So a few days after the dust storm in Qatar, we arrive in Thailand for a spring holiday. The contrasts are endless. The green is the most obvious, but the rain is also a welcomed change. The freedom that is as palpable as the humidity is a welcomed change; from legs and arms exposed to beer on the patio and brightly coloured clothing the whole city felt like a party was happening.
And it turned out that there was a party happening or at least the whole country was preparing for one. Little did we know when we booked our holiday that it would fall right onto Thailand’s water festival. When we went to a travel agent to book some excursions in Chiang Mai, where we would spend 4 of our 6 days, she raised her eyebrows and said “You’re going to Chiang Mai?” She pointed out the window to the street. “Do you know why there is no traffic in Bangkok?” We did not.
“Because half of Bangkok has gone to Chiang Mai for the water festival!”
I’m not sure of the origins of the water festival, it’s tied to their new year, but this is what we know (and we know it well now). It’s basically a 3 day, whole city, water fight. People line the streets, armed with huge water guns and pails of water and throw or shoot water at everyone who passes by. People pile into the back of pickup trucks or tuk tuks for the sole purpose of the grand water fight.
Everyone participates, young, old, men, women…it’s hilarious. My favourite is the grandma’s who are armed with water guns and who belly laugh when they get you wet.
And guess what…they were twins! I bet they’ve been doing this since they were little and have great memories.
And wet you get! Soaked to the skin every afternoon. The hotels have water fountains running for everyone to fill up their weapons and music playing for everyone to dance to.
We’re told that it’s people showing each other that they love them. Often people yell we love you when they throw it and often the drenched say thank you. It seems like about 1/3 of the country drives motorcycles and of course the roads have lots of tuk tuks on them…they seem especially fun to douse with water as they drive by. Based on the glee people experience spraying motorcycles passing by, I would say they are the most loved.
It’s been so much fun and it’s incredible to see how far and wide the participation is in this holiday. The joy, the playfulness and the break from everyday worries must do everyone a world of good.
Time out!! Respect the monk!
P.S. I keep having ideas about books I might write. I’ve scrapped them all. But this has me thinking, how about “Best Practices For Happy Healthy Communities – From the Global Community” ?? Closing the country down for 3 days for a water fight would definitely find its way onto the list. (Perhaps in Canada we shouldn’t attach it to New Years).