We arrived in Chiang Mai at a very special time.
A time for celebration, for joviality, for tradition.
Just one week after our arrival onto Thai soil, we witnessed the city around us change. We watched it turn from a peaceful system of order into a frenzy of uncontrolled chaos.
Chiang Mai changed before our eyes overnight.
Swarms of people took to the streets, armed.
Locals and tourists alike, joined forces in the urban surroundings for a very important purpose.
A desire filling each and every heart. That desire being, to get wet!
The mission I am of course talking about….The Songkran Water Festival.
The usually reserved Thais became boisterous, fully grown adults reverted back to adolescents. Children revelled in the high energy on the streets, throwing themselves into the moat, loading up their water pistols and buckets, ready to unload their liquid ammunition onto whoever happened to walk by.
Playful screams and laughter replaced the usual sound of the traffic and moped engines. Any transportation was now pretty much at a standstill as crowds of water laden people stormed the roads.
The city was abuzz with high spirits, smiles fixed on faces, constant wishes of ‘Sawasdee Pii Mai’ (Happy New Year) shared amongst strangers.
A time to really let go and take down the barriers, if just for a few days.
There were no safe places, there was no where to hide, from every angle people were intent on one thing, they were out to get you.
Monks, babies and the elderly were given a free pass, everybody else was a moving target.
Bodies approached with innocent eyes, before splashing me directly in the face with an overflowing bowl of water, not just any water either, some of the mob had laden their weapons with an extra touch, an added bonus if you like….ice cubes.
The same stuff, but oh so different, a frozen version of the much loved ammo being splashed throughout the country.
Freezing iced water took my breath away as I tried to get them back with a damp finger ready on the trigger.
Cascades of water ran down my back as the contents of a 20 litre bucket was emptied on top of my head.
Dousing everyone I could with the stream from my water pistol, sending spray into crowds of soggy yet lively people frolicking on the streets of Chiang Mai.
At the hottest time of year, everyone is glad for the opportunity to cool off.
After 4 hours spent being drenched, covered and coated in water, my now aqueous body, had a craving.
What did I desperately want, what did I long for but a large glass of arctic cold, refreshing H2O!
Dehydration had sneaked up on me, the watery fun all around, making me forget basic survival needs.
Fingers had turned into prune like tentacles, my feet, after wading through puddles for most of the afternoon, were slipping out of my rubber flip flops.
My sodden clothes dripping a trail wherever I went.
J’s Blackberry Phone was now floating in a pool of water in our backpack. Destroyed.
Even in the heat of the afternoon, there was no time to dry out before the next lot of water engulfed me.
It was time to surrender.
Chiang Mai is the best place to join in the Songkran celebrations, originating from here and being the most celebrated of all the Thai festivals.
Songkran Festival takes place throughout the whole country as well as some of the surrounding areas including Laos, Cambodia, Burma, even Sri Lanka, as a national holiday.
Everyone gets a day off work and shuts up shop, a national holiday is good enough, but a day off work for a water fight is even better.
Songkran, The traditional Thai New Year, held on the 13-15th April each year, takes its name from a Sanskrit word meaning to move forward.
It marks the new astrological year as the Sun passes into Aries, The traditional New Year’s Day.
During this time, Thais would start their day making merit, by giving offerings to the monks, at a temple.
It is a time to clean houses and bathe Buddha images, to welcome in the New Year with a fresh start.
The throwing of water has been elaborated from years gone by, when people would pour scented water over their elders hands to show respect and to ask for their blessings.
The water symbolises cleansing, the washing away of any bad luck and misfortune from the previous year and to begin the months ahead with a clean start.
I found our timing ironic, we had left the UK to embark on a new life in Thailand and had arrived in the country at a time when it was all about starting a fresh and new beginnings.
Having already seen a New Year come and go in London, we had a second chance.
The Thai New Year was ours to take part in too.
Songkran is all about having fun, if you head out with a smile and embrace the craziness, you will experience something unique, if you don’t like getting wet and or crowds of clammy people, I would recommend you stay inside for the duration, stock up on supplies and wait it out.
There’s always next year!
Watch Our Over-Dramatic Videos of the Songkran Festival!
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