This past weekend I celebrated Songkran, the official Thai New Year (Thais observe the Buddhist calendar). Students were given two days off from school forming a nice four-day weekend, so of course in true exchange-student style, this only meant an opportunity to travel. The plan had been to go to Laos, but last minute travel changes, and completely sold out tickets for all of the days surrounding Songkran, instead sent me to Koh Tao, a small island off of the east coast of the Thailand. Songkran is the most important holiday for Thai’s, so most locals leave Bangkok to go back to their “hometown,” wherever that may be. We were disappointed we weren’t able to go to Laos, but Koh Tao was not a bad second choice!
Songkran itself is often described as one, huge, non-stop waterfight: and that is EXACTLY what it is. We left from Khao San road on Thursday evening, the night before the official day of celebration. Khao San is the official backpacker haven, so Thursday night the Songkran festivities had already begun. We had a short walk on the actual Khao San road, but little did we know what was in store for us: one BIG water fight. Involving baby powder. What? Yeah, that’s what we thought too. But part of the Songkran fun is mixing baby powder with water to create a nice white paste that you smear all over yourself, and strangers. Let me try and set the scene for you: loud music…waterguns…buckets of water…young Thais and foreigners (but mostly Thais) jumping up and down in the streets throwing water everywhere…store owners and their children outside their shops throwing water on everyone…small children with squirt guns…small plastic pouches around each persons neck protecting valuables…hoards of people running through the streets…I’m walking, I’m hoping that people will take pity on a dry girl clearly prepared for travel, but no luck: squirt gun in the back, slap on the cheek smearing baby powder all over my face, shoved in all directions; no mercy. Needless to say, in a country where the locals are so kind, normally shy and very conservative, this was a side of Thailand I had never seen before. (and because of the water….sadly I have no pictures of the whole event).
Koh Tao (a seven hour bus ride, and a two hour boat ride away) was also crazy the day we arrived, the official Songkran holiday. Imagine there being no social rules about pouring water onto strangers, or drenching them with a water gun. Everyone we walked by had a water gun in hand, many of them with a water supply on their back. It was hilarious. Those riding on motorbikes, small children, families: no one was spared. Needless to say after Songkran was over things quieted down a lot – and from there on we enjoyed an amazingly relaxing weekend: lying on the beach, enjoying the INCREDIBLE views, venturing over to a nearby island with an amazing viewpoint, and snorkeling. We had delicious meals on the beach, and saw some of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen! Koh Tao is known for its scuba diving, and while we didn’t have the time or the money to scuba dive, the snorkeling was breathtaking: just two feet off-shore on my first venture into the water and there was a school of about twenty rainbow fish: neon orange, yellow, pink, green, and blue: truly magnificent!
Enjoy the pictures from my trip!