after traveling around for 7 months, i’ve finally found the one thing that the US is definitely lacking the most. It’s Sokrang, the thai new years celebration. the way new years is celebrated here makes new years back home look sad, pitiful, and pointless. here new years comes in april, and to celebrate it, they have a water festival. back in the old days, this festival had a lot of religious significance. people would head out to the monasteries and pour small cups of water over the buddha statues to purify them for the new year. also, people would ceremoniously pour small cups of water over each other for the same reason. over the years the tradition grew and grew… eventually, the little cups of water were replaced by larger buckets, and then people started adding water guns, super soakers, and hoses. nowadays, the holiday definitely has more of a festive and wild atmosphere than a religious one. in some cities, the whole town practically becomes a warzone of water.
ever since we got to koh chang, we tried to figure out where we wanted to be to celebrate sokrang. the place were sokrang is the wildest is in chiang mai. the whole place is one crazy party for 3 straight days. that’s where i definitely wanted to go. caryn and ryan were both a bit hesitant about heading there because they feared it might be a bit too crazy. the other problem with going to chiang mai was that it was rather far from koh chang, and we werent sure if we could make it there on time. in the end, we finally decided to take the plunge. we bought a bus ticket to bangkok and a flight from there to chiang mai. we would be traveling by bus on the first day of sokrang, so we’d miss out on that one day, but we’d still get some fun time in once we got to chiang mai.
the first thing we had tgo do though, on the way to the bus station, was to stop by the hospital and have caryn change her stitches. we’re driving in a songthaew on the way there when all of a sudden we get completely drenched w/ water by some kid w/ a hose on the side of the road. it had totally slipped our minds that sokrang had already started. normally, we wouldnt have cared (cold water on a blazing hot day is always welcome), but caryn was with us and she absolutely could not have her stitches get wet. we spent the rest of the day stessing about whether caryn would end up somehow getting splashed. luckily, everything turned out fine. during our 6 hour bus ride to bangkok, we saw random people on the side of the road splashing each other. we also saw people cruising around in pickup trucks soaking wet. it looked like the holiday would end up being pretty fun. but we still hadnt seen any of the crazy insanity which i was hoping for.
we spent the night in bangkok, and then flew to chiang mai the next day. in chiang mai, we encountered a difficulty we hadnt expected. no taxis would take us into town. when we asked someone to take us to our hotel, they actually just laughed in our face. they said there was too much traffic downtown and that they refused to go down there. caryn pleaded w/ one guy for a long time, saying that her arm was hurt and that she absolutely could not get wet, but the guy wouldnt budge. crap, what could we do? in the end we got a taxi to take us near town, had caryn wait in an internet cafe, and ryan and i headed into town on foot.
once we walked into town a bit, we realized why no taxi driver would venture in there. we finally got to see the warzone we had been hearing about. it was absolute chaos and insanity in town. almost every person on the streets was armed w/ a bucket, hose, water cannon, squirt gun, and any other possible way of carrying water. the streets were completely full of pick up trucks that were gridlocked. the pickup trucks had *huge* barrels of water and usually had like 10 to 15 people in them all filling their buckets/guns in the barrels so they could shoot people who were walking on foot or people in other trucks. within seconds, ryan and i were completely soaked. not a thread of our clothing could have been dry. we slowly wandered to where our hotel should be, not even trying to dodge the constant barrage of water. it was funny to see how many different methods people had for getting others wet. some people would come up to you and very respectfully say “happy new years” and slowly pour a bucket of water over you. others would throw water at you from afar. still other would hose you down from across the street. everyone had their own way and it was all so much fun. it felt like you were a little kid again in a water fight, except the whole city had joined in. one other thing that i thought was cool was that this was fun for all ages. little kids ran around squirting their small little guns, people our age raced around w/ huge super soakers, and even little old ladies were joining in the chaos.
eventually we found our hotel after spending a ton of time wandering the streets of chiang mai in confusion. we found jason there who we were supposed to meet that day. after walking back to check on caryn, we wandered the streets some more and enjoyed sokrang.
the next morning we tried to figure out what we could do about caryn. she realy hoped to come out and enjoy sokrang, but of course she couldnt get her arm wet which made things difficult. on top of it all, it was her birthday. the prospect of spending all day of her birthday just sitting in the hotel room was pretty crappy. so she and i spent over half an hour constructing this elaborate plastic covering for her arm. we went over it in tape a million times to be sure that no water could get in. after struggling with it, we finally had acheived a masterpiece.
unfortunately, we hadn’t thought of one thing… water could not get in…. but water also could not get out. this thing was so airtight, that it created this green house affect and in no time caryn’s arm was covered in sweat.. which could not get out. by the time we finished breakfast, her arm was soaked… ironically, the only part of her that she needed to keep dry was the only part that was not dry. so we cut the plastic off. there was no escapng it. caryn would have to sit indoors all day. she couldnt risk going *anywhere* in town cause there were sprays of water *everywhere*. after checking if caryn needed anything, ryan and i set out to join the war.
town was absolutely insane as it had been the day before. everyone everywhere was soaked. plus, there were all these clubs on the main road that were blaring loud music, so all sorts of people were totally dancing and rocking out in the streets while cheerily being sprayed w/ water from passing trucks. ryan and i each had bought large supersoaker so that we could join in, but then i found this crazy water canon thing that attached to a huge backpack full of water. i bought that and ryan took over two guns.
(to see some good photos of sokrang, check out these two pages from another website.
we ran around town spraying people like crazy and getting sprayed like crazy. getting wet on the hot day was nice actually, except when the water was insanely cold cause of ice. some people would put huge blocks of ice in the barrels that they got water from, so when they squirted you it was *freezing*, almost painfully cold. also, another thing you had to watch out for was moat water. there is this huge moat in chiang mai, and people were jumping right into it and swimming around in its filthy brown waters. then, they would get buckets of this water and use them to throw at people. getting sprayed by clean water is one thing… but brown murky moat water? ew! it was quite a day all in all. so much fun. i wish we had something like this back home. this was a million times more fun than just going out to some bar or club on new years. of course, something like this would never be allowed in america. one person would slip and fall and then probably sue the city or something. plus, in most towns at home, fun is pretty much illegal. *sigh*
when the sun went down at 7pm, ryan and i went back to the hotel, even though the war still raged on. it looked like it might never stop! since caryn had had the most boring and lame birthday ever, i wanted her to at least have a good birthday dinner. i knew she had been craving mexican food for a long time, so i spent some time online and found a mexican restaurant for us all to go to for dinner. the food there was fairly decent. not spectacular in any way, but definitely alright. after dinner, we ended the night by going to this bar called the riverside where we had some drinks and watched some thai cover bands play music.