Water Wars in Chiang Mai
Even though I’m essentially finished with my research in the north — and am quite anxious to head south towards the beaches and islands, where at least I’ll be able to temporarily escape Thailand’s scorching heat every now and again with a dip in the ocean — I’ve decided to take a two-day detour back to Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai is generally acknowledged by Thais as absolute Ground Zero for the annual Songkran celebration — the Thai New Year that represents essentially the same attributes as do New Years celebrations in the west: A time for renewal, a new beginning, etc. Songkran is also known as a time for cleansing, an act that is traditionally symbolized by the throwing of water. But just as New Year’s celebrations in your own home town most likely tend to sometimes get well out of hand, so too does Songkran. Over the years, the symbolic and gentle act of water cleansing has morphed — in some cities — into pure pandemonium. In Chiang Mai especially, the the three-day celebration (which tends to stretch on for the better part of a week) has become something now known country-wide as “Water Wars”.
Right now, I’m sitting inside an open-air internet cafe just a few hundred metres from the eastern city moat, where thousands upon thousands of Thais and farang alike are drenching everything and everyone in site with high-powered water guns, or plastic buckets filled with water from the moat, or regular old garden hoses — anything, really. There’s even a slow-moving pickup truck procession on the opposite side of the street; each truck is hauling a half-dozen or so locals who’ve come equipped with 30-gallon plastic trash cans, all filled with water, which is naturally tossed with careless abandon upon the hoards lining the street. Less than five minutes after leaving my guesthouse this afternoon, in fact, I’d been throughly soaked myself. The best part of all this: The Songkran holiday doesn’t officially start until tomorrow.
Naturally, many businesses close up shop for the duration of the festivities, so it’ll be interesting to see if I actually manage to get any work done. But at least one thing is certain: I’ll be good and waterlogged by the time I leave town.
By the way, if any of you are ever in Chiang Mai yourselves and have decided to blog about your travels, take the time to hunt down a travel resource center and internet cafe known as The Travel Hub. It’s located just a stone’s throw from the eastern moat and only 80 meters from the Top North Guest House. If you’re willing to post a link to The Travel Hub’s website, www.travelhubchiangmai.com, the management will be more than happy to dole out three free hours of web access. Not a bad deal at all. (And by the way, assuming my camera doesn’t get soaked to death over the next day or two, I’ll be posting Songkran photos to my Flickr site as soon as possible.)