The World’s Biggest Water Fight

You can’t fight back against a child, that’s a rule, isn’t it? I reminded myself as a giggling 7 year old drenched me with a flying bucket of water. Thailand does New Year a little differently. In ancient Siam culture, people would visit their local monastery and pour scented water over monks in a holy cleansing ceremony. Then, they’d collect the blessed water and bring it home to pour over family members for good luck. Today, Thai New Year – Songkran – is unrecognisable from its holistic history. Imagine if Disney bought the rights then outsourced the choreography to Ibiza, Playboy and Heineken.

Songkran
I selected my weapon of choice; a neon yellow super soaker and found the beach transformed. It was Baywatch on steroids without the anger issues. There’s an inclusivity about the world’s biggest water fight that reminded me of Gay Pride: I was attacked equally by children, men, women, ladyboys and pensioners. Running for cover, ducking behind sight screens and shooting water at strangers was like simultaneously being transported back to childhood and playing virtual reality as Rambo.

There’s a hint of the carnival vibes in Rio de Janeiro and Notting Hill too. Music blasts from every angle and strangers are connected by an event bigger than any one individual. There really is nothing else like Songkran though: it’s the only place you’re allowed to be Peter Pan and Jack Sparrow. And return fire at children.

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A Teardrop on the Cheek of Eternity

Hustlers, homeless bodies, stray dogs, rattling rickshaws and everyone has something to sell me. Agra train station is an ordeal. I battled through the chaos towards symmetry: the Taj Mahal.

Taj

There it stood, a teardrop on the cheek of eternity. Perfect order surrounded by an imperfect world. The problem with the Taj is it’s overphotographed, but nothing prepares you for the rhythmic combination of curves and lines, shadow and light.

Of course, it’s a circus of mass tourism, but a zen-like state of calm permeates. There’s no pushing, just a respectful, orderly queue to get a picture on the Princess Diana bench. I had to wait ten minutes for nine Koreans to make multiple peace signs before I got mine.

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One stupid shot for Instagram and a respectable one for my darling mother.

There’s something comforting about the permanence of Shah Jahan’s masterpiece. We are situated between daily life and the world of true understanding and monuments like this remind us which is more important. The sun never shines all night and no man can live forever but the Taj will always stand.