Songkran (Thai New Years) part one – Pai

Songkran is held each year between April 12th to 16th, and is the celebration of the Thai New Year. The holiday is greatly anticipated and warmly known as the water festival because the entire country participates in one big water fight!

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The multi-day length of Songkran let us experience the festival in two different towns. The first place we interactively enjoyed the festivities was a small hippy town in northern Thailand called Pai. Our bungalow was perched high on a hill out of town which proved as a nice escape from the wet anarchy that took place all day in the streets. We like to come prepared and so purchased water guns previous to the start of Songkran; a large pump action watergun for Alistair, and a small ‘uzi’ and a dolphin squirt gun for me.

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With our water weapons filled and pressurized we walked to town from our bungalow, and as we approached downtown we could hear screams of terror and squeals of protest. When we came around the corner we were greeted by a dozen young monks, ages 8 to 12, each equipped with either big waterguns or large buckets full of water. In our dry clothes we were immediately number one target for all of the young monks, and they relentlessly drenched us. After nearly emptying our water pistols on and around the monks we continued down the street in search of a refill station.

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Many restaurants had huge barrels of water out front, and if you could brave through the vicious soggy attack of those surrounding the barrel then you could refill your own pump action weaponry. The town of Pai is relatively small so after a few hours of circulating the streets we had made a few allies. One of these allied battle stations was a family restaurant that we had lunch at earlier in the day and befriended the kids that were impatiently waiting for things to pick up. As we strolled by later they enthusiastically waved us over for watergun refills, and we assisted them in soaking anything that moved within water pistol range.

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During another stroll through town we passed by a bar whose occupants literally stopped us from passing to pour buckets over our already drench bodies and then invited us in for free drinks. We spent a good portion of our afternoon soaking anyone that passed by, throwing buckets on vehicles, and squirting motos and they drove pass. Even though I refer to these groups as our allies let me be clear that that did not make us immune from more buckets and waterguns to the torso – it was every man for himself. The heat was horribly hot and so most hits were welcomed to cool you down. As the day progressed though people got creative and started adding ice to their guns or buckets, and evoking screams of shock from the victims. Buckets of ice water were hurled from the back of pick-up trucks as they drove past laughing at the poor unsuspecting suckers on the street.

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It’s hard to talk about anything else but the Songkran festival after a weekend of giddy water battles, but we did also enjoy Pai’s large and colourful night market and beautiful surrounding area. Making our way South to catch a flight to Malaysia we moved on to spend the remaining days of Songkran in another small town called Sukhotthai.

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