The water fights in Thailand are continuing unabated. This is now the completion of the second full day and there seems to be no let up in energy the Thai people display when they are having fun. If anything, there were far more people on the roads compard to yesterday. I spent most of the today at the Ancient City (which I will talk about later). On the way back I thought I would cut through to the Crocodile Farm and then come back along Taiban Road. I wanted to get some pictures from the safety of the car. But that turned out to be a mistake. It took me about three hours to travel 800 metres. It was dark by the time I got home.
There must have been hundreds and hundreds of pickup trucks. I have never seen so many. It looked like everyone that owns a pickup had come out to celebrate Songkran. Each truck had several barrels of water on the back and usually a dozen or so people armed to the teeth. As the traffic was hardly moving they were just running around attacking anyone in sight. It was mayhem. The politeness I was talking about yesterday was thrown out of the window. To be honest, there were a few people smearing the paste on each cheek in the traditional way. However, many of them just jumped up onto the songtaew buses (see above) and just grabbed the people from behind and rubbed paste in their eyes. Now, that isn’t fun.
A recent public survey revealed that the greatest fear for women this month wasn’t the threat of a terrorist strike in Bangkok. A whopping 42.8% said they were more worried about physical sexual harassment during the Songkran festivities. Many women complained that men took advantage of the mayhem to grope them while rubbing paste on their faces. About 11% said they had suffered this kind of harassment in the past. I could see it going on around me while I was stuck in the traffic jam. People on the back of pick-up trucks and alongside the road were heavily drinking. It was obvious that they were intoxicated. It is a shame that a minority of people are spoiling the fun for the rest.
What about the police you might ask? The majority of victims don’t complain. This is partly because in the confusion they barely see their attackers before they are gone. Also, the police are no-where in sight. That doesn’t mean they are all on holiday. They can’t because all leave was cancelled. They are out manning checkpoints trying to cut down on the number of deaths on the roads. On an average day in Thailand about 35 people die on the roads. During Songkran, that more than doubles. Most of the victims are motorcyclists. And many of them are under the influence of alcohol. In the above picture you can see the police stopping anyone riding without a helmet. Well, they were trying to stop them as some managed to escape. The ones caught ended up with a ticket if they were lucky. If they were riding without a license or registration then their motorcycle was confiscated. When I drove by there were about 20 motorcycles by the side of the road.
It is not like this everywhere in the city. Many people were having good clean fun. However, I don’t think so many were celebrating in the traditional way. I wonder how many of these went to the temple in the morning to make merit. I also wonder how many of them went to visit their grandparents to pour scented water on their hands. When I went to the temple early yesterday morning it was true that there were many people there. But it was mainly young families and the older generation. There weren’t many teenagers.
Another Songkran tradition is building sandcastles and honouring dead ancestors. Actually these are not the kind of sandcastles you build on beaches. I am going to visit a local temple tomorrow and I will tell you more about this event later.