Updated: Aug 7
In 2017, I won unlimited free flights. Yes, you’re reading it right. Unlimited free flights. How did I win a once in a lifetime opportunity like this? To cut the long story short, my friends and I entered a competition called “Juan for Fun” hosted by Cebu Pacific Airlines. There, five teams had to go around the Philippines for a week and take photos and do as much activities as they could. After seven days, we emerged as victors.
Initially, the prize was overwhelming for me. I wanted to make the most out of my year of free flights. At that time, I was a second year college student studying mass communication. I wanted to stop studying so that I could travel. I talked to my mom and asked her if I could stop for a year. She said no. (In the Philippines, it’s a big deal if you finish on time. “Gap Years” aren’t that common.) So, I had to make do with my current situation. On weekdays, I went to school, and on weekends, I was in a different country. After a year of traveling, I flew 110 times, to different Philippine destinations and Asian countries.
Out of all my experiences, I can vividly remember what my favorites and best experiences were. One of those is my trip to Bangkok during Songkran. Songkran is a traditional Thai New Year where splashes of water symbolize the washing of misfortunes that took place throughout the past year, in order to welcome the new year with a fresh start.
On April 2018, I decided I wanted to experience the huge water fight festival in Thailand. Although it may seem that having free flights also gave me VIP access, the reality proved different because most of my flights were not guaranteed since I was only a chance passenger. If the flight was full, I had to catch the next one. If some passengers couldn’t make it to their flight, it was my “chance” to board that flight. And so, most of my trips were spontaneous, or planned at the very last minute.
Flying to Bangkok during Songkran was a risk for me since a lot of people wanted to fly to Thailand. However, when I learned that I had a seat on the flight, I immediately planned my trip and booked my accommodation.
Traveling alone to Bangkok wasn’t as intimidating as traveling to other countries since I have already been there several times with my parents and friends. I was familiar with going around and the BTS (Bangkok Train System) made that very easy. From the train, I could see that almost everyone on the street had water guns and were soaked in water.
For my accommodation, I wanted the place to be strategic, so I did my research and booked a place where the water fights were popular. I booked Everyday Bangkok Hostel Located at Silom, Bangkok. It was roughly P400/night ($18) The place was convenient since it was near a lot of establishments and near the BTS. When I arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport, I traveled by BTS to the MRT Blue Line and got down at Sam Yan. From there, I walked to the hostel.
When I got to the hostel, there were already people outside with drenched clothes and giant water guns that were targeting passersby. I tried my best to get in without getting wet. The people at the hostel were very nice. The vibe of the hostel was very welcoming too, with a common area and colorful interior. I read on the internet that people wore Hawaiian shirts during Songkran, so I made sure to pack a couple. I then settled down in my room and changed. I brought a waterproof phone case, a dry bag and my GoPro so that I could document the experience.
The moment I stepped outside, people were spraying on me. My clothes were instantly soaked. It was fine though, everyone was having fun. Plus, that’s why I was in Bangkok in the first place. I went around for a bit and bought myself a big pink water gun. I then went back to the hostel and made friends with the people I drenched, and those who drenched me. While we were all playing outside, I said “Ay pota”, which is a Filipino bad word. The guy who targeted me with his water gun then said “Ah, pinoy?” which meant so you’re Filipino? From then, I found out that guy (Erwin) went to Songkran with his friends (Net, Jay, Jun, and Paulo) almost every year. They lived in Manila (North of the Philippines) while I lived in Davao (South of the Philippines). We all eventually became friends. I was so happy that I found fellow Filipinos that I could enjoy the festival with. I also made friends with people from other places (Makina who was my age, from Japan, Brent from Holland, and many more).
We made the outside of our hostel our “territory” and sprayed passersby, even those inside a tuktuk (a motorized rickshaw or a vehicle with three wheels)! We made use of our water guns, a hose, and even buckets filled with ice. It was really fun. After a while, the hostel staff brought everyone to this road called Si Lom. It’s famous during Songkran. We all walked together and when we got there, there were a lot of people. There was a huge crowd of people walking along the road, wearing Hawaiian shirts and spraying each other with their colorful water guns. It was literally the largest water gun fight I had ever seen in my life. There were different types of people there: foreigners, locals, elderly, children. I felt like everyone from Bangkok gathered and went to Si Lom. It was very interesting for me because I didn’t know that spraying my water gun could also be a language. I was speaking to strangers by spraying them with water in the face. It sometimes meant hello, or how are you, or even *insert a bad word*. Vendors still continued selling food on the sidewalk and there were even those smart enough to charge for water refills.
After a while, we all went back to the hostel. I rested for a bit and that night, my new friends and I went to a nearby restaurant and we ate authentic Pad Thai. After dinner, we wanted to go to Khao San Road, which was also a famous place to go to during Songkran. We thought we could get there without getting wet, but who were we kidding, riding a tuktuk doesn’t exempt you from getting wet. When we got to Khao San Road, it was even more packed than Si Lom. We drank beer and partied on the street. People were still spraying each other, but we didn’t bother to bring our waterguns. It was still fun though, we bar hopped around Khao San Road (famous backpacking area) and danced the night away.
The next day was my second, but also my last day in Bangkok. I ate breakfast in the hostel and immediately got my water gun, sat outside the hostel and sprayed passersby. We went back to Si Lom and there, I met up with a guy a who sat next to in the plane. He was from United States but was studying in Bangkok. He brought his friends and we all played in Si Lom.
After a day of spraying water and getting sprayed at, we decided to enjoy a water gun-less night. We went to a mall called Terminal 21. We went around and ate dinner in their food court.
The next day was my flight back to the Philippines. Lucky for me, my new Filipino friends and I had the same flight. So, we went to the airport together. Two days of being together gave us this special bond which later on became long-distance friendship. Months after my Bangkok trip, I visited them in Manila for a weekend to party. We also went to Cebu and went island-hopping. Now, we still connect through different social media platforms.
The trip not only gave me a memorable experience, but it also gave me new friendships.