Considering what a turbulent few weeks Thailand has had to endure, it was great to witness the Songkran celebrations take over the west coast of Koh Lanta yesterday. Foreigners and Thais alike came out from mid-morning to sunset to fire water bombs, water guns, saucers, and buckets ... basically, any vessel that can carry liquid is fair game (or a fair weapon) on Thai New Year.
In a way, I felt a bit like Oisin in Tir na nOg yesterday. We had no diving, so we spent the entire day firing water at people, including occasional raids along the coast road in the Blue Planet van, which was stocked to the gills with water.
Having left Ireland in early January 2010, suddenly I was enjoying my third New Year's festival of the year. And, suddenly, it was the year 2553. Have I really been away for 543 years? Well, let's say I had as much fun as Oisin in the 'Land of Eternal Youth' yesterday.
Sometimes, it can be quite scary, but the world's biggest water fight, which extends from the Laos and Cambodian borders to the Deep South, is probably the best and biggest outdoor party in the world. It was also a welcome respite from the troubles in Bangkok, which have seen a host of Governments warn their citizens against coming to Thailand. Just what the tourism industry needs!
The whole idea of the water bombs is that you wash your troubles of the past year away, and obliging Thais also come around to put talcum powder on your face in the midst of being drenched from top to toe maybe 100 times in one day.
It's actually considered rude not to slow down your motorbike when people want to throw water on you as you make your way around the island, so let's just say that the journey home from Saladan to the end of Phrae Ae was memorable as I got soaked at least a dozen times ... even with my trusty water gun at the ready!
A huge crew had gathered around The Tavern, which seemed to be the centre of the action for the day, but there was also great fun to be had in Saladan, where rival dive centres and businesses took turns to load up their trucks with water and guns and attack their opponents up and down the island.
It was, quite simply, the best fun I've had since I came to Thailand over three months ago and really showed this country in a wonderful light. People may have troubles and disputes and tragedies, but Thais love to party and have 'sanuk', which is their own word for 'craic'.
Considering that we are getting near the dive season, and the peak tourist season, it really was brilliant to see the island in full-on party mode for a day. I can see now why some tourists make Songkran an annual event, because there is hardly anything like it in the world.
Sure enough, Chris and Jane came back from a month in Malaysia for the celebrations, and the Tregembo family from Cornwall (whose gap year is being filmed by Channel 4 in the UK)could not resist coming back from Cambodia for Lanta's massive water fight.
It really was a phenomenal party!
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