Songkran 2013: Koh Chang Edition

23 Apr

After the fun of celebrating Songkran in Bangkok, Orestes and I headed to the island of Koh Chang to enjoy a few days of beach vacation. Koh Chang is a lovely island in the eastern part of the Gulf of Thailand, near the Cambodian border. We took a fairly painless bus from BKK, a short ferry ride, and then a most eventful sorngtaou ride to arrive at our hotel. Picture this if you will – us in the back of the pick-up, several other tourists and Thais squished in with us, bags up top, heading along a somewhat bumpy cement track that serves as the main road around the island. Koh Chang is still fairly undeveloped; each beach has its own little strip of restaurants, bars, etc. along the road, and then you head into forest/meadow again between beaches. Here’s where the fun part of the ride comes in: each beach strip was lined with people celebrating Songkran, huge water guns, hoses, and buckets in hand, ready to fling water at any and all passerby. For example, a sorngtaou filled with farang tourists. Within minutes, we were all completely drenched. Some people are nice and throw water that is comfortably warm, others are evil and fill their buckets with ice water, so the dousing is a shocking experience. Having survived Soi Silom the day before, Orestes and I were mentally prepared for the Songkran festivities. However, two of the other tourist ladies in the pick-up were less than amused- squealing, ducking down, trying to keep their hair dry – in short, freaking out. I admit I found the whole thing highly entertaining. By the time we got to Hat Kai Bae, our beach, we were soggy shorts, squelching shoes, soaking wet. Fun times.

After a light lunch and a change of clothes (this time we were smart and put on our bathing suits) we set out along the strip of Kai Bae to explore. People were everywhere, music playing, dancing in front of bars, wearing crazy shirts, drinking beer, tossing water, making merry. We stopped to get drinks at a little bar, and soon the lovely Thai ladies who worked there had invited us to share their water buckets. When in Thailand… We spent several entertaining hours splashing everyone in sight, having water fights of our own, and drinking perhaps a tad too much. At one point, some mahouts (elephant caretakers) came along with two baby elephants!! People were feeding them bananas, and the elephants were stealing water from buckets to spray and join in the Songkran fun. It was adorable, and Orestes got to feed them. I was busy photographing but I did get to pet the girl elephant’s truck, and subsequently got sprayed – so cute!!

All in all, Songkran was good fun. I enjoyed it more on Koh Chang than in downtown Bangkok as it was more carefree reveling and less full on assault mode. The day after Songkran ended, I happened to be reading The Bangkok Post, the English language newspaper. In it, they had stats for the Songkran holiday (which officially lasts a full week although most people only do the three-day weekend). Turns out 321 people died during Songkran, 3,040 were injured, and there were 2,828 traffic accidents attributed to the holiday (give or take a few). What the…??? Moreover, it turns out this is normal (!!). The damage has been worse in previous years. In retrospect, I understand why. It’s not easy to drive a motorbike when someone has thrown a two gallon bucket of water in your eyes, and people were definitely stepping into the streets willy nilly to spray others, not to mention the amount of booze consumed. But still. Can you imagine if 321 people died during New Year’s Eve or the Fourth of July? Imagine the fallout? The government crack downs? Here, the government publicly scolded liquor companies for advertising too aggressively. And that was that. Glad we decided not to drive the motorbike during Songkran. On that note, here are some pics of the chaos.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: