After traveling for about 18 hours – by ferry, bus, pickup truck, another bus and a tuk tuk – arriving in Bangkok at 6 AM. Sitting in the park watching Mai Thai fighters training, zumba teachers teaching and Thai chi groups practicing around the park. All I wanted was a cool shower and some much needed sleep. I didn’t see either of those becoming a likely opportunity in the near future.
It was the first day of Songkran here in Thailand. Songkran is celebrated many ways, the most popular is by dousing each other with water throughout the three day celebration. Translated, Songkran means “bathing the buddha image”, this washes away the sins and faults of last year and cleans us for the year to come. Many Thai people travel home to be with family and spend time in Temples to ensure a good year. Those that don’t go home for the holiday, party in the city.
My first day of Songkran consisted of a short walk to Wat Pho where I was blessed by a monk and given luck and happiness for the year, bathed the 8 Buddha images to give me good luck every day of the week and deposited 108 coins into the blessing bowls while chanting the mantra ‘I AM STRONG’.
After Wat Pho I returned to my Hostel to get some food (Thai Omelette), that turned into drinking Regency Bourbon and soda water, watching and participating in water fights and hanging out with the friendly locals (a 3 star Police Officer, owner of the hostel and his family and a friendly tuktuk driver were among the group).
I had to wake up at 3:30 AM to catch my flight to Phenom Penh, Cambodia the next morning, then it was a ridiculously loud and dirty bus ride to Siem Reap. I had not taken into account that Cambodia would also be celebrating their new year as well. It was my “groundhog day”. Songkran was in full swing when I arrived in Siem Reap. Baby powder floating through the air like snowflakes falling in the winter, water running through the streets as if it were raining and the sun beating down on us hotter than ever before.
Cambodia is not like Thailand. I can tell.