Richard Constable

Songkran 2019

Always a fun time of year for foreigners


The most celebrated of traditions, the Songkran Water Festival derives its name from Sanskrit word "Songkran", meaning to move or pass into. 

This ancient festival celebrates the Thai New Year, April 13 through April 15. The origins derive from the ancient Indian Festival of Makar Sanskriti. The Indian version recognizes the suns celestial path and Thai translates the version recognizing the passing of an old year into a new one.

History of the festival traditions originates with the blessings and prayers for Buddhist Monks. Ancient Thai tradition warranted visiting the local monasteries and providing gifts of food to the monks who resided there. In addition, prayers and blessings of scented water poured over the monks during a holy cleansing process. 

The locals would collect the poured water and bring it back to their loved ones and friends. The local population would then rub and pour the water over one another as they believed the water to be blessed.

Songkran 2019

Dolefully, my parents were coming to the end of their annual six months in Thailand and would be returning to the UK for an antecedent half-yearly stint. And having cleared and cleaned the two bedroomed renter apartment they had been living in, they had gotten back the full deposit no problem just as in all the many previous years.

Further, this being Sunday the fourteenth of April, and I was going to meet them with the intent of having a pleasant family farewell meal. Moreover, my wife and my youngest daughter would also be at the gathering.

Meticulously, I ironed my new plain linen shirt and navy-blue strides. Wistfully, I was looking forward to spending some well-warranted free-time from the usual seven days a week teaching schedule and daily two hours plus commute.

Making my way out into the blazing high summer sun, while doing my best to take advantage of the shaded patches. Therein, looking up the lane I saw parked across the street and standing in silence - a red taxi with a lit red light.

Anxiously, I moved closer, knowing that this was a rare opportunity as the taxis that pass this way are generally taken. That is, with passengers from the nearby Bang Na City Central.

There to, I had made it and climbed in the back. The air-conditioning was running, it looked hygienic and there wasn't an unpleasant smell of last night's som tam. Only a matter of communicating with the driver and everything could be plush.

As is my unbreakable habit, I gave a sawadee krup which was followed by the usual taxi drivers' unspoken indifference.

I stated, "Bpai King Park Hotel, krup!" (I would like to go to the King Park Hotel.)

The driver, "King Power?"

By the way, having already sensed a negative vibe from his countenance and general persona, I had surmised he was a wroung un. You have to forgive me for this as I am not trying to pass myself off as Bangkok's version of Uri Geller. Yet, having taken thousands of taxis over the past seventeen years, it is just one of those things you can put down to experience. 

Hesitantly now, being as polite and yielding as possible I decided to change ploy, 'Kor tort na krup."Bpai Seacon Square krup." (Excuse me, I would like to go to Seacon Square)

Taxi driver; with his head leaning towards me as if to make an extra belated effort to listen. Then responds with, "King Kong?"

Feeling dejected, but not to any extent near to taking the bait that he was blatantly waving in my face. I responded tentatively, in a hushed voice, as if I genuinely believed he had mistaken my meaning. "Mai bpen rai krup." continuing, "Bpai leeao sai lagor bpai dong bai krup" (No problem, turn left here and go straight on.)

The driver of the still stationary taxi, again, "King Kong where?."

Enduringly I repeat, "Mai bpen rai krup, Bpai leeao sia, lagor dong bai krup."

Not long after, we are off as he turns left and heading straight down towards the Seacon Square shopping mall which lies just beyond my destination, the King Park Hotel.

A few minutes later, he deliberately takes another left turn with me calling out, "Dong bai! Dong bai! (Straight on! Straight on!) into his ear. Despairingly I say, "Yuot tee nee." (Stop here!) as he has won.

Hence, I get out of the car and walk the few steps back to the mouth of the Y junction and wait.

Fortunately for me a motorcycle taxi is approaching and having hailed him down I get on the back and tell him to go to the King Park Hotel.

Incidentally, we are facing straight down the road in the right direction, however, he shakes his head indicating that he doesn't know. Once again, I get that sinking feeling, "Mai bpen rai krup, 

dong bai na." (No problem, go straight on.)

Nonsensically, in any other country except Thailand, he turns his vehicle to the left to go down the road I have just walked up from.

Beginning to lose it, "Mia dia, dong bpai, Dong bpai." I shout. (You can't go that way! Go straight on!)

The motorcyclist, "Ohhh! Dong bpai." (Straight on) as if he only now understands what I had been saying.

Away he goes until he gets to the top of the road, and then takes a left down what is a one-way street.

A mile or so later and I am getting ready to tell him to take the next left when it becomes apparent with him having slowed for the first time during the short trip that he is about to hang a left.

Furthermore, while we are going up the small lane within two-hundred meters of the hotel I spot a sly eyed individual just as he clocks me. (On the side of the lane on a path outside a shop-house is a group of thirty-something-year-old men in water attack mode.) Momentarily, he motions and picks up a plastic bowl and within seconds we are traveling by on the opposite side directly in front of him and his mob. Already having seen him fill the bowl, I watch as he scores a direct hit almost saturating the entire righthand side of my shirt.

A minute late I arrive at the hotel, I pay the rider, standing there wet and wondering if I should even go into the upholstered chaired bar area in such a state. Nonetheless, equally considering whether to go back and confront the inconsiderate idiot who had soaked my evening wear. 

Ultimately, I couldn't even begin to imagine a good outcome for such a confrontation, so I reluctantly let it go, still not after a short bemoan.

The outcome being, a few unsavory natives had scored three points, while a long-term expat had managed an absolute zero!

Pleasingly, my relatives were all sympathetic, agreeing that not everyone is fair game in the Songkran activities and that any amicable Thai person would not have behaved in that manner. 

And that anyone having to drive a taxi or ride a motorcycle over the biggest holiday period of the year was probably financially stressed and presumably resentful of the fact that I was off to a hotel in my Sunday best.




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