Waterworld: Songkran in Bangkok

My clothes are still drying. My shoes are in tatters. My underwater camera bag looks like it was attacked by a drunken, chalk-wielding mermaid. My mind is still trying to wrap itself around what exactly went on last week. I was in Bangkok for Songkran: the Thai New Year. I was made to get wet. Which is what happens the nation over for three days between April 13-15 each year. You get wet. Very wet.

Traditionally, the festivities are rooted in the zodiac calendar, when the sun enters the sign of Aries. Songkran is a time of cleansing and renewal. Hence the water. But what was once a means of washing Buddha statues and the hands of elders has now turned into a nationwide water fight. In Bangkok, there was an incessant deluge from shopfronts, vehicles and people on the street. My goal was to get into the fray, to embrace the festival’s more hedonistic aspects. Who needs tradition anyway? From an outsider’s perspective, there’s very little left of that to be seen. Now it’s just a good time. Unless you hate fun.

I for one can get behind a country that takes three days off from life to throw water at each other and smear chalk on strangers’ faces. At times it felt like all of Bangkok was laughing. Which is an amazing sensation and one that I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced before. So here are a few photographs. They hardly do things justice. Paisley-painted fire trucks, big gay parades, ladyboys dancing in the streets, break-dancers, naked babies, hand prints, fire hoses and so much more.