As we walked through the streets of Bangkok, Ali turned to me and said “Everything here is fluid.” She was referring to the way that the building down the block was constructed around an old tree instead of cutting it down and how traffic seems to find both sides of the street fair game if no one is coming the other way. What she did not mean was that in just a few days we would be armed with a plastic super soaker of my childhood dreams and the deep desire to hurl large buckets of water on the crowds of people that pass by.
Songkran is a celebration in Thailand that marks the beginning of the year. The tradition started to cleanse the last year away and begin anew. The magic of the tradition however lies in the camaraderie of an entire nation’s pursuit to soak each other. The gasps of cold water on a 95-degree day only paled in comparison to the amount of smiles I encountered. I should have counted the number of times I uttered Sawadee Pi Mai (Happy Songkran Day) and how delighted the Thai people were that I was at least attempting the language.
In the week before I started my job teaching Kindergarten (more on that later), I felt distant from myself. As someone who loves to travel, it’s a rather dysphoric feeling to be homesick. I had just developed a beautiful community on Koh Samui and fell in love with the being near the beach. The last night on Samui after listening to live music at The Palms in Chaweng Ali and I went for a midnight dip. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to what felt like my little slice of paradise so the ocean did it for me. Upon wading into the water we realized that bioluminescent plankton had made it their home. Anytime you moved your limbs you could see tiny green sparks. Please imagine two fully grown, semi drunk women pretending to cast spells underwater. We joked that we must have been drugged but it was the perfect way to say goodbye to such a special place; an unforgettable experience.
Chachoengsao wasn’t anything like it and it was where I would be based for the next six months if not a full year. Nothing was within walking distance, it seemed dusty and lacked the liveliness I had become accustomed to. I wasn’t just emotionally tired either but physically exhausted. Any one traveling from Surat Thani to Bangkok by bus remember that you get what you pay for and sometimes spending a couple hundred more baht is worth the leg room.
After all this change, I am pretty sure Ali could sense my disappointment and she invited me to meet up with her in Bangkok and go to Pattaya for Songkran. If only I had known before the tearful goodbye on Samui. It was exactly what I needed to realize that there is so much more to Thailand than the islands. Ali brought all the vibrancy back to my wish to explore. While in Bangkok we went to a beautiful rooftop bar and watched the sun grow fat and orange before finally dipping between to skyscrapers. We rode on the back of motorbike taxis and whizzed between traffic on the way to meet our fellow Samui TEFLer, Yasmine. We drank and feasted our eyes on so much neon fluorescents while walking down Soi Cowboy that the “Spice Girls” sign is still an after image when I close my eyes. It was a fantastic introduction to Bangkok and just a small taste of what the city has to offer.
Pattaya for Songkran was liquid chaos. 3 side streets of drunk tourists armed with barrels of water and children with water guns that were larger then themselves. No one was safe, not even traveling in the back of a songthaew. Everything important was sealed into a waterproof pouch and we set off down one of the streets stopping at bars along the way. Bars across the street from one another waged fluid war and went so far as to serve beer bottles with a plastic sleeve covering the top.
It was so great to have spent those days with Ali and even upon returning to Chachoengsao my energy and spirit were renewed to the point where I went out and celebrated Songkran in my new home and made some new friends. It was just as crazy if not more so and lacked tourists. Just wonderful and happy Thai families. The main road almost at a screeching halt as the back of pickup trucks held drums of water and drenched people.
Thailand is truly full of surprises.
With love and wanderlust,
The Exuberant Traveler