Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Day 14 - Bangkok

I am held hostage in the hostel. I can not venture out without fear of being sprayed by thousands of supersoaker carrying Thais. Those not fortunate enough this morning to own a supersoaker have had an opportunity to acquire one at a little stall set up on pretty much every corner of the city. The city seems to have organized into pick-up truck squads. Each pick-up truck is equipped with a bathtub of water. Those sitting in the back of the pick-ups take turns taking water out of the tub to spray any pick-up trucks going by, any tuk-tuks (tricycle looking taxis with lawnmower engines), or any people just walking by.

The occassion apparently is Songkran - Thai new year. Apparently as a sign of respect young people pour water down the backs of their elders while wishing them happy things. Others use some kind of white mixture to coat the faces of passer-bys in order to 'ward off evil'.

Here is some info on this 'festival'

As you can probably imagine that what might have once been a tame tradition in the villages of Thailand has been slightly transformed [mutated] in the ridiculously large metropolis of bangkok into what it is now, which is just water spraying for fun..

In any case.. Yesterday I arrived late night in Bankok and shared with some people a ride towards the center of town.. I got to the hostel at about 2am and interrupted some poor people in my dorm room. In the morning I woke up and went to the Palace complex. I took the SkyTrain (which is a pretty nice looking air conditioned train system) down to the pier and then the ferry up to the complex. Now at this point let me explain the main problem with Bangkok - its weather. Its absolutely horrendous. The temperature is somewhere in the low 100s and the humidity is very high as well. Sweat just rolls down my head. When I got out of the air conditioned airport last night my glasses just fogged up and refused to defog. Today I am wearing contacts so its not a problem, but the sun is still very strong. Now the problem is that i hadn't packed for this heat. I was thinking Hong Kong weather, but this is the tropical variety. No wonder the Americans lost Vietnam. They were trying to run away from the sun. The next problem is that i hadn't packed for Songkran. I don't have flipflops or shorts. I made the mistake of not buying them today in the morning.

So after seeing the palace complex I went back to the hostel and posted some of my delayed China material. I then went walking around in my usual outfit - hiking boots, jeans, shirt, backpack - and then the pick-up trucks started coming. I was trying to make it down to the backpacker district - Kho San Road and i took a tuk-tuk to get there. The problem with tuk-tuks, as opposed to taxis or buses, is that they have no protection from waterguns, so by the time I got out of the tuk-tuk I was completely wet. I was still thinking that i had a chance to get down to Kho-San Road, but the closer i got the more congested it got, the more people, the more water, the more pick-up trucks. When I got to the entrance to the road it was physically impossible to make it inside due to the high volume of people already there. Added to this the continued soaking and face-whitening. I basically just gave up and went back to the hostel to dry and regroup. I don't think I am going to be leaving the hostel any more this evening....

Cheers,
BR

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