Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Songkran in Chiang Mai

I am in Chiang Mai and absolutely loving being here for Songkran. It is basically one big constant water fight!!! There has been a few other things thrown in here and there, but mostly its just water and being wet and damp (and most likely a bit smelly from moat water) and having fun blasting everyone!! It is surprising how exhausting it is throwing buckets of water at people for hours on end.

Had a bit of a chill day exploring a little bit of Chiang Mai. I had the best night sleep ever at the massage place even though we were sleeping on the floor on mats about an inch thick - the aircon was great!! The three of us girls (Ali, Cat and myself) ended up going out of town to the Tiger Kingdom to check out the tigers there and give them a little pat. We paid to play with the small tigers (abotu 6 months old) and the big tigers (who were a few years old, but not fully grown). It was a pretty cool experience. We watched the baby tigers, they were very verycute, but didnt pay the extra money to actually go and play with them. Its debatable about why/how the tigers are so tame. The guys that run the place say they aren't drugged but who knows. They were very sleepy and a bit dopey at times, but if they got roughed up a bit or something happened that they didn[t particularly like they would wake up quite quickly. We got to lie on them and use them as pillows and pick up their paws and play with them a little bit. Sort of unnerving, but cool. The big tigers are pretty much massive. There are all big cages or enclosures really that have the tigers in them. There were 2 girls for the small tigers and 3 males in the big tiger enclosure we went to. Some of the tigers had pretty cool/funny names. For example there was one called anakin sky walker, another was Edward (twilight) and a couple other "famous" tigers. The rest of the day we explored around the city a bit, found the night markets and walked through some of that.

Cat and I had booked into a cooking class on Saturday and were picked up at 8am (Ali went on a trek instead) to start that. It was really good! First we picked out what foods we wanted to make (7 courses all up, 3 choices for each course) and then hit the markets to purchase the foods we needed. Then went back to our cooking class. It was a very fun day. There were another younger couple with us who I got along with really well. In our lunch break we went out and hit the street to join in on the fun with the water fights. Officially they hadn[t started at all, but there were quite a few people out on the town during the day with their water guns and hoses going around splashing everyone. So we purchased some equipment of our own and joined in for an hour or so. Good times!!

In the evening the girls and I met some guys from our hostel who were heading out to a beach party at lake just out of town so we joined up with them and went out for a little bit of dancing and to watch the awesome fire twirling!

The few of us who had done our cooking course together then been out for dinner (as we still got hungry later on) had oranised to meet each other at our "corner" of the moat at 2pm to continue the water fighting adventures. However no one else actually turned up so I ended upwandering up and down the moat joining in on the action with all different people. This was the day when the water fights unofficially started! For a while I was hanging out with the guys I'd met from the hostel, then I decided that I wanted to walk all the way around the square moat (It's probably at least 1km each side). After leaving the main gate, there were very few other farang (white people) and It was pretty cool. You end up getting targeted even more than normal. I had a couple occasions where I had whole buckets (like 20-50L buckets) thrown at me. Those ones almost completely blow me over! You can see how so many people could get injured at this festival just because it is so nuts wiht people everywhere and so many cars and scooters and people running all over the roads.

I like attacking the tuk-tuk drivers (retaliation for their never ending questions about tuk-tuks along my travels and the thai ones are just happening to get it!). Anyway, on my adventures walking around the moat I made it half way around to the other gate where I met some Aussie and New Zealand guys who were bucketing everyone that past by them. I joined forces with them for a while which was good fun. There was a bunch of local guys that they were there hanging out with and every couple of minutes or so they got us to drink or scull glasses of beer in ice. After multiple rounds of that, I decided that I had to continue on before I couldmt make my way home.

I continued probably another kilometre around the the moat and then decided to hijack one of the utes by jumping on the back of it while it drove past. This particular ute had about 5 or 6 other westerners on it and a few locals who drove us around. We had really big buckets of water and they purchased blocks of ice to make the water icy cold. Every time we ran out of water, everyone would jump off the truck and fill up buckets to refill then continue on our way. They drove us around for a while, then stopped off at their house to briefly perform some sort of ritual associated with the new year. Then we were off again to get more water, more ice and more water shooting!! We did this until it got dark then they dropped us off at the shop where they had originally started from.

The group of us decided to organise to meet up for drinks at the rooftop bar after we had all had showers and some food. In between I had a quick look at the night markets again as well. However, when I turned up at the bar, only 1 of the guys, Scott (Canadian) was there. So we had a good chat and until his housemate Christian showed up and some other friends that they had previously met on their travels. It was Christians last night and on the way home the boys decided that they wanted McDonalds for a late night snack (which I passed on) and we took some photos with the sawadee'ing ronald macdonald out the front.

First official day of Songkran and the strets of Chiang Mai are totally going off. You literally cannot get more than 10 metres in any street of the town inside or out without getting sprayed, bucketed or gunned down with a water pistol!! I met Scott at his guesthouse where I discovered that he was a christian as well which was pretty cool (he had a bible on his bed so I asked him). We got our buckets and my big 10L waterpack watergun (which is ridiculously heavy) and went to join in on the action. We bucketed and participated in the water fights for 8 hours straight!!!

The streets are jam packed and not moving anywhere and there are trucks full of people on the back with big buckets that they throw ice in so the water is freezing cold. It is not safe to get dry until after about 8pm because the party just keeps on raging on. It is insane the amount of water on the roads as well. The roads turn into rivers, it looks like ithas been absolutely pouring down.

Currently it is the early hours of the morning on wednesday. I've been offered a job I think (or at least I'm under the impression that I'm about to get offered a job) which yet again puts another change into my 'plans". I responded a week or so ago to an advertisement I saw in SEEK for a locum job in Geelong, as I have 2-3 months to "waste" in aus before I was going to move to the UK in July. So I emailed this guy about this job, and it turns out to be a full-time position for at least 9 months. I'm having a chat/interview with him and potentially the client (as he is a bit of a middleman/agent) in the morning. But he said today in an email that they have an offer for me, so sounds a bit promising like they are keen. So it is always an option... (I like my options).

thought of the day: I may not always feel part of the family, but I always belong. Just read that in a daily devotion I get emailed. I often don't feel like I belong or am part of anywhere (restless feet syndrome), so it was a good reminder that in God's family I always belong.

Hit the waterfights again with Scott in the afternoon but we both were feeling pretty tired and worn out after tuesdays efforts. Joined in for a coupe hours then went and had rests. The best bit about todays water fights were the bubble/foa machines!! they were AWESOME!!! I had so much fun there, therewere 2 massive foam bubble machines pumping out foam in front ofa big stage with speakers and it was just nuts. everyone was slippery and slipping over, trying to avoid getting hit by all the cars and scooters and sometimes shoulders deep infoam. Had fun throwing foam at each other and getting involved in that area for a while! Hoping its there again tomorrow. One of my al time faourite photos from this trip was during the bubbles!

I think it is physically impossible for me to get around chiang mai during songkran without geting wet. Scott reckons most of the people recognise me for being a trouble maker. Thats always possible!! :)

I took it a bit easy and hit the waterfight for the last time. It started a lot later than usual. I headed out with the girls at about 2.30 and there was barely anyone onthe streets at the time. We started (at my decision) to walk around the moat where we eventually found where everyone was hiding. We barely saw any westerners and got totally attacked left right and centre from the locals. I have a video that I need to post demonstrating this. On one of the corners there were about 50+ thai guys lined up who ALL threw their buckets extremely hard at us. They pretty much knocked me over every time the force was so hard. The video demonstrates the end of that queue where they are not quite as vicious

The girls gave up at about half way on our trek around the moat. I however was very determined and succeeded in walking the entire perimeter which took me over 3 hours of solid walking (plus a bit of water throwing and some other distractions along the way!). For example, I randomly decided to jump up on one of the many many stages with lady boys dancing on them and danced for a little bit with them which was both fun and amusing. The girls didn't believe that I would actually do it. There wasa sign on the wall behind the stage which funnily enough says "Save water, Save the River Sav the world". Ironic when there is a huge water war going on just in front of it...

When I had finally completed my circuit, I headed back to one of the corners where the guys I'd met at the hostel the first night usually hang out. ON my way up there I bypassed one big stand giving out soap samples, which always smells lovely whenever you walk past (the moat water is pretty foul). A back packer on the other side of the road pulled off my hat and randomly started rubbing soap/shampoo into my hair. So at least my hair was clean. Some other backpackers were only too obliging in providing me with some buckets to rinse the shampoo out...

On Friday I did a visa run to mae sai and ended up in Burma for the day!! Bit bizarre. I did that to avoid paying $15 every day I'm over my visa. Its a bit stupid really that when you go overland you only get 15 days on your visa but if you fly in you get 30.. I had dinner last night with the Australian guys I'd met on the river on Monday They had hired motorbikes (one of the scooters they'd hired the day before had been stolen) so the 2 of them, myself and 2 french guys rode around town for probably half an hour in the wrong direction looking for a particular restaurant on these cruisers. Its pretty nuts, but oh so much fun. Completely stupid but you have to do it once right?! riding around with 3 people on one bike, no one wearing helmets, in thongs and ending up on the highway doing 80km/h + at night time. awesome fun!!! After dinner we went to the night markets wandered around and then all got massages of some sort and description at a little shop before it was bed time.

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