Bangkok's water festival for Thai New Year
Written by Patrick
Upon arrival at the airport in Bangkok we met these two English lads with whom we decided to share a taxi to the Koh San Road district. As we waited for a taxi we got a little preview of what was to come: some girls were running around with water guns shooting at people randomly. This seemed like weird behavior (specifically at an airport) but it turned out to be a central part of Thailand's New Years celebration. As we closed in on the area where our hotel was located we saw thousands of Thai people, young and old, participating in what must be called the "world's largest water battle". Water flew out of buckets, super soakers and any other means useful for drenching other people. It was a zoo, and makes Bay to Breakers (a famous party day in SF) look like a church procession. We got lucky, because our taxi driver was able to get us relatively close to our hotel and we arrived without major "water damage". After a little bit of rest and a nice dinner we decided to go out and explore the festivities around this new years celebration. We dared to go to the central part of Koh San Road which, as we learned, was also the main party area for Bangkok's young citizens to celebrate New Year's. After a few hours of exploration, we returned to the hotel wet to the bones with soggy feet and clothes covered in clay.
A wet visit to the ancient city of Ayutthaya
Written by Patrick
We spent a lot of time thinking back and forth about whether to make our way to the ancient city of Ayutthaya. It is two hours away by train (one-way) and somewhat of a "hike" for just one day. Considering the mayhem that would be happening in Bangkok, we decided to go, and were very happy that we did. The taxi dropped us off at the train station, we got our tickets, some Thai iced tea and boarded the train that would take us there. Upon arrival we negotiated with the local tuk-tuk drivers to take us around to the different temple ruins of Ayutthaya. By teaming up with another couple (he was from Holland and she was from Brazil), we ended up being four people on a tuk-tuk heading for tourist attractions while most Thai people around us had very different things on their mind.
The entire city of Ayutthaya was a giant party. Thai teenagers were driving around on the back of trucks loaded up with huge barrels filled with water used to spray at people around them. While we were driving in our tuk-tuk we ended up becoming the prime targets for the locals. Within the first hour of "sight-seeing" we were full of clay and soaking wet.
Now let's take a break and try to explain why one would get wet and dirty for a New Year's celebration: As far as we understand, the tradition started as a religious ceremony of cleansing. People would go to the temple and perform the ritual mostly for good luck, better fortune and enter next year cleansed and prepared. At the same time and for similiar reasons, you would get a smudge of gray clay padded on your face. This tradition was so favored by the local population that they literally took it to the "streets". Now when you go to Thailand for New Year's you will see these water fights all over the country and loving and friendly Thai will come over to you and smear some clay on your face, while wishing you the very best for your new year. It really was an amazing sight: We saw groups of people standing at the side of the road with huge hoses pumping massive amounts of water onto passing cars and people. There are people dancing in the streets and you see smiling and laughing faces everywhere, which makes this festival so much more joyful to watch. Despite all of these distractions we still got to see many temples and palaces during our visit, including: Wat Phra Ram, the Royal Palace, Wat Mahathat and the golden Buddha of Phra Mongkonbophit.
Because of all this partying and the very bad traffic resulting from it we almost missed our train back to Bangkok. Every once in a while we would see Thai people smiling at us because all the clay in our faces made us look like one of them. With the amazing experiences of this day our stay in South East Asia concluded on a high.