Published: May 18th 2012May 18th 2012
We got up relatively early and packed a day bag to head over to Phuket for Songkran. Since we were just going for the night we cleverly took our dry bags as overnight packs.
We were headed down to the bakery to grab some breakfast snacks for the boat ride and as we were coming around the corner we saw that the artists who work at the local art shop had set up a road block, stopping everyone who tried to pass and politely dousing them with water. It was somewhat comical to see as they were really trying to be polite about it; just wetting the hands of an elderly couple that went by or the arms of those that really didnt want to get wet.
Niki and I approached hoping to get by with just a splash but soon realized we'd already marked ourselves as targets since we were carrying our water rifles on our backs for the trip over. They stopped us politely, hugged us and promptly dumped a cold bucket of water down our backs - brilliant way to start the day!
We headed down to the boat and since we arrived a little early, managed to stake out a nice spot up on top in the sun.
The ride over was as beautiful as the ride in, with the sun shining the whole way.
As we arrived on Phuket, we were herded down into the crowd and told to wait 10 minutes for our air con mini-bus (included in our boat ticket) to take us to the other side of the island. After about 15 minutes the crowd started to thin out as various people made their cab and bus connections. After another 15 minutes the place was mostly empty and there were a small collection of people left around - all waiting for the same bus we were waiting for.
We questioned the ticket handler who smilingly kept telling us "just another 5 minutes". It was getting hot and everyone was getting more than a little agitated. Finally a little pick-up arrives and the ticket handler starts telling us to climb in the back. A dutch guy who was waiting for the same bus as us finally had enough and politely complained that this is not what we had paid for, we all wanted to be in the air con bus for the 45 min ride over to Patong beach. It seems that there was a mix up and this was all that was available, so smilingly, he directed us to climb in.
A couple people got into the front and 6 of us climbed into the back. The dutch guy was still a little upset and managed to convince the guy to refund us all 100 baht, which the ticket handler (stil smiling) quickly agreed to. This was a little strange to us since once you've paid for something you almost never get a refund, but it was hot and we were glad to finally be on our way.
In retrospect, we should have seen what was happening. Actually, scratch that -Niki- should have seen what was happening but in her defense, it was hot and we were all just happy to be going.
The truck pulled around, left the parking lot and we all got comfy for the trip across the island. It was actually pretty nice, the breeze made up for the heat and the people in back with us were fun. So here we were chatting away happily when the first of what would be MANY bucket loads of water landed on us! It was Songkran after all and its very common for locals to pile into the backs of trucks and drive around hosing people on the sides of the roads. Whats more, every single corner has people with huge plastic garbage cans full to the top with water and, armed with buckets they aim to get every vehicle the goes by. So, imagine how eager they were when they see this truck full of un-armed foreigners!
We'd been had.
It was obvious now that this was the plan right from the get go, the ticket handler had been piling people into the backs of trucks all day so the drivers could cruise to the other side of the island on the slowest route possible!
Really though, its hard to be upset about this when its 35+ degrees out and everyone is smiling and laughing as they toss water at anything that moves.
If you ever get a chance to visit Thailand during Songkran I highly recommend it, its hands down the best way to interact with the locals as they all seem to set aside their hesitancy to interact with foreigners and happily head out onto the streets to get into a water fight. Even the elderly are out with little water guns in their hands, smiling away as they squirt at cars or little kids running around.
After 45 minutes, we were absolutely drenched and had arrived at Patong beach. It seemed though that the driver was going to cruise the blocks over and over allowing us to continously get soaked so, as he pulled up to a street light, Niki and I said our goodbyes and goodlucks to the people in the back of the truck, grabbed our dry bags, and hopped out.
I cant quite describe in words the mayhem that was going on - literally every street and sidewalk was covered with people carrying water guns. Every third or fourth car that went by was a truck packed with people in the back tossing out bucket loads of water. Music was pumping from every vehicle and store - everyone was in on it and you really cant help from smiling as you get involved in the festivities.
Niki had a rough idea of where we were but we werent quite sure where our guest house was that we had booked with for the night, so we dodged our way through the streets until we found a little upstairs internet cafe.
We made our way upstairs, ordered a couple coffees and got some time on a computer so we could look up our guest house and take a look at a map to get our bearings. After a bit we figured out where we were and mananged to enjoy our coffees and get a breather from the chaos outside.
As we were sipping our coffees we realized the cafe had a sheltered balcony that overlooked the street and the staff were outside with a bucket, hosing the people down below from relative safety.
Not ones to miss out, we grabbed our guns and joined them on the balcony for about a half hour or so before Niki realized we were running out of time before we had to try and find her friend Amber in the chaos.