Songkran PART ONE: It Was Fun… Until It Wasn’t…

Day 3- Saturday, April 14th

I woke up early so I could get out of that area before the water fight began. From my observations the days prior, I had until about 11am before things would get crazy. Even with my backpack on I knew I wouldn’t be spared once it started.

I was sad to say goodbye to the girls working at Laksameenarai, they had been so great. But I had no choice. I paid for my stay and said goodbye.

On my way out, I saw the Stanford girls eating breakfast. I thanked them for everything. They were headed for Siem Reap, Cambodia and I was headed to Chinatown.

Chinatown

Determined to get there using public transit, I walked around for at least thirty minutes, in the heat, searching for the bus stop. It definitely wasn’t where Google Maps claimed it would be. But I found it (or one) and waited for what felt like an eternity for the bus to arrive! It probably felt even longer because I forgot to pack a water. (Note to Self: Always bring water when attempting to use public transit, you never now how long it’ll take!)

I was relieved when the bus finally showed up. It cost less than ฿10 ($.0.32)! I knew it’d be cheap but didn’t expect it to be that cheap!

The bus made a stop well before my destination. A local lady tapped me on the shoulder and ushered me off. Certain it wasn’t my stop, because I’d been following the route on my phone, I looked around, confused. I noticed everyone was getting off. I was clearly the only tourist on the bus and not a single person spoke English. With no clue what was going on, I followed the crowd and got off the bus. We all loaded onto another bus and continued towards Chinatown. I’m still not entirely sure what happened? I guess it doesn’t matter, I got where I was going. And for cheap!

My Arrival at The Oasis Hostel -Chinatown

I came barreling into The Oasis Hostel in Chinatown, dripping sweat. I didn’t expect anyone to be there because I’d received an email saying the front desk would be closed from 12pm to 4pm, for a Songkran celebration. It must not be noon yet? I thought, when about ten people greeted me upon arrival.

They were laying around the common area, their shoes strewn about near the front door. It’s very rare to wear shoes indoors in Thailand. The common area was small and had a chill, budget backpacker vibe. Wooden crates covered in bright multicolored fabric served as couches. Chalk drawn maps covered the walls. The shelves were stacked with old books, travel manuals and kitschy knickknacks. There was a small tv and an old video game console on the floor.

Two of the people laying around the common area worked there. One of them got up to check me in.

“You’re just in time! We’re about to head out to celebrate Songkran, would you like to join us?” He asked, enthusiastically as he walked over to the front desk.

I laughed audibly, “I came here to escape Songkran on Khao San… where are you guys headed?”

“Tuk-Tuks are going to take us to our sister hostel near Khao San, then to a couple of Songkran celebration hot spots around town. Should be a good time, you should come” he exclaimed.

“Do these hot spots include Khao San Road?” I asked, knowing that would make my decision a hard no.

“No… the group usually ends up there at the end of the night but that’s not where were going now,” he reassured me.

I didn’t have much time to contemplate. The group seemed like a lot of fun from their first impression. After the horrible experience I had had the day before, I figured it might be good to create positive Songkran memories. I agreed to join them.

The People Are What Make It

Before we took off, I freshened up and joined the group in the common area. Summer of ’69 was playing over the speaker, my travel jam. They were all chatting about previous nights out, it seemed as if some of them had been traveling together for awhile. A guy with an ambiguous accent offered me a glass of whisky and coke. I accepted. Not my drink of choice but it was much appreciated after traveling for hours in the heat to get there. Things were looking up.

Turns out his unique accent was the product of growing up in both Canada and Australia then living in Texas for a few years. He referred to the other travelers as “kids” a few times (implying he was older than them) so I asked him his age. Thirty. He’d been traveling for over two years at that point! Including a few month stint living on a boat somewhere between Europe and Africa! How cool are the people I’m meeting?!

Next up- a charismatic American girl with pink hair! Another long term traveler and the ring leader of the group. Several of the people there knew her from previous travels. She was the life of the party!

Envy came over me instantly when I laid eyes on her bright locks. She made me realize how much I missed my pink hair. I bleached it out right before I came to Thailand, unsure if colored hair would be acceptable. By that point I’d seen countless travelers and locals with hair every color of the rainbow!

GUESS WHAT?! She gave me her left over pink hair dye! How awesome is that?! Pretty freakin’ awesome if you ask me.

At the other hostel I got to know my new roommates a little better and met a whole group of other awesome travelers! Including a sweet, and oh so fun, German couple, in their early thirties, also traveling long term!

Tuk-Tuk Water Wars

Eventually, all of us piled into four tuk-tuks, commencing what I named Tuk-Tuk Water Wars in my head. There were five of us in my Tuk-Tuk. As the smallest (the only girl), I sat on the small ledge off to the side.

Each Tuk-Tuk was it’s own team. As our drivers wove through heavy Bangkok traffic we shot our water guns at each other as well as at random Tuk-Tuks and motorbikes that drove by. People on the side of the road dumped buckets of water on us. When we needed more water we stopped to fill up then were back at it again.

The Tuk-Tuk Water Wars painted Songkran in happy light for me once again. Everyone was laughing and smiling! Even the unsuspecting, unarmed bikers were in good spirits. Thank God for that, I probably would have grown bitter towards the holiday had I not given it another chance.

Silom Road, No Thanks

We stopped at Silom Road, which looked as packed as Khao San Road had been the day before. I opted to go with the group of guys from my Tuk-Tuk to get street food and a beer instead of getting myself back into a crowd. It was a good choice.

How did I end up back on Khao San?

After the Tuk-Tuk Water Wars came to an end, I went back to my hostel to shower and put on dry clothes before going out that night. Why I decided to do that is beyond me, within ten minutes of leaving the hostel, I was covered in ice water. Covered.

A big group of us hung out at the other hostel for a bit before heading to Khao San Road! Oh, tell me, please tell me, how I let myself end back up on Khao San Road?!

No worries, though, it was a much better experience than the day before! Nothing bad happened and just like with Songkran, the people from Chinatown helped me make peace with Khao San.

Tuk-tuks were way overpriced when the night wrapped up around 2am. My new roommate, the Can-Aus-Texas guy, and I, grabbed some fried chicken from a street vendor and walked 45 minutes back to Chinatown, swapping life stories along the way.

In Conclusion

Celebrating Songkran on Khao San Road in Bangkok reminds me of celebrating New Years in Times Square or Las Vegas. It sounds fun in theory, but in reality it’s madness.

I couldn’t be more grateful for the Stanford girls and the amazing crew at The Oasis Hostel who turned a negative experience into a positive one. But, if I’m ever in Thailand for Songkran again, I will search for somewhere to experience a more traditional version of the celebration! At the very least, I’ll stay somewhere less crowded than Khao San Road!