Busting out of Bangkok I was all too happy. Chiang Mai was our next check to cross off in order to celebrate the beginning of Songkran, the Thai new year. The new year is April 12, but celebrated all weekend. In some places like Chiang Mai though this occasion can last a week or more..party animals. Songkran is celebrated during the hottest time of the year and is essentially a water festival. Originally the water being used was the water that had cleansed the Buddha statues and had therefor been blessed. From there you would splash elders and family to give them good fortune. This has grown into a straight up water fight including many forms of water guns, buckets, and there is no forgetting the blocks of ice sold on the road to make the water as chilly as possible. And let me tell you there was no getting used to the temperature!
Not knowing what to expect Whitney and I exited our hostel the first day to grab a quick breakfast and returned quickly to change into our bathing suits after a street vendor unloaded a water stream across of backs. From there I knew my first line of order, time to purchase my weapon. Crossing Mike already in battle he pointed us in the direction to retrieve our super soakers. Walking around dry meant we had huge targets on our backs, so we were captured unarmed and gave in to a firing line full of ice cold liquid.
The streets were filling with people of all ages reporting for battle, and it was crowded since everyone gets excused from work. Walking five feet without getting splashed was an accomplishment. The trucks were prepared with trash cans filled to the top with water and at least eight people in the bed dishing it out to the people on the street. Wanting to be in the middle of things we got into the thai spirit and hopped in a truck to join forces.
Our afternoon was spent gallivanting around with Meghan and Brian (American couple living in Phuket) who we flew to Chiang Mai with as well. Causing a ruckus we met many people and I even met my little protege who enjoyed squirting water at unknowing tourists that I would point out for her.
The next day we moved on north to Chiang Rai. Meghan's cousin, Bill, who has lived in Thailand for three years has a girlfriend whose family resides there. Right outside the city we stopped at Wat Rong Khun, or The White Temple. The site was absolutely stunning, and I don't think any temple I visit will ever surpass the beauty of this one. Chalermchai Kositpipat designed and constructed the temple that was finished in 2008. When he was younger he attended Thailand's primary visual arts schools and mixed contemporary art with traditional Buddhist art, which wasn't always accepted.
Ink, his girlfriend, and her family came to get us from the bus station. Sitting in the back of a truck to be able to accommodate all of us we officially began day two of Songkran. Getting drenched before even hitting our hotel I was freezing. The scene around Chiang Rai was definitely more local and I felt we were almost the only westerners there, which was nice. Ink's family was more than welcoming offering us endless goodies and food to fill our stomachs, and Bill's Thai knowledge and speaking made the days pass smoothly.
Now you would think this wet holiday would be amazing and the most fun ever. Now I would say it is for sure great, but by the later days I'll just be frank I couldn't be bothered getting soaking wet anymore. There were no exceptions to having someone splash you or dump a whole bucket of water on your head. One of us could be freshly showered and dried and walking to dinner and even if you pleaded the waterfall was still coming. There was no getting angry either since it's considered all in good fun. But there were times I thought you might be able to see the flames coming from my head, which were to become fumes once the water came flooding down.
Day three- We went with Ink's family to pay respect and participate in one tradition of Songkran. Every year during this time in the Buddhist religion the families gather to visit every near temple and bring sand from the river to return. Now at first one could find this odd, but when I questioned this action I learned it is because you are never supposed to take anything from the temple but all year one leaves with dirt and sand attached to their sandals/feet. This is their way of bringing back anything that was unintentionally taken.
Getting a bit sick from being hot and cold for the past couple of days I decided to stay inside for the remainder of the afternoon, and we said our good-byes and returned to Chiang Mai the next day. We took that night to visit the night bazaar. I returned with an item for myself and a present. The man I bought these from is talented and a truly nice man who wanted to talk and not take you for all you had. Maybe later I can tell ya what I got but as of now it's still a present so it would ruin the surprise!
The next morning we are beginning our elephant volunteer program at the Elephant Nature Park. I became aware of this project through Christina, my wise travel friend :) She said it was one of her most favorite experiences so how can I say no to that?