When we arrived in Bangkok late on the 11th one thing was immediately clear: this was the start of sweaty. Even though the sun had gone down hours before, the temperature still hovered around the 20 degree mark and the air was thick with humidity. After cabbing to Udee Hostel Bangkok we promptly passed out in air-conditioned heaven. We were in for a bit of a shock the next morning when we woke up to find that the AC had automatically turned off; this would be the first of many sweaty mornings.
Our first day proved to be pretty casual, we took a long boat up the main river for a bit of sight seeing and wandered around the city during the afternoon. Unfortunately, one of the more impressive sights in Bangkok, the Grand Palace, was closed as part of a ceremony for the late Princess (who passed away last July). After tooling around for most of the day (and getting some pretty good eats along the way) , we decided to go see a movie at the suggestion of another group we met at the hostel. An interesting fact about movie theaters in Thailand is that they play the national anthem before the film and you are expected to stand for it. In case you really wanted to know, we saw The Hunger Games and it was just as awesome the second time around.
We woke up the next morning full of grand plans to see the Grand Palace (pun intended), but these quickly dissolved when we heard about Songkran, one of the most epic festivals ever. Songkran is a celebration of the Thai new year where everyone throws water and smears chalk on everyone around them in order to rid them of everything bad and cleanse them for the coming year. Essentially, it’s a giant, city-wide water fight that lasts three days. Three whole days! We promptly bought water guns and headed down to the heart of it on Khaosan road. That afternoon was spent walking up and down Khaosan, getting absolutely drenched and dishing out some choice shots of our own. Without a doubt, one of the best days I’ve had on the trip so far. If I were to try and paint you a picture, it would go something like this: imagine walking down a street utterly jam packed with people, most of them carrying (and using!) water guns on everyone around them; imagine every fifth person or so smearing both sides of your face with a cool chalk paste to bless you; imagine music and laughter and screams of joy mixing together to create a sound all its own; imagine ice cold water being dumped on you everytime you pass a vendor selling drinks; imagine this, and you may have an inkling of what that day of Songkran was for us.
We spent the second day of the festival doing something completely different, but just as amazing. One of the girls we met at our hostel has a certain affinity for befriending everyone within earshot and promtly made nice with a local Thai man just down our street. He proposed that we jump in the back of his pickup truck, which he had loaded with buckets and a huge barrel of water, and he would drive us around all day so we could soak people. I realize that the way I’ve set this up it sounds a little sketchy, but I assure you it was perfectly safe; Thai people are just ridiculously generous. And so, that was how we ended up driving around Bangkok in the back of a Thai man’s truck for the the day. An absolutely epic day, I may add.
After three nights at our first hostel we decided a change of scenery (and a more central location) would be nice and so we packed our bags and moved to the D&D Hotel on Khaosan Road. A note for future travellers: if ever checking in to a hotel on Khaosan Road, don’t do it during Songkran. We felt like sitting ducks walking (read: pushing our way) through the crowded street with our huge packs and no way to defend ourselves. No one took it easy on us just because we had backpacks. That said, it was a great call to move to this hotel. At around $14 a night it was definitely pricy, but for that money we got a rooftop pool, private room with aircon and a tv with the most epic movie channel ever. This was also the place where we finally met up with a dear friend from home who we had been trying to connect with for the whole festival. Such a nice surprise to answer our door and have him standing there! Our last day of Songkran was spent in much the same manner as the first, though this time we finished with a rooftop swim and an epic night on the town.
We woke up the next day exhaused, but happy, and if I’m being honest maybe a little relieved to have Songkran behind us. After three days of maddness on the streets of Bangkok, it was nice to just chill out for the day. Thai massages, reading by the pool and many a movie (thanks never-ending movie channel!) were the only things on our list of to-do’s for the day. Feeling somewhat recovered, it was a cruel thing that we had booked our flight to Vietnam for so early the next morning. A 7am departure time meant leaving our hostel (and air-conditioned comfort) at 2:30 that morning.
This travelling thing is rough I tell ya.