Bandits take over Bangkok

Bandits take over Bangkok

Speeding across the Cambodian countryside in an unmarked 1996 Toyota Camry, our mission was clear, get across the border, get to Bangkok and buy a gun.  We knew we would need to sneak into the Khaosan Road area undetected, through back alleys, or risk being ambushed.  Managing to evade detection by the hoards of armed bandits roaming Bangkok, we were able to find a hotel room that provided us with a clear shot to the road below.  Next up was the hard part, choosing a weapon.

Luckily for us arms dealers had taken to the streets.  There was no need for Chinatown-type hinting at what we wanted, due to the mob rule, guns were trading hands in plain view.  What we were looking for was size, no little pistol, no children’s toy, but a cannon.  Browsing around we found the going price for a larger gun to be about $20, then I spotted the man I knew I would purchase from.  With no table or stall, selling guns out of a hefty bag, I knew he was a man who would negotiate.  We decided on the 1500, a popular weapon of choice in these parts, and negotiated him down to about $7.  We were ready for war.

The “war” at hand was helping Thailand cleanse itself from the past year, preparing it to begin the lunar New Year pure and clean.  Better yet, the Songkram festival is conveniently placed during the hottest period of the year, when walking down the street you want to be doused in water.  Originally it was for cleaning Buddha images and even your home, but has become an all-out fun water festival: your mission, should you choose to accept it is to get wet, while drenching others.

All of Bangkok and Thailand is in on the waterfight. Trying to get a reprieve and buy a train ticket, we took a city bus across town and found ourselves getting hit by bucketloads of water tossed into open windows.  Dripping wet with a large water gun strapped to my shoulder, we went to get lunch in Siam Paragon.  Expecting to be turned away I grinned at the security guard at the door and walked right past.  There was something odd about being a grown man walking past the Versace, Prada and Louis Vuitton stores totting a water gun.

Songkram was one of the most fun festivals I have ever been to.  Excepting some incidents where you feel like a hostage in your hotel unless you want to get drenched, it was an amazingly fun time. Khaosan Road, the tourist district, is the epicenter, yet it is the only time that tourists are hard to find in a stream of Thais.  It almost seems as if this holiday was created solely for Thais to “cleanse” the tourists and take back their streets.

IF YOU GO:

  • Songkram is annually April 13-15.  Bangkok and Chiang Mai are the biggest festivals, so try to get to one of them for the fullest experience.
  • Come early, or get wet… Don’t believe all the “tips” on the internet that people will be respectful and not douse you if you are carrying things.  Especially later in the day, if you are walking you are fair game.  The tourists seemed to be the worst aiming specifically at people with cameras and backpacks.
  • Beware of nightfall.  The blazing hot sun makes getting wet refreshing, at night though, combining the lack of sun with people emptying out their ice-cold cooler water on pedestrians is downright frosty.  Walk at your own risk after dark.
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Comments

» G. :
Jun 4, 2011

haya..Nice comments, I like the way you put things out !! Must have beeen a “wet” of a time !! Enjoy Hong Kong and the pricey Guest Houses !!

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thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.

About the Author
thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.
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