Sawadee Pee Mai! Happy New Year!
Yesterday was the New Year’s celebration of the year 2555 here in Thailand. This is our third New Year’s Day in 2012, and definitely the most fun! Unlike our New Year’s back home in Oregon, which is celebrated in the depths of miserably cold and dark winter, the Thai New Year is celebrated at the height of the hot, dry season. It’s also called Songkran, the Water Festival. For weeks we’ve seen posters with smiling cartoon kids throwing water at each other out of little plastic bowls, but we weren’t prepared for the 24 hour city-wide water fight that broke out Friday night.
It began Friday afternoon with gangs of children armed with neon water guns riding in the back of pick-up trucks, refill packs in the shape of turtle shells strapped to their backs. Their faces were streaked with white chalk paste and they looked for all the world like tiny guerrillas as they peppered passerby with sprays of water.
Along the streets people set up kiddie pools and trash bins full of water. Clusters of pre-teens huddled around, throwing bowlfuls on anyone who passed by. Some people filled their tubs with ice water. Even in the heat of the day, having a bowl of ice water thrown on me was a shock that I didn’t enjoy, but Rob loved! After we were properly soaked, a member of the group would approach us, smiling, and rub chalk paste on cheeks while wishing us good luck for the new year. Rob and I went running, and returned to the hotel sopping wet and covered in chalk paste.
As the evening wore on the trucks filled with groups of adults blasting techno music and flinging water from tubs set up in the truck bed. Pedestrians retaliated with hoses, squirt guns, and buckets of water. The streets grew slick and shiny with running water. The music and laughter continued well after midnight, when Rob and I went to bed.
By 9 AM the next morning the kids were out again, guarding their
parent’s doorways and market stalls like tiny militia. By noon the
trucks wheeled by in a slow parade, filled with groups of people already
dripping water. Our land lady set up a bin of water in front of the
hotel and invited us to participate in throwing water at the passing
trucks. She and her staff were out there all day, smearing white chalk
paste on passing motorcyclists and decorating the outside of vehicles
with white hand prints. A few other foreigners who were staying in the
hotel came out and played too. One guy used the lid of a trash can as a
shield while he ran up to the trucks with bowls of water. At the height
of the excitement I managed to take some pictures from the second story
window of our hotel. I didn’t dare bring my non-water proof camera out
into the fray.
It was over by 6 PM that night. The streets dried up quickly in the evening heat, and all that remained were some leftover kiddie pools, some chalk-streaked cars, and some tired looking people sitting around in their wet clothes.
I think this is a great idea for the Fourth of July in the States. It certainly would be more eco-friendly than fireworks, and cooler than sitting in the July heat waiting for a non-water-throwing parade to go by. At the least maybe everyone could go in their bathing suits and watch the parade from the relative comfort of kiddie-pools and lawn sprinklers.
Have a happy year 2555!