We started our international journey with a flight out of Boise on New Year’s Eve. Since then, we have celebrated Chinese New Year in Chengdu, Persian New Year in Malaysia, and now Songkran, Thailand’s New Year, in Hua Hin. I hate to play favorites, but Songkran in Hua Hin has been the best by far!
Songkran was the official Thai New Year holiday until 1888. Now, New Year is celebrated on January 1st, but Songkran is still celebrated as a traditional holiday on the 13th of April each year. Like holidays all over the world, Songkran has varied traditions (my friend’s experience with Songkran in Chiang Mai was a tiny bit different). Some common themes, however, are visiting temples, giving offerings to the Buddhist monks, and using water to purify and wash away sins.
Finding a Hide-Away for Lunch
I was embarrassingly under-prepared for this holiday. We had a basic idea of what sort of things would be happening. Many of the stores were going to be closed, there would be drunk partiers in the street, and people were going to be throwing water from unknown sources at us. I read that at one of the biggest celebrations in Chiang Mai, the water that is being thrown is pulled directly from the canal. The water in our nearby canal is mostly garbage, so we were a bit nervous about participating in the festivities.
However, we definitely were going to participate in this holiday, but exactly how much was up in the air. We dressed in some quick-dry clothing, put on sunglasses to protect our eyes from the scorching sun and potentially polluted water, and drove into town to go to lunch. The plan was to find a place to eat, hide away inside, and watch everyone have their dangerous fun from a safe and dry distance. (Are we really getting that old and boring?!)
The moment we turned out of our gated community, we knew we weren’t going to avoid getting wet. Our little local side street in Hua Hin was spotted with parties and puddles, and lined up with friendly locals ready to blast anyone who happened to be passing by.
And We’re In
The reason for soaking someone during Songkran is to bless and purify them. With that first splash of water, all of our worries and cares were washed away. The people of Hua Hin were having the time of the their lives. Town was filled with music, laughing, and dancing everywhere. There was no way we were going to sit this one out. We parked the motorbike and headed on foot to the nearest party.
We ended up at Lazy Daze Bar. A couple of days earlier, we had eaten dinner here and noticed that they had a sign advertising free food for the holiday. It was on the main drag (such as it is), had good music… Who am I kidding? The free food is what brought us in. I like food! Sue me!
Songkran with our new friends
I was a little hesitant at first. It looked like everyone at the bar knew each other and we were about to crash a private party, but the moment we walked in, we felt like a member of the family. We were greeted and blessed by nearly everyone there. The people were all so kind and accommodating, it took us a while to figure out who was hosting the party and who was just being friendly. We were given chairs and guided to the food, while one of the locals introduced us to the regular crowd and explained the holiday customs. It was a bit overwhelming at first, but we eventually settled in and felt right at home.
Also, let me just say that this wasn’t “free food” kind of free food. You know, the cheap, mass produced stuff that gets laid out because people feel obligated to bring something. No, this was a delicious spread of home-cooked Thai curry, Japanese curry, American chili, and rices. It took everything in my power not to go back for thirds… alright so maybe I did, but I didn’t go back for fourths!
Joining in the Fun of Songkran in Hua Hin
We spent a lot of our time watching and learning before stepping out onto the street to participate. That isn’t to say we didn’t still get wet. Blessing people indoors is also a thing.
I eventually worked my way outside, was handed a bucket, and experimented first by splashing the kids. Anyone who has ever been in a water fight before knows that it only takes one little splash to start an all-out war. Within seconds we were all soaked, laughing, and ganging up on passers-by.
Like most of the groups on the block, we collected water from large barrels that were set out near the street. The barrels were filled with hose water and often had large ice cubes inside to keep it cool. We used small buckets or squirt guns to collect our ammo out of the barrel.
The majority of the water fight was among ourselves, but we also soaked most of the people who passed by. Our favorite passers were the ones who drove by in trucks. It looked common for families to drive by in trucks filled with buckets of water.
Josh and I were happy to see that anyone who drove by with their hand up, their phone visible, or bags of groceries were let go without getting splashed. Even better, many of the motorbikes were stopped before we splashed them. Someone would hold up their hand for the passer to stop. Once stopped, they would be wiped on each cheek with a white paste by a single person, then soaked by everyone else.
We were still excited as we walked back to the motorbike to ride home. We didn’t want to leave, but we were getting tired and the dogs hadn’t been prepared to be alone much longer.
As we drove back through the street parties, our new friends recognized us and gave us a good soaking. The next group did the same, and the next. We drove home feeling wet, cool, and with a feeling of happiness. We smiled and laughed the whole drive home.
Best. Day. Ever!
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