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Celebrating the Water Festival in Northern Thailand

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Each April sees several of the countries of Southeast Asia welcome the New Year with water, colour and mischief.

This April, the last leg of my trip to Thailand was spent in the North in Chiang Mai during the Thai New Year also known as “Songkran water festival”. Songkran consists of a huge three day celebration throughout all of Thailand, though the most boisterous and most popular place to celebrate is in Chiang Mai. What initially began as a cleansing ceremony marked by pouring water on the Buddha to symbolize purification and the washing away of one’s sins and bad luck, evolved into cleansing everyone with buckets and super soakers. The result is huge water fights throughout the streets. My favourite part about this festival was the way the Thai locals and the tourists interacted, though not able to fully understand each other’s language you could tell everyone was having a great time. It was not possible to avoid a good soaking, every time one left the hotel the cascade of water was instantaneous, all apart of the fun.

While I was in Chiang Mai I also went to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, which serves both as a home for ‘retired’ elephants and a centre dedicated to ending the practice of riding Elephants. A lot of people don’t know this, but elephants go through a painful process to be domesticated.  When trained, they are used for safari rides, for forest hauling, and for the circus. Elephants’ spines have been shown to become both damaged and deformed after years of holding people or anything on top of them. My level of empathy rose as I helped feed the Elephants, bathe them and play in the river with them.  I was happy to donate money for this noble cause. 

After Chiang Mai I went to Pai, a small town near the Myanmar border ninety miles Northwest. The road to Pai consists of hundreds of switch backs along forested mountain landscape. it was quite the ride! Pai is perhaps the cutest town I have ever seen filled with lots of local handmade items and numerous mom and pop cafes and restaurants. It also has outstanding temples and huge Giant Buddha statues. I spent most of my time here riding around on a scooter and exploring different waterfalls.  Despite it being the dry season, and the falls were mainly a trickle, it was still a great experience.

After Pai I returned to Bangkok to check out the temples around Khaosan Road. They were impeccable and just jaw dropping. It was really bittersweet leaving Thailand after three months and so much exploring. I feel lucky and full of happiness.  Thailand is somewhere I hope to return to.

 Now back in Canada, I am happy to be working alongside Catherine & Francine at Tours of Exploration and am already planning where to go next.

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