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Travel to Teach: Songkran

The First rule of Songkran?

Songkran2There are no rules, man, woman child, race, religion culture or status, you’re gonna’ get wet, very wet.

The Second, and last rule of Songkran.

Deal with it..

Otherwise don’t bother to come here, and consider yourself the most miserable person on earth because if you don’t do this, come, embrace, enjoy and participate, you have no business to leave your country, city, state, or even state of mind, as this is the ultimate in immersing yourself in a country and culture that knows how to let loose and have a good time in all of the ways that most of the western world has completely forgotten about.

Forget political correctness, social standards, but not law and order, as this is an orderly festival, not a free for all in the way that westerners would approach it, which would involve fighting, mass law enforcement, (copious celebrities taking selfies) politicians condemning outrageous behavior etc etc, No, this is purely about fun and the pursuit of having fun, nothing more nothing less. From the ages of 5 to “I can’t walk anymore”, everyone is involved, physically and spiritually, as you have to understand that this is primarily a religious festival of cleansing, so young and old pray to their elders, go to temple, give gifts to all and sundry, then go and party like a box of mad frogs.

To say the rest of the world should look at this is an understatement of great proportions, as this is a time in our world where so many horrendous things are happening, to see a country and a populous so freely let go and embrace an organized chaos that I have never in my life seen, or even thought possible, is enlightening to an extent that I find words difficult to describe.

Songkran 1So, lets rewind a bit, it is now Wednesday night, I’ve been partying on and off for 4 days, and I’e lived in swim shorts, sandals and at least 2 shirts a day, as when you go out again, you can’t wear the last one, as it will certainly be soaked, and when I say that I mean like gone swimming in your clothes soaked, nothing more nothing less. Leaving the house is like a military mission, everything wrapped in plastic bags, money, phones, practically anything and everything that you want to keep dry, and that’s just to go to the supermarket, not to party. And I think that’s what’s so enlightening, but also empowering about Songkran. Everyone is the same, there is no less or more, no haves or have nots, everyone has to do the same thing, 6 to 60, gender race religion or color, everyone is an attacker or defender.

Sunday started with a trip with our school, a great day, with many Songkran virgins, me included, who had heard stories of the madness to come, but as every virgin knows, the best is yet to come, both physically and metaphorically. Monday, the “official” party starts, where the real wetness begins. Tuc Tuc drivers and Red Taxis are equipped to minimize damage to their vehicles, with the copious use of cling film to cover speakers and electronics, but also with buckets and barrels of water for refueling, but, also for attack against potential water assassins, again illustrating the inclusion of everyone in this madness. For the following days, it’s get up, get drunk, get fed, get wet, sleep, repeat…

I can’t imagine an NY, London or Paris taxi driver ever coming to grips with this, however, everyone here is absolutely and completely engaged in this, regardless, it’s a cultural embrace I have rarely if ever seen, and I am humbled to have been a part of it.

Weapons of Splash Destruction

Everywhere you go, there is water, and also ways to distribute it, from aSongkran 3 simple bucket, to a complicated battery powered backpack with quadruple barrel, dual nozzle, two gun ( one for each hand ) machine that looks like it should be in a Terminator movie, and everything in-between. I opted for the simple, but substantial pistol approach; one would think a good idea? Drink beer in one hand, check, shoot water in other, check, simple yes? but oh no, when confronted by weaponry that would make the US army go, hmmm, you realize you may have made a serious miscalculation in your choice. To say I was out gunned would be to say that Liberia is a world economic power. I even needed a bodyguard to buy cigarettes.

This is not a place for the feint hearted, I will grant you that, and even now, after 4 days, it does become a bit tiresome, it’s impossible to photograph, so you cannot convey the pleasure and the emotions that are being expressed here, the local population are by far and away the most happy of everyone, maybe that’s to do with the weeks holiday. I don’t know, but what I do know is that we have a lot to learn, about life, love and happiness, because in all of my travels, 22 countries and counting, I have never, ever seen a populous so engaged and involved with themselves, regardless of tourists, visitors and hangers on.

This is truly a festival by the people and for the people, and I feel just so privileged to be able to come along for the ride.

By Neil Hunt

Your turn

Want to be able to experience what Neil did above? Would you love to live in a country like Thailand? Travel to teach and this could be you next year- Learn how to move to Thailand and how to become an ESL teacher

April 15, 2015

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