Sunday, April 18, 2010

Songkrank Part III

Wednesday morning we caught a bus to Chiang Mai. It was a VIP bus and let me tell you this was a luxury busing option. Air-con that is so effective they give you blankets. Seats that recline into practically horizontal. The seats were also massage chairs! They give you snacks. There is a flight attendant, but since this is on the ground maybe she is a drive attendant? Too bad we had this luxury option for our five-hour trip and not the 10-hour one.

In the Chiang Mai bus station we ran into more Thai Peace Corps and ending up getting a room at the same place some of them were staying.

Chiang Mai was founded in 1296 and surrounded by both a moat and a wall for protection against Burma. The moat and portions of the wall still exist today. Today Chiang Mai is a huge tourist destination, particularly during Songkran. The roads that run around the city on either side of the moat were the hub for Songkran water play. It was literally mobbed with people and practically stand-still traffic of trucks with barrels of water in the back. The moat served as a source of ammunition for the people on the ground as well as street-side stations with hoses and barrels. We were staying just outside the east wall of the city and the east side of the city is also where the tourists concentrate.

Immediately we noticed a different tone to Songkran in Chiang Mai. The Thais call it "water play" the farang call it "water fight" and you can feel the difference. It was significantly more predatory and aggressive. The foreigners were going for face and ear shots, the Thais were going for body and shoulder shots. We could not get from our guest house and into the city without passing through the gauntlet. A road bursting with people and water. We saw groups of sniper farang hiding out at bars and hitting unsuspecting passersby in the face. We were hit by snipers on a third floor balcony. This was not the fun, reciprocital water play we experienced in Uttaradit, it was urban warfare. Like paintball with water in city streets. We hated it immediately.

I was disappointed. Not only was I unable to take pictures of the water activities without ruining the camera, I couldn't take pictures of anything because we could not leave the guest house without being soaked. By Thursday evening after four straight days of being wet (if you count Monday and Tuesday in Uttaradit) I was at the end of my rope. We had discovered that if we got through the wetting on the moat road, we could get into the city and wander around with only the occasional splash or water gun hit. However, when we went out Thursday night to meet up with a friend, we discovered that the water play on the moat road had waned and the participants had moved into the city to stand in front of their homes and guest houses soaking people. I was trying desperately to make it to our destination relatively dry. We would look down streets and go more roundabout ways when we saw water stations.

One farang was at a barrel on the opposite side of the street from us and threw his bucket of water at us. We were sprinkled. Apparently, he was not satisfied with that because he then refilled his bucket and chased us down the street so he could dump the water down my back. I was not sad when he dropped the bucket and it was run over by a car. Just before we reached our destination we had no choice but to go past a family's station in a narrow street. The old man with the bucket poured a small amount down Cale's back and I knew that meant the rest of the bucket was for me. I backed away and pleaded with him, "Please no water! Please just a little water!" But he would have none of it and dumped the contents down my back. Cale told me I had no right to be angry and he was right. I am sure the entire time the man was thinking, "Silly farang. If you don't want to get wet, why did you come to Chiang Mai during Songkran?"

— Sara

PS. No pictures with this post, I didn't take the camera out.

PPS. I am not a total party pooper. We hung out by the moat with some Peace Corps and threw water and got water thrown us for a while. It just wasn't something that I could enjoy for hours on end, much less days on end.

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