually getting there was something else. It took a good 15 minutes to get through the crowds at the top of Khao San Road, but then could go no further. It was completely rammed. I was surprised it was mainly locals considering the place is usually heaving with Western backpackers. So I spent Songkran mainly on Rambuttri, and would definitely recommend it as you still get the buzzing atmosphere and all of the water-throwing activity without the crazy crowds. You also still get big trucks that pull up with barrels full of ice water drenching the crowds! Funny to watch, not fun to be in.
I will say that I was alone in Bangkok at this point so I don’t think I really got the most out of it. I spent a couple of hours in some intense water fights with some Thai locals but soon retreated to the comfort of my hotel balcony to watch the festivities. It’s not really an ideal time to be on your own as you can’t really make friends… Apart from via yells and cheers in the middle of a battle of the water guns.
Speaking of which, get your water gun the day before the festival – there will an abundance available in the Khao San Road area!
On day 2 of Songkran I was in luck as 1 of my friends from uni was in town for the celebrations with a few of her pals – so I wasn’t a complete loser on my balcony! This was a lot more fun! We spent the morning having water fighting fun and got a few beers but after that I was really done. Despite it being 30 degrees out, I was cold through from the buckets of ice water that get thrown! I retreated for the day. I did go for dinner with my buddy that night but made the mistake of sitting at the front. Restaurants in Bangkok are mostly open-fronted so you still get a few sprinklings from wayward water guns! Thankfully none interfered with my Massaman curry. There would have been hell to pay.
By day 3 I’d really had enough. I know I sound pretty boring but there’s only so many water fights you can have and only so long you can be soaking wet without just wanting to stay inside and be dry! I was waiting for a flight a couple days later, otherwise I would’ve gotten out of town right about here. I spent this day in the Sawasdee House restaurant, people-watching, eating large amounts of food and drinking Changs. And taking naps. Yes, I napped through the last day of Songkran, I don’t even care.
At this point I turned into that episode of Idiot Abroad where Karl Pilkington had to endure a bit of Songkran madness. If I had to venture out I avoided everyone, obviously became a massive target because of my apparent dryness and scowled at everyone that got me. I realise I sound like a bit of a Princess here. But I just couldn’t hack anymore. I was cold and wet and sick of men trying to touch me with that horrid paste.
My advice? Songkran is definitely worth a visit for a day or 2 but get out before you turn into a bitter recluse like I did. Hit it and quit it. And go with friends, it’s much more fun that way.
I’m keen to know if any of you have been and what you thought of it? Did you enjoy it? Am I just being a whiny little bitch? (Quite likely.) Hit me up!