Songkran, Thai New Year, is a huge holiday here. Imagine a 4 day, country wide water fight. Got that in your head? Now multiply it be 10 and there you have it: Songkran in Thailand. Besides the obvious, I was also super duper excited because this holiday meant that Gladys and Jeff were also in Thailand!
For the holiday, we had a 5 day weekend so we went up to Chiang Mai for 2 nights and Pai for 2 nights. Flights were too expensive so we took the overnight bus both ways. If you ever end up doing this journey by bus, I would recommend the extra few dollars to book a VIP bus. It was #luxe in bus form and the drive wasn’t so bad.
We arrived in Chiang Mai the next morning and were dropped off outside the Burger King. We quickly got a songtaew and made our way to the hostel. It was early enough for us to witness the preparation for water fight war but we managed to stay dry. The hostel was kind enough to let us check in early so we got our beds, showered, rested for a minute and then headed out to the day. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get a water gun, it was a lot of money to drop on a one time use item, but I quickly felt eager to join in on the fun which you had to have a water gun/bucket to do. After not too long, we were soaked and hungry so we stopped for some overpriced street bites. The rest of the day was wet and cold (they had this trick of putting ice blocks into their water supply so when you got hit in the face with it, it was chilly). We had scheduled massages at Fah Lanna Massage so we headed that way and then shopped and ate dinner at the Night Bazaar afterwards.
We had signed up for an all day cooking class so we woke up early (pick up was at 8:30am) and headed out to the Thai Secret Cooking School, about 30 minutes out of Old City. On our way to the farm, we stopped by the market where our teacher, May, showed us the vegetables we would be using and how to pick them out. Once at the farm, we were taught how to prep and cook quite a few meals: cashew chicken, panang curry, som tam, tom yam kung and pumpkin in coconut milk. It was a lot of fun and I would definitely recommend this class! May and her husband, Jason (SF native!), are really nice and the class is informative. They also send you off with a certificate and cook book (full of photos from that day!). Warning: a full day class will leave you very full!
After the class, we got back into the songtaew and headed towards Old City to get dropped off. This was probably the peak of the Songkran craziness, as we were getting splashed at from every side throughout the whole ride. Since the traffic was so bad, we were sitting targets for the majority of the drive. For those who don’t know what a songtaew is, it’s a pick up truck with a benches on either side (the long way) and covered with a roof, but missing the back. Aka there was a huge open window into our dry space. Aka we were soaked over and over again. It was pretty great 🙂
While Gladys and Jeff stayed to play with the elephants for the day, MC and I headed out for Pai with Ally, Anna and Kristin. The van ride was about 3 hours but involved many twists and turns up the mountain. After getting into town, we checked into our hostel and then went out to walk around the town. Pai is known to be a mainly expat town so the street food was not your normal street food. There was bruschetta, baked potatoes, lasagna and then your normal Thai selection. We ate our way down the main street and did a little shopping before making our way back up to our hostel.
Our hostel set up a songtaew to take us to Pai Canyon at sunset (although it was too cloudy to see the sun set) but Pai Canyon was really cool nonetheless. Afterwards we ate dinner and relaxed.
Packed up our things and headed back to Chiang Mai. Before we left the hostel for the bus station, we ordered breakfast – I had gone down earlier so I finished my food before the songtaew came but the rest weren’t finished, so they took the plates into the truck while we were driving. Songtaews are interesting enough without eating curry while you’re driving, but the combination of both was pretty funny. After we got into Chiang Mai, I read a book ( All The Ugly and Wonderful Things – so good!) while Gladys, Jeff and MC walked around town buying some souvenirs and got food from the famous Cowboy lady.
Overall, Songkran in Chiang Mai was an awesome experience! I’m glad I got to share it with old and new friends as well as see the Thai people celebrate a holiday very important to their culture.