13th April 2562, Bangkok.
The night before we had acquired our arms from a nearby dealer. It was a necessary act of self-defence to protect ourselves from trouble but also signalled our own commitment to fight, and we familiarised ourselves with our new weapons with a hastily arranged target practice back at base. This was not enough to protect me from a first strike the next morning on neutral ground – a victim of some ill-disciplined young fighters who found excitement in an unprovoked attack – but the majority of the battle was confined to designated combat areas other than some stray shots from passing vehicles. Some, like us, came from abroad but the majority appeared to be locals who had been looking forward to the scrap for some time. They expected the fighting to last for three days.
We arrived at the scene, suitably uniformed, to a war of all against all – but the majority of us formed a slow procession, not a scrum, as we marched along the road. At unpredictable moments the crowd would break into a roar, in a surge of emotion, or descend on a single victim with the passion of the mob. But much of the battle was marked by remarkable self-discipline fuelled by a shortage of ammunition. Profiteers enriched themselves by selling extra rounds by the side of the road, although they remained vulnerable to attack themselves and were frequently hit. Only the police seemed immune to fire, guarding the site but doing nothing to prevent the carnage before them. I regret to say that my weapon was no match for better-armed opponents who fired with more powerful guns, and I came away thoroughly vanquished but proud of the small part I had played.
I had a great time at Songkran.
Joking aside, Bangkok’s multi-day New Year celebrations (based on the Buddhist calendar) is so much fun, and the entire 5km length of Silom Road is blocked off for the giant water fight you can see in my hastily snapped photos. Even more charming, though, are the kids who wait eagerly alongside ordinary roads, ready with buckets of water for any passing vehicles or pedestrians. Of course, this only really works in a hot country where getting soaked is not going to chill you – it’s nice, actually, that a tradition is so naturally rooted in the particular geography and climate.
Other than water fights, we also enjoyed wandering through the Songkran celebrations at Lumphini Park, where we bought dinner from some of the many food stalls and sat watching musicians perform as the sun went down. But otherwise, part of the reason we turned our Southeast Asia route into a loop from Bangkok (which we visited a month ago) was that we wouldn’t feel a great pressure to explore one last place. Instead, we’ve been trying to lay the groundwork for a return to ‘normal life’ by applying for jobs and suchlike. Which is not that interesting to blog about 😉
And… that’s it! Tomorrow morning we set off for the airport and a direct flight home to London. I am planning one last wrap-up post about our whole adventure before this blog returns to its usual frequency. If you’ve been reading specifically for this series then I hope it has been enjoyable/helpful/a source of silly photos. Goodnight!