Songkran has officially begun! Today has been THE BEST and most fun I’ve probably had in my entire life. I am sure you have all dreamed of being in a massive water fight, and that is exactly what Songkran is like in Chiang Mai. I headed out of my hostel this morning at 10am, strapped my new water gun over my shoulder and headed straight to the Old City where the party had already started. Within five minutes into my walk, I was already soaked by locals spraying me with water guns and dumping buckets of water over me. I graciously returned the gesture with a nice spray of water from my own water gun. Along the way, I stopped at a juice bar where a group of people were soaking people with ice cold water. I bought a smoothie so I could get in on the fun and stayed there for a while, soaking countless strangers.
I cannot begin to tell you how much fun I had. Literally just spent hours standing on the street, soaking each other with ice cold water. With the heat in Thailand, ice cold water is very refreshing! Everybody was smiling and having a good time. I left the juice bar and found another bar that was playing music. Power Bar was the name and out front they had two huge barrels of water with giant ice cubes in each one. This was the most numbingly cold water I had felt all day. So of course, I bought another drink and set up shop in the new bar. I met some new friends while we soaked all whom passed by together and laughed the entire time.
Note: If somebody, especially a local Thai, gently pours water (even cold water) over your neck or head, the proper greeting should be to put your hands together in prayer, bow your head slightly and say Thank You as you receive your blessing. (Khob khun krap or Khob khun ka) As mentioned in the previous blog, the splashing of water is a symbol of cleansing the past and embracing the blessings of the Thai New Year. It is all in good fun. And if you don’t want to get wet, you should probably stay inside.
Story Time! In order to avoid the massive water fight and because it had been pouring rain, I decided to have dinner at a restaurant across the street from my hostel. Shubushi is a combination shabu-shabu (Japanese hotpot) and sushi all-you-can-eat buffet. This was my first experience with shabu-shabu but I instantly became a fan! The soup ingredients come around on a conveyor belt (Choo Choo!) and you pick off what you want and drop them into the boiling hot soup. Now, the reason why I’m sharing this… After eating my fill of Japanese goodness, I got up to pay the bill and realized I had completely taken out my wallet with my cash and credit card after everything in my bag had gotten soaked during Songkran. I was mortified. This had only ever happened to me one other time in my life, but I was in the McDonald’s Drive-thru so I just pulled up to the window and said “Sorry, I don’t have my wallet” and cancelled my order. I was so embarrassed! I politely told the cashier that I did not have enough money and that I would quickly run back across the street to the hostel and return. She just said, “Okay” with a little confused look on her face and I left. (I did return to pay the bill.)
I’m not sure how someone in America would have reacted, or if they would’ve asked for my name or phone for collateral (or made me wash dishes!), but this woman barely thought twice. When I returned, she had a smile on her face, took care of my bill and thanked me. SO relieved! Now, had this happened to me in any other country, I feel like the outcome would have been very different. I feel like this is just one tiny example of how genuinely friendly most Thai people are. From Bangkok to Chiang Mai, I have been greeted with nothing but smiles and welcomed with generosity and incredible hospitality. During this trip, so many locals have told me that I look Thai (seriously like almost everyone) and I will always take that as a compliment.