April 13th is the start of the new year, according to the Thai calendar. We were in Chiang Mai, the second largest city in Thailand, during the new year, or Songkran celebration.
Here's a little background. Thailand is a buddhist country - about 90% of the population are buddhist. During Songkran, the buddha statues in the temples (wats) are taken out to be cleaned. While they are out of the wat, people wash them with scented water. The water is turned into holy water as it washes over the buddha statue, and so people would collect it and sprinkle it on each other as a blessing. The Thais are a very happy, giving people, so of course they wanted to sprinkle everyone with the holy water. Well, the sprinkling custom grew and grew and now, Songkran is one giant water fight. The entire country literally engages in the friendliest water fight you've ever seen for about 3 days straight.
We didn't know we were going to be in Chiang Mai for Songkran until after we booked the trip. We didn't get the whole "please sprinkle me with holy water" aspect, so we tried to protect ourselves. A British veterinarian we met suggested we get some "slickers", so here we are in our ponchos.
Okay, well maybe bright orange wasn't the best color. Craig quickly became a target for all sorts of people, from local children...
... to grown adults.
Everyone in town had either a bucket or a soaker gun. They would wait until someone came along, and then soak them and wish their wet targets a happy new year. We started to get a little worried at this point. The slickers kinda made us stick out.
We learned to try and avoid big crowds like this one pictured above. As we kept walking, we also realized we had to dodge water assault units riding in the back of trucks or in cars.
Okay, dodge kids with squirt guns, mind the crowds with buckets, and duck from cars with water cannons. We thought we were going to be the only dry ones in the city. Boy, we thought wrong!
It wasn't until we saw the city moat that we realized how big this water fight really was. People lined up next to the moat and would wait for anyone to walk by, and then promptly soak them! When they ran out of water, they would simply toss their bucket with a rope tied to the handle into the moat and get more water.
About this time we got attacked. Well-wishers doused us all with buckets, and despite our best efforts with the ponchos we were wet. So, if you can't beat them, join them! To arms! We put Craig in his swiming suit, bought a soaker, and joined the fun!
Now that we weren't defenseless targets wearing bright colors, we were ready to join the battle. We found a light assault vehicle that was able to move about quickly while allowing us to fire on unsuspecting targets at will. The Thais call this a tuk tuk.
Our first sortie took us back towards the moat through some narrow roads. The tuk tuk assault vehicle, due to its small size, was able to slink around obstacles at high speed. Craig simply fired at will, and his unsuspecting targets would only see our tail lights after realizing they'd been hit with a new year's squirt!
Anyone on the street was a fair target, but we had to encourage Craig to squirt at people. At first, Craig didn't believe that he wouldn't get in trouble for squirting people. But, he quickly got the hang of it, happily soaking anyone he could!
He sniped about everyone he saw, giggling the whole way!