15 April, 2007

Thailand's Songkran Festival? Um... maybe not...

"War-terfare" in Chiangmai. The pun is apt in Thai as well:
the almost-identical Thai word 'songkram' translates as 'war'.

We get the hell out of Chiangmai every year during the Thai festival of Songkran. The ancient ritual of gently pouring water over the hands of elderly citizens to show respect has morphed into raging country-wide water-wars. Chiangmai, with its ancient moat, has become the epicentre of this annual madness.

Last year we escaped via a trip to Europe; this year we escaped to a small reef-fringed privately-owned island (Koh Talu) in the Gulf of Siam. It's about 4 hours by road south of Bangkok and a 15-minute speedboat ride away from the Songkran aqua-anarchy. No water-throwing allowed. Peace and quiet. Snorkelling to hand-feed bananas to thronging tropical fish. Early morning white sand beach walks with coconut palms obediently bowing to the ocean, leisurely canoeing before a brief refreshing "five-o'clock" tropical downpour. Then it's curried Thai dishes with spiced seafood so fresh it almost bites you back. Retirement sucks, but dammit, someone's gotta do it

Meanwhile, back on the mainland . . .

. . . mayhem rules. Traffic accidents proliferate among inebriated teens and tourists, broken glass litters the roads, and large colourful plastic water-cannon on the backs of roving pick-up trucks go squirt-berserk. Talc paste is smeared and liberally flung by the fistful onto people, cars, and shop windows alike, without fear or favour. Un-announced ice cubes arrive suddenly down your collar. If you're on the street, you're fair game, especially if you're female and wearing a t-shirt. Bugger Global Warming, Social Responsibility or boring road rules. Yee-hah... this is Thailand's Catharsis.

Read more about Songkran and our experiences in 2006 with some photos towards the bottom of this page on the original FunkyPix site. There are more on Page 26 if you click on 'Next'.

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