Every mid April when temperatures rise above 40 degrees Celsius, Thais are obviously looking for opportunities to cool down, so they celebrate their new year with a so-called water festival. In other words you can imagine this as the biggest water battle I have ever participated in. I remember how they started selling waterproof carrying bags a week before the festival when I was in Chiang Mai. Yet had I not known what those bags would be for or that the festival was happening. As a backpacker I really kind of started living from day to day.
At every street corner you could by water pistols or just simple buckets. All the Thais were standing in front of their houses, some of theme had pavilion standing to protect from the heat of the day. Huge water tanks filled from the nearby river were providing the basis for the charging of the pistols. Several pickup trucks were driving through the streets with water tanks and people standing on the truck bed. So water was coming from all sort of directions. The better option was obviously to be the target of a pistol but it was inevitable to end up being the target of a water bucket occasionally.
The festival was going on for four days and streets as well as people were wet constantly. It was such a party. Some woman were selling food or other ladies were serving in restaurants but both were always turning up the volume. Music was coming from all sort of directions and we were drinking beer and Sangria. It wasn’t really possible to unfold in deep meaningful conversation because English really wasn’t the focus here but this was not the place for it anyway. This was a place for fun. So we couldn’t really communicate verbally, physically we did though. Smiles and fun is a universal language.
Eventually it was time to leave the place again. In the early morning hour, I bought some delicious food from an older lady and while waiting for the next bus (the one at 7 in the morning turned out to be full), I listened to the sounds of monks in the distance who were practicing their morning ritual. So calming! I had some nice company during the 3 hours ride back to Chiang Mai, was sitting next to a funny Italian woman, we even continued our conversation over the course of lunch. In Chiang Mai I needed to go to a different bus station and took one of those local taxis where you have to climb in from the back. My plan was to find my way towards Chiang Rai. Luckily the taxi filled up quickly so we were making it to my destination in a relatively western dimension of time, even though we were driving through the whole city. It felt great to see the place again. It had a touch of a small guided tour for free.
At the bus station I had to wait for two hours. My search for food looked a bit challenging at first but with my backpack on the shoulders I ended up passing those grandmas with their food booths on wheels and did as the locals did. I just ordered the same what most people ate. It was a soup with meat and vegetable. Let’s put it like this, I didn’t feel sick afterwards, but was still getting used to the local eating habits.
The ride from Chiang Mai to Tha Tong was pretty. On the bus it were only locals and me. One could open the windows. Two sweet Thai girls were sitting in front and behind me. Especially children of different cultures look so incredible cute especially when they speak a language which I don’t understand. They seemed so impartial. We played a couple of games to shorten the six hours’ bus journey. There a till boy onboard as well and he was making sounds with his money box whenever a new passenger got on. He was also opening and closing the doors whenever someone got on or whenever he was seeing that someone wanted to throw the occasional water bucket into the bus. It didn’t work all of the times but luckily I was sitting in safe distance from the door to not have gotten a shower.
Eventually we arrived and this time I was so lucky to spot the sign of a guesthouse from my seat in the bus. I had even read about the place before so this turned out to be going smooth. A quick note towards the till boy and I was standing on the street. The guest house was nice and I had my own little cottage. Even though I was a bit scared of insects by now, so I cautiously opened the door to the bathroom. All I could see was a lizard hurrying away. Well, I can live with that.