Songkran in Chiang Rai    

Kids attack a truck
Songkran, New Years, officially started today. People having been throwing water for at least a week. But today the 3 day holiday officially started.

Rowshan and I had armed ourselves a couple days ago. Two other foreigners bought water guns at the place we bought ours-- a streetside shop with a big trash barrel of water, a curtain of water guns in plastic bags shielding the owner/shopper from the water fight going on in the street in front. The two other foreigners bought huge triple jet water uzis, requiring pumping. Rowshan got a smaller gun with water reservoirs and I got a classic cheapie water pistol. The foreign guys laughed at me and informed me I would get drenched.

The water gun shop
The streets were crowded with pickup trucks carrying tanks of water and yelling, bucket wielding, neon colored aloha shirt clad people. When two went by one another, the water flew. Meanwhile, people also had set up water stations by the side of the street. These were generally more of a hazard to us pedestrians than drive by dousings (though we did get nabbed a couple times by those). Me, armed with my tiny water pistol and Rowshan with his gun with flawed water reservoirs were no match for the water uzi toting kids with plastic water tanks on their backs.

Drive by water battle

Well armed children

From the safety of a cafe, we watched trucks of boisterous drenched people go by. Then we headed off to the center of the activities where we'd seen them putting up arches with hoses across the road.

Chaos in the streets
We got there just in time for a small parade with ornate floats. It just went the couple blocks through the arches with water pouring down and the sprinklers and hoses spraying water into the street. Even a couple floats of musicians went through. One of the drums was covered with plastic but the xylophone and zurna were exposed. The zurna player didn't miss a beat as the traffic caused the truck to be stuck under the water arch-- water pouring down onto the musicians.

Musicians getting a shower

Dancers in the parade

Armed and ready for action

Water everywhere

We walked back through the market to avoid more dousings. There, some women were dancing while a man was singing karaoke to a popular catchy but terribly inane song. When Rowshan went to film them, they called us over to dance, serving us whiskey. I tried to refuse so they just gave me a small amount... then another.... We danced a bit but they were so drunk Rowshan and I thought we'd best get on our way.

We got home only a little drenched because a little girl had chased after us with a water uzi and a couple people got us from trucks.

Back at the hotel, we switched on the TV and saw scenes of Bangkok. There, the only water dousing the people were from water canons held by police and military. A state of Emergency had been declared to break up the protests of the Red Shirts who are trying to get the current PM to resign (just as his party got the last PM to resign by taking over the airport. The red shirts broke up the ASEAN Summit and things are getting uglier in the capital. On TV there are scenes of flaming buses being sent at the military and the military firing above (and perhaps into) crowds.

Songkran festival in Chiang Rai

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