After a good(ish) nights sleep, it was off to explore the city. Bangkok was only our extended layover for the real destination of Phuket, so we only had one complete day there. A long time ago, when Allison and I first decided to come here, I did a little overall research on Thailand. I heard about a water festival that was going to happen the week we were there, but didn’t think too much into it and wasn’t too worried. Festivals are usually something you can choose to participate in, like going to a parade or putting up a Christmas tree for the month. Little did I know, Songkran, the “water festival”, turned out to be no joke.
Khoasan Road (aka party central where our hostel was located), turned out to be the main road where this festival took place. We walked out to the main street after breakfast and saw barricades being put up and a huge stage literally right outside of our front door. Not only was the street already bumpin at 9am…but we immediately got doused with water from the people on the street with supersoakers.
Songkran is celebrated for Thailands New Year’s Day. Typically people use fireworks to celebrate the new year, but Thailand likes to shake it up a little. Apparently the throwing of water symbolizes washing away all the bad of the year. While this sounds like a great tradition, it’s turned into an insane water battle (mostly from tourists), and can be a little overwhelming.
Luckily, it’s 500 degrees in Bangkok, so a little water never hurt. We made it relatively unscathed to the end of the block and were able to get out of the thick of it.
As imagined, the city is incredibly colorful and decorated.
We tried walking to the Grand Palace, but thanks to it being New Year’s Day, only Thai locals were allowed into the compound. I’m a little bummed we couldn’t see this place, because just by looking at the outside, you could tell it was impressive.
We continued to walk around and were able to enter a few “lesser” temples. As mentioned before, the street food here is amazing. I invested in an afternoon stack (the brown things on the right), which turned out to be basically the Thai version of a Samoa girl scout cookie…without the chocolate. I was ready to die happy in the street, but we continued to trek along.
After getting directions from the sweetest couple at a local craft shop, we found one of the golden Buddha temples. (I can’t remember it’s actual name).
I really wish I could read Thai script, because this “Buddha” tripped me out (please ignore my thumb). I’ve never seen a Buddha image with a face like this before. Does anyone have any insight into this guy?
I wanted to ask this dude, but I knew he was hard at work.
Even the ceilings were elaborate in these temples.
I hope when I die, people celebrate my life with confetti and sparkles and shiny things, like on the mausoleum above.
Even Monks gotta do laundry…
Thanks to Bangkok’s heat, we had an excuse to head back early to our hostel’s rooftop pool. Although it wasn’t as hot as I was expecting, it was still pretty crippling. Even while chugging water all day, you still get that feeling while walking around that you’ve been sitting in a hot tub for too long. Luckily, there were people all over the streets that were willing to give us a little reprieve from the sun.
Unfortunately, Allie usually tended to be on the receiving end of these gifts, when I was the one asking for them. Sorry bud!!
After a short tuk tuk ride, we made it back to our street where things were even more intense than before. After picking up some more pad thai for lunch, we headed up to the pool to try to cool off…and get away from some of the insanity that was Songkran.
Later that evening, it was time to go back out and do the whole dinner and drinks thing. Things sounded relatively quiet from our room so we thought the festivities might be close to being over. Part of me knew better when getting dressed for the night, but I wanted to hope for the best. Something deep down told me to put on my still wet tank top from earlier in the day, but I refused to listen. We didn’t dress up by any means, but we put on normal clothes that one would expect to wear to dinner while on vacation. That decision was one of the worst we made all week when we came downstairs to a view like this below….
Effing Songkran never stops!!! It only got worse as the night went on. There was absolutely no way around this mess. Like mentioned before, usually you can choose to participate in a festival. There was no option with this one though. It was mandatory. We tried to quickly walk through the crowds, not making eye contact with anyone as to entice them, but it was inevitable. Not only were there super soakers, but people resorted to throwing straight up BUCKETS of water down your back as you walked past. I know this might sound like fun to some of yall, and I think it could be, but we just weren’t feeling it. (Mainly due to the electronics in our bags that we weren’t ready to part with just yet.)
So not only were you being soaked to the bone, but the other part of the tradition is to rub a pasty talc mixture on people’s faces. Some dude came up to me looking super excited. I didn’t see a gun in is hand so I was a little thrown off guard. Unfortunately, his hands were full of talc and he rubbed them all over my face. Alli later told me that she would have punched the dude, but I was so in shock that I couldn’t even react to what was happening. A few minutes later, I finally realized that my black shirt and jeans were now polka dotted with talc, and my face looked like this….
The restaurant we were planning on eating at was right at the end of the crazy block. We were so excited to be able to sit down away from all the chaos and have a much needed drink. A few minutes into the meal though….people from the street came into the restaurant and started spraying the waiter!! Seriously. There was no escaping it.
Allison made the best purchase of the day….a waterproof case for anything important. Too bad they didn’t have one of those for our whole body…
When the night was coming to an end, Alli had the brilliant idea to head back to our hotel by walking around the block and entering from the opposite direction than we came from. It was a shorter distance to the hotel door (meaning we had less of a chance to get tagged again), so I was all for it! While there was definitely less water on this end of the block, there were about 3958732 more people trying to get through one narrow passage way. In order to get into our hostel, we had to pass that big stage that was right outside. This gave room for just one small little walkway that the entire country of Thailand was trying to walk through at the same time. While I’ve never been one for panic attacks, I came incredibly close to experiencing one at this point. You couldn’t walk forward, and people were shoving you from behind. There was absolutely no where to go and I found out that I may have a slight case of claustrophobia. I told Alli I had to walk back and was willing to walk all the way back around the block and through the insanity, just to escape this claustrophobic nightmare. We were literally feet away from the hostel door, but i couldn’t take it.
Luckily, I managed to take a deep breath and say a prayer (seriously) and people finally realized how to navigate the passage and we started moving. We survived and celebrated by grabbing some beer at the 7-11 downstairs from the hostel. We decided (because I’m not sure we would have come out alive otherwise) to make it a “quiet” night at the rooftop pool. After heading upstairs, we experienced another round of insanity that might not make it to this blog. We have video evidence that I might post later, but for now I’ll just leave it up to your imagination.
Thankfully our flight was leaving the next morning to take us away from the craziness that is Bangkok, and would land us on a beautiful beach an hour away. While overall, I did really like Bangkok (you may not get any hint of that from this post), I wouldn’t suggest going there during Songkran. But you can decide that for yourself.