Songkran in Hat Yai 2002


(Photo: 2Bangkok.com)

2002 - Songkran in Hat Yai

This is not an explanation of what Songkran is about, but what you will see if you venture out on the street.

Dave Hester writes (April, 2002): Having just experienced my first Songkran Water festival, which celebrates the start of the “wet season” in Thailand, here is what happens !!

Ingredients

Rent a pickup truck
Install 2 or more 30 gallon plastic dustbins nearly full of water
Buy large amounts of talcum powder and/or flour
Purchase appropriate number of high power water squirting devices (they look like huge plastic bicycle pumps)
Buy sandwich bags to put cigarette, mobile phones in to keep them dry
Buy beer, Thai whisky and put in icebox
Having put all this in the pickup truck, put as many people in the back of the pickup as you can without lifting the front wheels off the ground.


(Photo: 2Bangkok.com)

It is time to set off, and we roll out of the village towards the main highway where you see a lot more similarly “heavily armed” pickups cruising toward town. Somewhat reminiscent of the pickups you saw on the news when the US Army was fighting the Somalian warlords, but a little less lethal.

The objective of the exercise is to inundate as many people as possible with streams of water, and everyone is fair game, including police. However, it is difficult to know which police have a sense of humour, and which do not. Risk of arrest !!! The police have water pistols as well as the real ones, but may make the wrong choice, so care is necessary.


(Photo: 2Bangkok.com)


(Photo: 2Bangkok.com)

You have the right to remain wet!

As we cruise up along the streets, we see a large wet patch on the road. This indicates a likely ambush from ground based troops. Far from avoiding confrontation, our driver (my wife - Jintana), who is nice and snug and warm and dry in the car with the windows done up as tightly as possible, slows down, nearly to a stop. The onslaught begins with small kids, big kids (adults) lobbing vast amounts of water from buckets and water guns all over you. High power jets of water thump you all over, people run up and put flour or talc on your face, and you retaliate appropriately.
(Photo: 2Bangkok.com)

(Photo: 2Bangkok.com)
Whilst this is taking place another marauding pickup truck passes and we get attacked from both sides. Jintana in the relative safety in the driving seat, having checked her make up is OK, and amending the lipstick , decides it is time to cruise off to the next ambush, a mere 50 metres away. It is customary to stop at all points that offer a potential drenching. The next ambush is less comfortable, as the gang there has got barrels full of ice cold water. The problem is, that being a European (or falang), of which there are few in Khon Kaen, you are a prime target. Amidst cries of “Ooooooo falang” , this little group makes a bee line for me and douses me in ice cold water …. flour and other strange substances. Most pleasant …. But at least the sun’s out and you soon warm up.

Plan B is employed. To the “ice factory” and buy three big bags of ice to put bin the water, and thus inflict more “painful” injuries to the enemy. Then on to the town centre where total bedlam is in progress. Motorbikes with two,three or even more people on them, and the occasional damp dog on the back, taxi pickups (songthaews), trucks, all circle the streets blasting anybody or anything.


(Photo: 2Bangkok.com)

After about 20 minutes of battle, water is running low in our truck, so time for a refill. We find an enterprising Thai family who have attached a four inch rubber hose to a fire hydrant and are selling public water for 10 baht a dustbin full. Tanked up we set off again, absolutely soaked through, and move back to the battlefield at a less than sedate 60 km/h which chills you to the bone, but Jintana, in the comfort of the tightly sealed cab, remains totally oblivious to our discomfort, and accelerates to get back quicker. Some of the 15 odd occupants in the back of the pickup are hanging on by their fingernails in a desperate attempt to stay on board.


(Photo: 2Bangkok.com)

This festival goes on for up to eight days, all over Thailand. We got through about 200 gallons (800 liters) in about 2 hours. What is absolutely amazing is that there is no hostility--everyone smiles and laughs even when hit full in the face with a water jet. I sneaked behind a wall, got out my carefully waterproofed cigarettes and lighter, and lit up. Mistake! Instantly spotted, and suitably blasted with water. Maybe I will give up smoking, during Songkran at least.


(Photo: 2Bangkok.com)

(Photo: 2Bangkok.com)

A ten minute halt is called as it is time for beer, whisky and soda or whatever else has turned up in the ice box. People come up offering you glasses of beer, and everyone seems to have a drink in one hand and a water cannon in the other! Coupled with that, stereo systems are set up everywhere, covered in plastic sheets, and turned up to maximum volume. Never mind blowing out the speaker cones or peoples’ eardrums!

After two hours its time to head home. Not because anyone is tired , or fed up with being wet, but the Thais, especially the girls, have not had anything to eat since just before we set off. So true to form, back to the house, and the little food stall next door, for the bi-hourly feast. How do they stay slim?
"(Photo: 2Bangkok.com)

Day one of the battle concludes (only four more to go), and we are sitting in the sunshine in the garden getting warm again. Great fun. I cannot quite imagine this sort of festival in Europe without people suffering from hypothermia. Suddenly, the beer runs out, and no ciggies--they are all wet. So off to the shop 100 meters away to get more. Unfortunately, it is Songkran and on the way there and back I get absolutely soaked again. As the Thais say, mai pen lai (never mind)! Sanook (fun)!


(Photo: 2Bangkok.com)


(Photo: 2Bangkok.com)


(Photo: 2Bangkok.com)

Drunker and drunker...

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