I arrived in the Land of Smiles on 12 April 1992 cleared customs jumped into a taxi and off to my destination of Pattaya on the eastern seaboard of Thailand. My vendor friend had informed that this time of the year I would enjoy as some particular events take place. However he didn't enlarge on what. I arrived at the Nice Hotel on soi 2nd road booked in by a very lovely lady. Of course not known where I am or where to go is the first thoughts I have. Therefore some expeditions were required to suss the place out.
Food was my first thought and sat down to my first ever thai food. Green curry with Jasmine rice. Not too spicy. The food was delicious. Next off to see the sights. Pattaya has a beautiful beach with many beer bars established around the beach area. Shopping everywhere and anything you may wish to buy is available. The weather at this time of year is very hot and humid and it won't take long before you get a sweat on and need to drink. I sat down at a beer bar and that is when my holiday started. I had previously been informed of where to go to see other english speaking people so this is where I was. The bar itself was packed with people mostly Austrailian. I introduced myself to the others. As time went on and various people were advising on the what to do and what not to do in the country it soon became clear I was with friends. Everyone was asking have you came for Songkran. I admitted I had no idea what Songkran was and would someone please tell me, no one would, only the words were you will find out tomorrow the 13th. So I shrugged my shoulders and decided within myself, I,ll find out tomorrow.
The talking and drinking continued until a suggestion was made by one of my fellow drinkers that since I am new to Thailand we all should do the Go Go bar run. Meaning all 15 of us start at the farest ago go bar away and and end up back to the nearest which was just across the road. A go go bar is a bar with dancers in the bar and you watch them dancing. In 1992 there were about 18 ago go bars in Pattaya.
The baht bus was ordered all 15 of us piled in (Open back pick up with safety rails to prevent people from falling out). Off we went and arrived at the first one which was located at the top of 2nd road on soi 2. Everyone piled in and the nights entertainment started which was mainly about drinking beer. This went on for some time until it was time to move on to the next ago go bar and in every ago go more and more beers. At the time I had no idea of just how many ago go bars their were in the town. After going in and out of go go bars we eventually ended up in a place called walking street which i was astonished to see the street was full of even more go go bars. By this time the travelling and the beer was catching up and I realised it was time for bed and returned back to my Hotel.
The following morning arose early and headed for breakfast. The town appeared normal same as the day before, what was this Songkran all about. Ate breakfast and then realised the intensity of the heat and humidity and decided to have an afternoon in my room and later go out when the temperature had dropped. Around 7 pm got dressed and headed for the local bar in which I had previouly attended.
On the way there a thai person suddenly threw a bucket of ice cold water all over me. I was shocked and not being able to speak the language i just stood in amasement thinking why has he done this. All my clothes were soaking wet and the thaiman just stood there laughing at me. Nothing I can do about this now i'll just continue to my destination and while going to the bar it happened again by another then again by another. OMG what is going on with these crazy people. I arrived at the bar, soaked to the skin and everyone was laughing at me and shouted happy Songkran. Bemused by what was going on I asked in a distraught manner please explain. Songkran is the Thai new year and its is blessed by the buddha by a water festival. Ah now I somewhat understand why this total stranger would throw a bucket of ice cold water all over me. I was soaked, my wallet and money all stuck together,I needed a drink.
Everyone had these plastic wallets around they necks to keep money and telephones to protect them from water. All wore flowery shirts and swimming trunks as no point in having trousers as I did or shorts due to ammount of water everyone would receive in due course. Its then I realised about my german vendor friend sent me here on 13th April as he knew what was going to happen. Somehow I would repay the complement when I returned back to work.
As the night went on and things became more apparent on this water festival, I asked how long does this go on for. As I was holidaying in Thailand for two weeks. I was informed it would continue until the 19th and end at sunset. WHAT, and it will get alot worse everyday until the 19th so be prepared for a good soaking everyday. Well here I am thinking I would have a lovely relaxing time in Thailand maybe go see the sights and do some travelling. Nothing to stop me from doing it, just that having to live out of a small plastic bag for the next 6 days was putting me off so I decided to cancel all plans.
For anyone who is similar to myself reading this, its an ardous task having to put up with someone throwing water and patting talcum powder on your face all day and night and having to smile when they do it. All plans cancelled, what do we do now. Do what everyone else is doing. Off again to another bar then another bar getting hot then cold water throwing all over you. Great this !! Honestly it got to the stage where i was so sick of it I stopped in my hotel room most days as the hotel restaurant was within the bounderies of the hotel which meant I didn,t have to go outside to buy anything.
Eventually the 19th arrived I was so happy it soon would all be over. I thought for the last day I would get involved and be prepared this time for a good soaking. I headed off to the local bar. On the way there the roads were all blocked with cars and pickups the passengers all throwing water. Water pistols came in various sizes from kids to 3 inch pipes with the blasting power of a fire engine. The roads were completely flooded with water, ice blocks were continually being loaded into 45 gallon drums of water ready to fill the water pistols. Everyone appeared drunk and some with bottles of whiskey drinking from the bottle.
The baht buses loaded with people were the ideal target for water throwing. Music was blasting from every vehicle and the bars. What on earth is going on here. The local people were all dressed for the ocassion dancing in the streets and to me it all appeared to be a complete mad house as I had never seen anything like this before. I arrived at the bar. The bar its self was completely flooded inside everyone was throwing water over each other and drinking beer at the same time. The seats were soaking wet the bar tables and everyone full of laughter. I just joined the party then around 6.30 pm it all stopped as if an alarm bell had sounded. A few people who were enjoying it continued for a while and then eventually they stopped. I could feel so much satisfaction within me that at last this madness was all over. Horray lets drink to that. It was then I promised to myself I will never ever come to Thailand at this time of the year ever ever again.
However for some they loved it, some were even saying see ya all next year. Happy Songkran. As I said its really depending on the person if you enjoy this type of thing or not. I don't. Its supposed to only last 7 days. However over the years it has growing to 10 or 11 days in some places of Pattaya, especially the beach area and some small soi,s. So beware, if you do come to Thailand this time of year. Expect a good soaking everyday.
Songkran starts in the North of Thailand Chiang mai and works its way down to Bangkok and onto Pattaya and its all suposed to be 2 to 3 days in Chiang mai then the rest in Bangkok and Pattaya. As Pattaya has became a bigger city in recent years. Naglua and Jontiem have became part of Pattaya city and now instead of 2 days in Naglua, 2 days in Jontiem 3 days in Pattaya its just became a full week and some additional days in other areas. For me this time of year, Im either out of the country, away from the tourist areas or stocked up and indoors for the complete period.
The Following day, I awoke and wondered how the city would be, now Songkran was over. As for the last seven days all I had seen was everyone throwing water at each other. I felt as if I was back to square one and had just arrived alough a week of my vacation was now over and I only had 7 days before going back to work. What can I do with the remaining 7 days. Travelling now will only shorten my holiday as more time will be spent on local transport. I decided to remain in Pattaya for the duration of my holiday. I returned back to the beer bar to see my fellow travellers and find out what would be going on now Songkran was over.