Songkran in Bangkok.
The car was barely moving as the crowd took possession of the street, dancing and swirling in a hectic movement. The heat was suffocating, penetrating my nostrils and leaving me in a sweat. New Year’s celebrations in Bangkok get heated, in every way.
The city entered violently into my life, showcasing its brightest and most picturesque facet, blending thousand-year old traditions and rituals with a feverish dynamism. Tacky adverts draped squared blocks of flats: giant buildings with no aesthetic value whatsoever that in their simplicity and hues of gray somehow managed to fascinate me terribly.
How could such a metropolis be so behind its Western counterparts? Anywhere I looked vendors bustled about, brandishing worthless merchandise, colourful knickknacks and some of the smelliest and most bizarre street food I’d ever had the honor to try. Khao San Road buzzed with laughter as the parade went by
“There Chada Hostel¨ the driver mumbled in what seemed to be the only English words he could spit out, pointing out a four storeys, hospital-looking building further down the road.
“Thanks, you can pull over¨ I said relieved, handing out 40 Thai Bath.
The journey from the airport had taken forever, tackled by the mob filling Bangkok’s main drag. The cheerful crowd welcomed the coming year pouring merrily down the streets, and I couldn’t help it but stare at such disorienting hustle. I ventured out of the vehicle cautiously, creeping hesitantly towards the hostel, still shaken by the 15 hours journey London-Bangkok.
A shiver ran down my spine as water splashed around me in a restless battle among thousand contestants wielding water-guns and water-buckets. New Year’s rituals come along with Songrkran, aka Water Festival, a three days celebration during which it is common to pay homage to a temple, and youngsters pour water onto elderly’s palms. The tradition has then transformed into a giant water-fight, a rite that is said to bring good luck and an attempt to beat the heat, I must assume.
As I lifted my gaze to the terrace above me, I glimpsed at a ebony-haired, brown-skinned, 12ish boy dangerously looking out of the edge, just to find myself, a split second after, soaked in water from head to toes. The inevitable had occurred, and I hopelessly accepted it, instantly refreshed by an abrupt surge of energy.
“You okay?”stammered the kind-eyed woman next to me in her broken English.
“I’m fine”, I said, bursting into laughter.
The same brazen pair of eyes protruding out of the balcony gazed at me once again: “Suk-san wan Sonkran”. Happy Songkran Day.