Our trip has had a whole bunch of strange coincidences along the way where we arrive in a city at the precise moment something unique and culturally rich is happening. On our transfer flight out of Guangzhou China to Saigon, fireworks were shooting off into the air across the city. I know we are awesome, but we didn’t expect China to give us our own fireworks show! (it was for the Chinese New Year 😊) Then, our very first city was full of the life and celebration of Tet, the Vietnamese new year. The year of the Pig was here! Art, culture, and festivals were everywhere. Although we missed the actual Lao and Cambodian New Year by just a handful of days, we had several conversations with locals about the upcoming new year celebration plans. Every person was over the moon happy when talking about the new year celebrations, like giddy children with ear to ear smiles that lit up their faces. The central theme consistently was family, togetherness, and celebrating life. What a beautiful concept. For a whole week society shuts down, businesses close, people go back to their home villages, and there is a return to what is important in life. These random coincidences have probably been one of the most unexpected and enriching part of our adventure so far.
Chiang Mai was no different as we landed on the first day of Songkran, the Thai New Year celebration. When we purchased our SIM cards at the airport, they gave us complementary dry bags for our cell phones. We thought it an odd giveaway but OK sure. Little did we know how much that would come in handy. After a couple Subway sandwiches (turns out Thai Subway is better than a lot of American Subway’s) and a coffee we burned enough time for our AirBnB to be ready for us to drop off our bags. As we began our 20-minute walk to the Old City we had no concept of what was waiting for us. The first water station we came across was manned by old and young, a trash can full of water. With buckets and water guns they eyed us as we walked towards them, gleeful mischief in their eyes. By the time we reached Old City we had passed hundreds of these water stations, and my friends, we were soaked from head to toe.
The streets were packed with pick-up trucks whose truck beds were loaded with people and garbage bins full of water. Drive-by water strikes were common and expected. When traffic stopped all out water warfare broke out between the cars and the people on the ground. Pure pandemonium, pure chaos, pure unadulterated FUN!!!
Imagine a city-wide water fight where no one is off limits, music is blasting, people are dancing, and all your cares in the world seem to drift away, that’s Songkran. Everywhere you go expect to get wet, expect to laugh, expect to dance, expect the unexpected, and expect kindness. Each douse of water is seen as good luck, give and receive!
Our point of view is it should not be missed, and if you are visiting Thailand during April make sure its during Songkran. We had all these plans for Chiang Mai but all we really accomplished in our stay was to celebrate Songkran, find some amazing vegan restaurants, and fill ourselves to the brim with positivity. We cannot look back on those days without big grins on our faces. A little like these!