Surviving the Songkran water fights  

Study abroad student ambushed during Thai New Year celebration  

By Ricardo Estrada Davila ’23, USAC Chiang Mai, Thailand

The Songkran Festival in Thailand, also known as the Thai New Year, was absolutely unforgettable. Traditionally, Chiang Mai is (or is at least considered to be by the locals) the biggest celebrator of Songkran. For about five days, the entire city becomes a water fight. Water guns are everywhere, people are fighting out in the streets with buckets of water, it’s insane — there are no clear sides, it is every man, woman, or child for themselves.  

Picture this: Two of my classmates in the study abroad program, one of our ‘Thai Buddy’ friends, and I were all defending a storefront in the Old City quarter during the water fight. At one point, three monks standing across from us got my attention. One of the wise men motioned for me to cross the street and speak with them.  

I was taking a class called Buddhism in Thailand, and as a part of the lesson plan, a few breif conversations with monks before — but mostly in English. This was an opportunity to practice my language skills a little more and to learn more about their monastic ways outside of the classroom. I didn’t even hesitate before crossing the street to talk with them. After all, they were motioning to me, a foreigner, I wanted to be friendly and join their conversation.  

Before I could say hello, I gasped at the sting of ice water zapped down my body. A monk had just dumped a bucket of water on my head. A monk! So much for hoping they wanted a friendly chat. 

After that, my mind was on one thing and one thing only: Revenge! About an hour later, I called forth my friends to challenge the monks with our water guns. I had a whole strategy mapped out and everything. 

Nothing went as planned. At the last minute, my friends retreated and the monks outnumbered me. I was soaked. It is still incredible to me how an entire city can just come together for one big water fight.  

And that is the story of how I got TWO buckets of ice water dumped on me during Songkran by monks.