Saturday, May 05, 2012

Pattya Thailand Trip, Sangkrang Water Festival Fun

daughter & wife at Pattya Water Festival

We had heard about the Sangkrang Festival for years from Don, my jet-setting dive buddy. Every time he came back from one of these Thai water festivals he’d tell us the stories, so we thought we knew what to expect.

From what he described it sounded like it was going to be part fun part painful. I knew that thousands of tourists come from all over the world to take part in this crazy Thai tradition so from the time we got our promotional airline tickets with Cebu Pacific last December we’ve been looking forward to seeing what all the fuss is about.

Stage in front of a Pattya mall
On past trips Don and his other friends have done the entire ten days of the celebration, but they only did that once or twice. Evidently they decided that fun-with-water wears thin after only a few days. I can tell you this, after my single day of being assaulted from the curb by streams and splashes of water while making my way around town on a scooter, I was more than ready for it to end. I have no idea how anyone could possibly want to have to deal with ten days of that. Oh wait, yes I do—you get really soused and just go with it. Embrace the wet, be the wet, love the wet.

My girl getting her face mudded

On the last day of the festival, its culmination, the seven of us decided to go out just after lunch and become part of the big water party. That’s what’s cool about these sorts of celebrations, to participate all you have to do is be there.

We knew we were going to become very wet, so shorts and t-shirts were the uniform of the day, as we used to say in the military. As you can see from the video captures many of the other foreign tourists simply went bare-chested wearing only flip-flops and shorts or bathing suit.
My girl: "Not MUD too!"

Watching all the videos again just now, I notice that my wife and girl were getting a lot more water and mud borne attention than I did, mostly from the guys understandably. I wasn’t jealous at all that I was not getting as watered down as they were—not a problem. But, they also got some unwanted attention from a few of the foreign tourists using the playful occasion as a way of copping a quick feel here and there. The types that did this mostly seemed to be Arab or Iranian. Even in the hotel they were the ones that would approach my wife and daughter to see if they were “available.” Eh, what can you do? I guess that’s what you get when you plop guys from sexually repressed cultures into an adult playground like Pattaya.

My wife getting groped. I never noticed this until watching the video

On that note, at the Bangkok airport I was surprised looking at the arrival/departure displays how many flights originate from or fly directly to fundamentally-oriented Muslim cities like Tehran, Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad. Surely the imams in those places know what their “boys” are doing when they fly into a place like Thailand. They aren’t going there to see elephant shows or Buddhist temples; that’s for sure.

The girls had great fun

But, then again, perhaps I am overstating the behavior as all that much of a problem since these guys are so easily rebuffed. My girls took care of the unwelcome advances themselves; I never once had to intervene, so at least the walking hard-ons aren’t aggressive. During one encounter down by the pool some Iranian kid asked my wife as I swam some laps who I was to her and she told him, “He’s my husband and he’s a marine, so I’d be careful if I were you!” It must have worked. All he said was, “Oh, okay, bye bye then,” and he stopped talking to her. Hey, if it works, go with it.
How wet can one person get?

As for our foray into the festival, our first stop was at a stage set up in front of the big mall across the street just down from the hotel. Partiers, Thais and tourists alike, were already gathered around and on it, dancing to lively music. Some of the revelers passively allowed themselves to get wet down (not that any of us had any choice) while others both got wet and actively got involved with spraying down the rest of us. In the photos you’ll also see some of them smearing mud made from a clay powder on faces, heads and clothing. My wife and daughter were constantly getting their faces coated with this mud which would then become a target for the water wielders.

We got our fill of that lively spot and pushed on to see what else was happening. Turning off Second Road we turned down one of the soi’s and picked our way down toward Beach Road. Even on lightly traveled days one must pay attention when trying to walk down one of these narrow side streets. They are one way for cars, and supposedly they are for motorbikes as well, but you can never take that for granted.
This guy was aiming for me

In video mode I held my camera up high, just above eye level, as we ran the splashy-splashy gauntlet down the soi. I was surprised how many times folks opted not to splash me, I think because I was filming, even though it should have been obvious that my camera was in a waterproof casing. Occasionally though, as can be seen in several of the photos, some of the extra-mischievous sorts would just go for it and fire directly at my camera.
This fellow asked for it, and GOT IT!

Beach Road was a mass of wall-to-wall humanity but to my surprise there was very little water action going on there. Most of the real squirting, splashing and dousing was happening on the soi’s. We stopped in at one of Don’s favorite outdoor bars on Soi 7. We tipped a few while sitting at a concrete picnic table just off the street while watching all the drenched humanity going past as they became even more drenched.

Bored with that we headed back up Beach Road and then down the next soi back toward Second Road. I think we were on Soi 5 or 6; whatever one it was it was even crazier than what we saw on Soi 7. People were really getting into it.

My muddy faced girl on Beach Road

With evening drawing nigh, the Kentucky Fried Chicken place up at the top of the mall with its gorgeous view overlooking Pattaya Bay seemed to call us. Trudging around in all that wet clothing was tiring and making us hungry. We headed into the mall, water from our clothes dripping onto the polished marble tiles. The mall’s air con, normally not a problem, suddenly chilled us to the bone. The girls were actually shivering. With my layer of warming blubber I wasn’t shivering, just the same, I couldn’t wait to get our hot chicken and chow down on it out on the outdoor balcony where we could warm up while enjoying a great view of all the doings far below us, not to mention the beautiful tropical sunset that would soon take place over the picturesque bay.

Col Sanders finger licking good high above Pattya Beach

Ogling the spectacular sunset as we all ate banana splits for dessert was a great way to end the day. I took the camera out of its plastic dive housing and took some nice sunset shots of my wife and daughter as well as video of the action still going strong down below.
I must admit, they really KNOW how to party in Pattaya!


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