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Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Songkran in Chiangmai: Nothing But Water, Water Everywhere!

The beauty of Chiangmai from way up high.
Green curry. Temples. The adrenaline rush of exploring a new city. 
Friends. Shopping. Experiencing a festival unlike any other.

These were all things that were going through my head when I was first invited on the #AABCSongkranAdventure last month. What I didn't expect, was to spend half of the trip dripping with water, while having even more ice water thrown at me - and loving every minute of it!

Confused? Well, every story must start from the beginning I guess:
First dinner in Chiangmai - straight to the point!

Once upon a time (aka April 2015), I was flown to Chiang Mai, Thailand by Air Asia, with my fellow Air Asia Blogger's Community friends, Charlotte, Joel, and Henry. Leading the pack, the toughest of the tough, bravest of the brave, craziest of the crazy:
KA MEI!! Look at her chugging that tom yam! 
Upon landing on the 11th of April, we were pretty confident we had time to get ourselves prepared before joining in the "fun" of Songkran, aka Thailand's biggest annual celebration, the water festival. Until, that is, we reached our hotel. Through the safety of our hotel transfer's windows, we watched as kids popped out from behind corners, shooting poor tourists with water guns. "What is this?!", we exclaimed. "Songkran isn't until the 13th!"
Our hotel room at Duangtawan Hotel
We figured it was probably just a few kids starting the fun early. Nope. Joining us in the elevator: two completely soaked girls, obviously tourists too, warning us to be prepared for an ambush if we were planning to leave the hotel. Oh no.
The way the windows to our hotel rooms were designed, the sunset actually reflects off a different window facing another direction (smaller photo).. So beautiful!
Before this trip, I'd always heard that Songkran is basically the world's biggest water fight. But, signifying the new year for Thais, getting splashed with water is synonymous with being blessed, as it symbolises washing away your bad luck from the previous year. How sweet right? Can you picture it in your head? Being gently flicked with water by pretty Thai girls and guys dressed in traditional costume..
Source
In reality, it's more like this:
The optimistic bunch...
You will not get "sprinkled" with water. I am not kidding when I say you'll be dripping as if you just climbed out of a swimming pool fully-clothed!
Super happening Air Asia water station - non-stop water, rave music, and throngs of people!

But we definitely had tons of fun!
Yes. If World War 3 started with water instead of bullets, water instead of grenades, water instead of - you get the point - it would look like Thailand, mid-April every year.

It. Is. Madness.

Children, adults, locals, tourists, shop owners, staff members - the streets are lined with people armed with huge water guns, with big pails filled with water and blocks of ice to pour onto passersby. No one is safe, except for the elderly and monks. Even toddlers sit inside buckets or little inflatable swimming pools to join in the fun.
No one is safe..
If you're riding in a tuk-tuk, you are a moving target which doesn't move very fast, and if you're in a songthaew, you're basically sitting ducks. No water is spared during Songkran, and you'll be hit by bucket after bucket of water if you are on any kind of vehicle, even motorbikes and bicycles! One thing that really impressed me though, was that although everywhere was wet as far as the eye can see, no water ever splashed into shops or onto the elderly. They really do have it down to a science!
Air Asia Water Station, and Miss Songkran beauty pageant
Stages are put up in various places and play music (think music festival without bands) to add to the atmosphere. There are also food stalls nearby, but we were having so much fun we didn't try any of the street food. This doesnt mean the roads were closed, oh no: between the mass of people, was a little road left for cars to pass through. They were really patient when they were blocked by over-zealous people in the road though, like this aunty dancing:
Strange creatures come out to play..
Restaurants also welcome soaking, hungry customers with open arms. I felt horrible looking at the small swimming pools we left at our tables, but the ever-friendly Thais just happily waved us in, while the owner of the restaurant was waging his own war just outside.
Super yummy and cheap Thai food at Blue Mango near Tha Pae Gate!

Here's a checklist of the essentials of Songkran:

  1. Slippers / flip-flops - the less slippery the better, and remember, they will get soaked through so sneakers not advisable. I bought mine for 160 baht.
  2. Comfortable clothes - Shorts for both guys and girls, bikinis under a comfortable top seem your best bet. My bikini cost 350 baht.
  3. Sunblock - April is the hottest month of the year in Thailand
  4. Transparent waterproof bag for your handphone - you'll wanna take pix! 45 baht.
  5. Waterproof bag - for other belongings, but you don't wanna take too much to war! 60 baht.
  6. Water guns - you can buy these in Thailand, our big ones cost about 300baht each
  7. Plastic goggles - optional, but I did get shot in the eye once, and it hurt like hell
  8. Your fun side - as long as your ready for a few days of fun, you're set!

Nothing can prepare you for the amount of water you will encounter, nor the amount of fun you will have until you experience it yourself. When they say you must try Songkran before you die, they really mean it! So if anything else is on your bucket list, put it on hold and go to Thailand next April for the biggest Ice Bucket Challenge cum Water Rave Party you will ever see! I'm definitely planning to go again - maybe I'll see you there!
Reload.
Oh, and if you are no longer young at heart for whatever reason you are still not sure about visiting Thailand, all I can say is, MANGO STICKY RICE. If that doesn't make your mind up, I have nothing more to say.
Can you tell I'm obsessed?

Essential Info:
Currency: Thai Baht (current exchange rate 11.35 for 100 baht)
Weather: April & May are the hottest months of the year - best time to get wet!
Time Zone: GMT +7 (aka one hour behind Malaysia)
Language: Thai (some English)
Electricity: 220V, 2 pin plug
Tip: The more sour-faced you look during Songkran, the more you will get splashed.

How To Get There:
Air Asia flies 2 x daily from KL to Chiang Mai, and 12x daily from Bangkok
Flight duration from KL - Chiangmai: 2 hours 35 minutes

For more photos, check out my Instagram @CalistaLeahLiew, or the hashtag #AABCSongkranAdventure, or even my Facebook page!

Love of a Mermaid,
Calista xx

2 comments:

  1. "Sprinkled by water" is literally the biggest lie ever.

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  2. Wow! Its really fun seeing you all having a good time. And I missed it. :(

    mt
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