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For Songkran’s Sake

Songkran 2011

For the love of Songkran…

I’m not even supposed to be here. A party pooper, during Songkran I’m usually found in locations not here, or hiding quietly away. This year I had tickets and hotel booked for Cape Town, South Africa, of all places. But I changed direction and decided that I’d go somewhere UP from Bangkok instead. Sounded good. I’ve done Bangkok at Songkran but nowhere else.

A sore throat, fever, coughing up gunk and junk and a list of other nasties (don’t ask) took care of my Songkran plans. So instead of experiencing a different side of Songkran I settled on my sofa. And I was content and happy to wait out the holidays with all my drugs and my two cats UNTIL…

…Snap wrote me asking about Hawaiian shirts and Songkran. I, in my [cough] [cough] wisdom, poo pooed the thought. Hawaiian shirts? In Thailand? I’ve never seen the like. But she did get my Songkran curiosity up. And (darn her) it turns out she was right (but Lani says the shirts are new to Songkran so she’s only half right. Right?)

Songkran 2011 - Hawaiian shirts in Khao San Road

And then yesterday Talen started taunting me with a promised run of Songkran posts! AGHHHHH! What’s a gal to do?

I got off the sofa, got dressed, felt my forehead, and went straight back to sleep for the rest of the day.

But Thursday morning was different. A mixture of guilt and healthy competition does that to me. Snap didn’t say, but I could feel a Songkran part II coming from her end. And Talen, well, the man is a Songkran maniac!

To make it easy on my [pathetic] sicko self, I decided to brave the watery world of Songkran close to home. I got dressed, felt my forehead [got the all clear], Saran wrapped and unwrapped my 7D, and then marched outside. But guess what? My soi is BORING! I keep bragging about how quiet my soi is, but on Songkran? It was dead dead DEAD!

There was nothing to do but walk to the main highway (a mere 8 minutes away). Again. Quiet. But Taxis were plenty so I hailed the most chalk-covered one of all and explained the deal. He drives me to Khao San Road and back. And I’ll pay him a lovely set price. A done deal.

He threw in the killing spree for free.

The white powder of Songkran…

As I mentioned in my previous Songkrang post: In the name of warding off evil, an elder would anoint faces and body parts with a white powder or paste carried around in a silver bowl. Today, the ritual has evolved into a modern free for all: silver bowls have been replaced with coloured plastic bowls of choice; teens to young children join in as well.

So if you arrive chalkless, what you do when you first get to Khao San Road is you head for one of the powder sellers. Ten baht gets you a wimpy bowl and twenty baht, a bucket.

Songkran 2011

And after you get your spray gun wrapped around your body, you have a friend fill it up. Or refill, as the case might be.

Songkran 2011

(I know Talen’s going to come in and say THAT’s not a gun, THIS is a gun – but remember, he lives in the badlands of Pattaya where there are no rules).

From what I saw, the average water gun in Khao San Road is about the size of what this young guy is touting. And isn’t he sweet? His spray changed the visibility of my newly wiped down window from smudgy but doable, to a sea of droplets. Photographers pay big bucks for filters like that and I got it for free!

Songkran 2011

Anyway… some just bowl it instead of gunning it, and that’s ok too. Especially when you hold the higher ground, like this guy does.

Songkran 2011

During this Songkran I paid more attention to those giving and receiving the water and white paste. But I was more interested in the pasting.

These two guys were quite civil in their exchanges. One slathered the paste, the other poured water. And it wasn’t a brief stint either, they were going at it for awhile. Smile smile smile, slather and pour.

Songkran 2011

And this couple were talking their time slathering the paste on too. Mmmmmmmmm. Nice.

Songkran 2011

But then it got even more interesting. I saw many guys (and they were all guys) reach out from nowhere to slather a pretty girl. Look at that guy. He’s not even looking. He’s just walking, reaching out, and slathering paste as he goes. What’s up with with the hit and run pasting?

Songkran 2011

And these guys had an assembly line going. I was stuck in traffic so I got to watch them for awhile as well. One slathers a gal with paste and the next guy follows until all four have had their turn (one is out of camera shot). The poor gal couldn’t catch her breath! Or their phone numbers!

Songkran 2011

Another twist is to hold the girl tight while pouring a bowl of water over her head. Slowly. I was able to get a long series of photos from this scene too (my favourite out of all).

Songkran 2011

So from what I saw, on Khao San Road it’s mostly a guy going after a pretty gal thing (but not always). You find a pretty gal, slather her with paste or drench her from head to toe and walk on. It’s almost like a mating ritual.

Oh, and the taxi even got pasted. Repeatedly. Window pasted. It didn’t put an end to my Songkran voyeurism but it did create interesting photos (way too many to share here).

Songkran 2011

Happy Songkran 2011 all! Stay healthy. Stay safe!

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My passion is promoting the Thai language. Fullstop. Oh, and traveling. I'm passionate about that as well. And photography too.

12 Comments

  1. Catherine, your photos are outstanding…see it is worth getting off the couch, some days ;) The songkran Hawaiian shirts maybe new…but so am I, lol. The festivities were certainly an ‘experience’.

  2. Thanks Snap. I really enjoy the 7D (and freaked out at the thought of it getting wet). And you are right about more than the Hawaiian shirts – I’m SO glad that I got off the sofa! It was a fun (but short) adventure. The shooting was a bit off but hey, can’t have everything.

    And next year I just might unwrap my Songkran gun. I bought it last year when Talen was threatening to come to Thailand so it’s still sitting there. Waiting. But after looking at what he’s touting, I might need a bigger gun.

  3. Cat, Beautiful Photos! I wish you weren’t sick so you coould play some and I do hope you are feeling better soon.

    The bangkokonians seem to be tame with their little water pistols and small caches of powder :P

    In Pattaya it’s big guns and huge vats or 55 gallon trash cans full of water with at least one huge chunk of ice in it to make it sufficiently freezing when it hits the intended target. The one thing I hate is the powder…I don’t mind normal powder but there are always a few that use the mentholated powder and man does it burn!

    I took a break on day 2 of Songkran to give my unused muscles a rest but will be back at it today…seeing as Songkran is 7 days here in Pattaya a break or two works out well.

  4. Thanks Talen :-) I wish that I was feeling more chipper too. I mean, I have that gun and all. And here you are, finally!

    Bangkok has the big blue cans too but I believe they outlawed the guns I saw on your site. So guessing, the cans are mainly for dipping.

    Mind you, I didn’t make it to Silom. Being in Khao San Road traffic – oh, and with the murders along the way – was enough for one day.

    So… I hand over the rest of the Songkran celebrations to you!

  5. Catherine smashing photos capturing the better side of Songkran’s water fights and festivities. The Songkran Festival gives grown-ups the chance to be a kid once again and that can’t be a bad thing.

    ….coughing up gunk and junk and a list of other nasties…..I hope that’s not your green goo, gunk or junk sat on the window in the bottom photo. On my computer it definitely has a tinge of green colour to it.

  6. Hi Martyn, happy Songkran! And thanks! No, not my gunk. I’m a lass and lasses don’t have green goo. And we don’t snore or sweat either :-) This drat cold/flu/whatever keeps making the rounds of Bangkok. It started last year and it keeps on going. It’s a tough strain.

  7. Ah, let me tell you CM is INSANE. I watched a group attack this one girl with powder – she was doused from head to toe.

    I didn’t snap any pictures (yours are GREAT by the by) but it sure was interesting to be part of.

    Happy Songkran! xxoo

  8. Happy Songkran Lani (and thanks :-) I read that Chiang mai was ‘the’ place to be for Songkran and now I know why. It’s crazy! The Khao San celebrations I saw on day two were calm but I can’t speak for day one (and I don’t know anyone who went).

  9. You’re amazing, Cat! Sick and you still get out to capture incredible pictures. :)

  10. So the Canon 7D is really waterproof? ;) Nice pictures indeed

  11. I didn’t even want to risk it! I hid behind glass the entire way. So thanks :-) And great pics yourself btw. Maybe next year I’ll celebrate Songkran where it’s camere safer.

  12. Amy, apologies but your two comments went into spam. And thanks! I highly recommend those suffering to head out to Songkran as it’ll lift their spirits.

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