The engine on my motorbike changed from a steady hum to an angry growl as I gave the throttle a sharp twist. I could see the kids on the road up in front of me ready their 5-gallon buckets of water, mischievous grins on their faces. I lowered my head and shot through their snotty-nose roadside checkpoint. With marksman accuracy, the little bastards managed to hit me with five out of the six buckets of water they were holding! I was doing around 80KMH when the water hit me. It felt like someone sucker punched me in the stomach, hard enough to knock the air out of my lungs…the water that hit my face knocked the lens out of my sunglasses! I managed to keep control of the bike and stopped around the corner where the monsters couldn’t see me. I assessed the damage:

– wet camera, IPOD, money, books, maps
– Heavy backpack now twice as heavy as it was saturated
– pride completed destroyed.

Songkran…aka the Thai New Year / water festival… isn’t supposed to start until April 14, but nearly every little town I drove through today on my 4-hour journey from Pai back to Chiang Mai, had snot nosed river rats waiting in ambush on both sides of the road. They would let 20 Thais on motorbikes pass by peacefully, then when I rode up, despite my requests of “mai nam, mai nam!” (no water, no water!) I would be drenched from head to toe. It did help cool the scorching day some, but actually did add to the multitude of road hazards I was already facing. These were tiny towns with names like “Ban Nam Bong” and “Ban Nai Thuk.” I grimaced at the thoughts of what waited for me in the busy city streets of Chiang Mai. There are a lot of kids in the city; I’m sure most would be holding buckets and salivating on themselves when they saw me riding their direction. By the time I rolled into town about 17:00, I looked like a big mud cookie from being wet and then getting dusted by passing buses on the dirty road.

Chiang Mai is already bustling with people. The guesthouses are filled up. It took me an hour of humping around with my pack to find a place with a tiny room for 200Bht. I turned in the bike, and was actually glad to see it go. It did open up a new level of freedom to me, but at the same time, it is much more satisfying to vagabond on foot. I think you miss a lot of opportunities to talk to people when you shoot by them doing 90. This will be my third New Year celebration in 2006. I had Jan 1 like everyone else; Chinese New Year in Kanchanaburi on Jan 29; now, this one on April 14. Closer to the festival, I am going to arm myself for sure. A water cannon and some balloons are in order. They have picked a fight with the wrong farang this time. 🙂