Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Happy New Year!

We arrived in Krabi just in time to celebrate the Thai New Year, or Songkran. We knew the celebration would be sometime during the days we were at the beach, but we weren’t sure exactly which day it happen. When we woke up on Saturday morning, we knew before we even left our dorm room that the festivities had begun.

In Singburi, we celebrated the beginning of Songkran at the temple with the monks. Then we splashed clay and water on our students at the send-off party. It was all in good fun, and, we have now discovered, it was all pretty tame.

The streets of Krabi on Saturday were an absolute war zones. Thais and tourists alike gathered in groups, attacking every passer-by: pedestrian, passenger, or even driver. TJ and Jamie ventured out to grab breakfast and managed to avoid the main attacks, but they noticed something peculiar while they were outside: not a single tuk tuk or songtaew was to be seen.

We camped out on my bed, eating breakfast and coming up with a strategy. Our goal for the day was to head out to the main bus terminal, where we could buy tickets for an overnight bus back to Bangkok. Our visas are due to expire in a few days, so we really didn’t have any flexibility on the date we headed back. The travel desk at our hostel had warned us that there were only seven seats left for the date we planned to leave, but they sold the tickets at such a mark-up that we decided to make our way to the bus station and buy the tickets ourselves.

The day before, Jamie and I had scoped out the bus station right after it closed. We knew which tickets we wanted to buy and where to buy them, and since we had taken a local bus to get there, we had some idea of where it was located. The three of us decided that the only logical course of action was to rent a motorbike, fit all three of us on it, and make our own way to the bus station. How hard could it be?

We gathered at the window again and spotted a motorbike rental right across the street. Dressed in bathing suits and cover-ups, we darted outside and made it all the way to the shop. The guerillas’ efforts were clearly focused on the main street to our left. We checked out a motorbike and three helmets, and then climbed on: TJ, myself, and then Jamie. Satisfied that we fit, we took off down the main strip in the direction our local bus had taken the day before.

We had barely made it through the first intersection before we were soaked. Water came at us from every angle, sometimes accompanied by colored chalk or clay. We made it down the main street in one piece, but everything we carried on us, except the few items in ziplock bags in Jamie's backpack, were absolutely soaked through. It was ridiculous.

Our quick trip to the bus station turned into a most-of-the day excursion when we realized the bus station was a small side road that neither Jamie nor I could recognize. We drove all over the town and visited nearly every group of water-throwers. There was the large group of lady boys, all dressed in matching t-shirts. There were small groups of little kids with a hose and a bucket. There were the guys who offered all of us sips of Thai whiskey from their glasses. There were the mean-spirited ones who pelted us with ice-cold water and laughed at our screams. There were even groups in the backs of pick-up trucks, armed with large barrels of water and buckets or water guns. Nowhere was safe.

We quickly learned to slow down when a dousing was coming. Both to prevent the force of the water from unseating us or blinding TJ and to give us the opportunity to quickly ask "Bus station??" to the people around us. A lot of people nodded at us and said something in Thai, probably thinking "bus station" was some kind of English greeting. Enough understood the request to gesture out a path and get us moving in the right direction. 

After a few hours of this madness, we figured we had to be close to the bus station. We had narrowed down the area, but we weren't sure of the exact street. We slowed down for a group (thankfully, one with warm water!), and gave them our normal greeting of "bus station??" They happily pointed down the road just behind them. We had found it!

We successfully bought bus tickets, for 500 baht less than what our hostel charged, and then we braved the ride back to our hostel. By that time, we were done with the motor bike and tired of being soaked to the bone. We had two options: hide out in the hostel or get out of town.

Getting out of town seemed the more interesting option, so we parked our bike near the pier and hired a boat to take us to Raileh Beach. I had my heart set on visiting this beach ever since the German girl in Noosa told us we should go there. We couldn't find affordable accommodation on our typical short notice, so we settled for a day trip. It was beautiful.

The longtail boat brought us to the east side of the "beach," which really isn't a beach at all. It's more of a mangrove swamp with a cement walkway that goes under the water so your sandals don't get sucked off in the mud. We waded through the outgoing tide and found ourselves in the "town." Raileh is connected to mainland Krabi, but it's only accessible by boat, since huge cliffs cut it off from the rest of the area. It feels more like a tiny island, and there are no road or cars or even motorbikes. Instead, there are narrow walking paths that cut through from the east side to the western beach, following along nice resorts and small shops. 

We spent a few hours lounging on the beach, eating lunch, and generally enjoying the feeling of dry clothes. At 5:00, we headed back to the boats to make sure we could find a ride home. By the time we got back to Krabi town, things had calmed down considerably. The Thais had all gone home to get ready for dinner, and the only water wars still going on were between a few straggling tourists who hadn't quite figured out that the day was over. One of them managed to get TJ and me on our way into our hostel. Jamie was a couple steps ahead of us and escaped. I was so tired of water!

Even the excited tourists gave up after a little while, and we ventured out again for dinner. Jamie split off to get a massage while TJ and I wandered around the nearby night market. No water guns were in sight, so we all made it home dry. Dry and exhausted.

1 comment:

  1. Can you imagine if we celebrated the New Year that way here? Lawsuits would abound! What a wild custom! Glad you ended the day dry.