The ride from Tachileik, Myanmar to Chiang Mai, Thailand was long; and as the clunky van sped along the highway I drifted in and out of sleep. I started coming to attention when I heard muffled sounds of joyous commotion coming from outside the van. I opened my eyes for a moment and looked out the front window. I saw people run out from the side of the road and unload buckets of water on a passing motorcycle.
“That was kind of dangerous,” I thought.
A moment later, the van shook with a loud “Thud!” as a wave of water hit its windshield.
Songkran had started.
Songkran is the three-day celebration of the Thai New Year, and during this time, every city in Thailand erupts into an all out water fight. Chiang Mai has one of the most famous celebrations, and I arrived in town just in time to get settled before all the festivities began.
No one is safe during Songkran. If you’re wearing a wedding dress, blind and walking around with a cane, or even operating a motorcycle you are a legitimate target in the water fight. Then you watch in disbelief as little Thai children start learning the fun of Songkran by throwing water on unsuspecting motorcyclists. I’m still looking for the YouTube video that starts out innocent and cute with a group of little Thai children having a water fight, and ends with a motorcyclist getting blasted in the eyes and losing control of the vehicle.
It was like when the models in Zoolander were having fun at the gas station. They were just playing and having an innocent “Gasoline Fight”, but they didn’t realize the dangers of spraying gasoline on each other. If only they knew how dangerous this game was when lighting a cigarette…
Aside from road safety, the Thai’s have Songkran all figured out. It’s fun to throw water on someone, but it’s way more fun to get that person when the water is freezing cold. To achieve maximum misery, the Songkran-savvy Thai’s use blocks of ice to chill huge bins of water before throwing that water upon unfortunate targets.
I was no stranger to water fights, but all of my prior water fights had been organized battles with clearly defined enemies. This was an unfamiliar and chaotic style of urban warfare. I needed to adapt in order to survive, and what I lacked in experience, I made up for in guts and creativity.
In a water fight you are already wet. Everyone is wet. Simply splashing someone won’t make you victorious. You have to “Get” the person you’re splashing. The Thai’s way of “Getting” people was to splash them with freezing cold water. And while effective, this simply wasn’t enough for a Farang to survive. After being defeated, nearly drowned, and left for dead I thought hard and came up with some new water fight battle tactics that will leave my mark upon Songkran for years to come. Below are the techniques I devised to deliver maximum misery and fun during a country-wide water fight.
The Steal and Dump
“The Steal and Dump” takes advantage of the easy going nature of the Thai people. Many Thais would fill their buckets up with ice cold water and splash little handfuls on people as they walked by. They were experts in precision water strikes. They knew just how to target the parts of your body that were sensitive to cold water. This allowed them to conserve ammunition, yet still deliver devastating attacks. However, they lacked the element of surprise, and since you always saw the water coming, you had time to brace for impact. There was no shock effect compounding the attack.
Their weakness was that at some point they would grow tired of the unorganized splashing of every random person that walked by. When this happened they would either lower their buckets and talk to a friend or walk to another part of town with a full bucket of unused water. If you were able catch someone in this vulnerable state of boredom then “The Steal and Dump” was an extremely effect tactic.
To execute: stealthily sneak up on someone that isn’t paying attention and tip their bucket until the water begins to trickle into your bucket. If done correctly, they won’t feel it until their bucket is nearly empty. At this point they will be defenseless, and you will be fully loaded. Take the stolen water and dump it on their head.
Congratulations. You just “Got” them with their own water.
WARNING: This is an effective technique, and if it’s water they’ve been carrying around for a long time they are going to feel especially “Gotten”. You are likely going to get retaliation when they recover. Unless you plan on running away, then expect them to find more water and splash you back.
The False Warning
This technique is good at “Getting” people that have their guard up. If you find yourself in a situation where you are in a neutral stance with a nearby group then “The False Warning” is likely to be your move of maximum destruction. Often times these neutral stances develop when your group joins with another to fight a common enemy. You will come to unspoken agreement not to splash each other, but the tension will build up, and it’s only a matter of time until one group strikes first.
To “Get” them before they “Get” you, you have to lower their defenses first. Stand next to them and pretend to be watching their back. Then say, “Look out!” and point in the direction of an imaginary attacker that they cannot see. They will spin around to face the attacker, and when they realize no one is coming they will feel a little bit “Gotten”. Wait for them to turn around and face you and then splash your bucket over their head.
Nice work. You just “Got” them with “The False Warning”.
The Songtel “Nyah Nyah”
Thai children can be some of the deadliest warriors at Songkran. Their small size and innocent demeanor makes them easy to underestimate, but when equipped with a powerful water gun or garden hose they are as deadly anyone else.
After being defeated several times by hordes of miniature warriors, I developed a technique that works with high success. Little Thai kids are extremely provoked by goofy faces and taunting, and therefore you can use that to your advantage to catch them off guard.
The best time to attempt this move is on the Songtel. For those of you that don’t know, a Songtel is red pickup truck that has been converted into a taxi by covering the truck bed with a truck cap and installing bench seats. To save money they are outfitted with sliding plastic windows, and these windows play a key role in this attack.
The first step is to hail a Songtel. You can flag one down and ride it for several kilometers for only 20 Baht (about 65 cents). As you ride through town you’ll see mobile attack stations which take the form of six to eight people riding in the back of pickup trucks. They will be fully armed with water guns, buckets, and huge bins of water ammunition. Pick one that is filled with little kids and slide the window open. Make the goofiest face you can, and in an irritating tone yell “Nyah Nyaah! Nyaah Nyaaah!! Nyaaah Nyaaaaah!!!”
Tiny heads will snap in your direction, and the kids will begin firing furiously. Slide the plastic window shut and continue making faces as the cold water slides harmlessly off the window. Then open it again and continue taunting. They will fire again. To counter, close the window and give the signal to your ambush-ready friends. The brat army will be reloading when your friends pop out of the back of the Songtel and fire their entire load of water. This catches them off guard, and they are hit right on their unprotected flank.
Congratulations. You just “Got” a bunch of little Thai kids with “The Songtel ‘Nyah Nyah'”.
Childhood ruined. Mission accomplished.
If you can execute these three moves successfully you have half a chance of surviving Songkran. 2014’s Songkran dates are April 13th to April 15th. That gives you plenty of time to get ready. I am already preparing two top secret moves for next year — code named the “The Elephant” and “The Mexico”.
When fighting a war won by swag and style it’s creativity and quick thinking that make the difference. I gave you enough material to get started. See you in 2014!!
Zoolander Gasoline Fight