Whipping out her recently reloaded pistol with lightning speed unlike that of Bangkok’s grid locked traffic during rush hour, one of my travelling companions positions herself accordingly on the seat and yells above the engine drone at our driver to "SLOW DOWN, TUK TUK, SLOW DOWN!!!" Carefully taking aim at our adversaries, all five of us are poised for an impending aquatic battle. Finger on the pistol's trigger.
An instinctive application of pressure releases a sudden gush of water shooting straight for... the road under us.
Our apparent lack of knowledge about weapon physics and wind speed hit us in our faces as said adversaries unhesitatingly proceed to empty their buckets of water upon us.
These same waves of icy water inundate the country every year and submerge the already-heavily touristed city in the floods of even more tourists revelling in the Songkran festivities. Held between the fixed dates of 13 to 15 April, Songkran (Thai New Year) was originally celebrated by gently pouring water over the elderly and revered Buddha statues as a form of paying respect to the society's highest level of hierarchy. Perhaps it was the scorching heat that might have prompted the people to start dousing each other in water as a sort of public bath, probably then considered to be an equal form of paying respect to their fellow people by granting them a necessary favour in the unrelenting weather.
Local supermarket chains and entrepreneurial street vendors can definitely attest to the unwavering popularity ofthe latter cultural phenomenon. Long after Songkran is over, their pockets will still be bulging from the constant ring of cashier machines and clanging of coins from street sales in their efforts to satiate the tourists’ hunger for war, thousands of whom spill out onto government-designated water zones such as Khaosan Road and willingly splash out the extra cash for water guns hiked up from BT25 to BT250.
And so my companion splashed out the extra cash, albeit in an unwritten exchange for wet, slimy hair and the purblindness from flour-caked spectacles.
Unwittingly, we had become victims in violation of Rule #1 for staying dry during Songkran: If you’re armed with a water gun or with someone who possesses one in plain sight, well, so much for staying dry.
Nightfall during Songkran was for putting on a grim expression to dispel all possible soggy spells when marching through the streets of Khaosan. #LIKEABOSS. Squinted eyes in an angry glare, masterful dodging, and firm hand grips (always mutually inclusive) were reserved only for emergencies to abruptly disrupt the downward curve of an incoming palm, heavily slathered with flour, directed towards my face. I just wished that I had the same expression plastered on the back of my head as well, for the few occasional times I’d been lightly splashed at were either sneak attacks or unknowing attackers who couldn’t read my facial expression in the dim streetlights and overarching shadow of the crowd. But turning back to glare at them from the bottom-most depths of my soul does help a bit.
Needless to say, the distance between my friends and I was also deliberately lengthened due to my quick, self-assured strides in tandem with my escape strategy, as well as the need to comply with Rule #1 (See above paragraphs). Not only were two of my friends equipped with water pistols, three of them shrieked loudly at a passerby’s mere expression of an intention to shoot. And so, that triggered the passerby to do exactly just that. Similar screams or frightful expressions in the face of a waterpistol, or worse still, a turbo blasterwater gun that not only drenches but also bruises, have only led the attackers to antagonize me. One even tried to lift up myknee-length disposable raincoat that I was wearing on the last night in order for him to ensure I was completely drenched inside and out.Fortunately, the biscuit purchases that I was protecting were still intact.
And adidactic word of caution you should have already known if you have read till here: Never, ever, ever take a tuk-tuk.
Armed with this approach, I therefore mostly emerged dry and unscathed with my hairstyle still in its perfect shape and not having to once again entertain the thought of doing laundry for the night.
Until we navigated the narrow soi (lane) back to our hostel, that was. Cursed be the location of our hostel, for the narrowness of the soi made it an impossible task to get past the entire group of Thai kids frolicking in the moonlight-reflecting puddles – complete with an inflatable pool.
One of them looked at me with a glint of excitement in his eyes like a tiger eying his prey. The shiny green hose in his right hand glistened in the dark lane.
I was thoroughly soaked to the bone.