Pattaya (Thailand) – Thankfully the protective plastic wrap worked and my camera and lens survived an entire day of shooting with almost 1700 pictures. You can read my previous article on how I protected the camera. But trust me, it wasn’t easy staying dry and I was a prized target among many water gun-toting tourists.
As I carefully poked my head out of the hotel’s front door, I expected to get splashed, but thankfully the coast was clear. I headed to the city’s main street and the water-drenched asphalt told the story. People had been battling it out with buckets, guns and hoses for several hours and there were several more hours of daylight to go. For most people I was an object of curiosity as you surely don’t expect someone to be running around with thousands of dollars in camera gear during Songkran.
I had my head on a swivel looking around for anyone that would sneak up on me. Kids with small water pistols would run up to me and give me a few squirts, but it was nothing major. Thai adults with bigger guns seemed to be very considerate at either skipping me as a target or they would spray just my lower body. But the tourists were a different matter.
Thousands of Americans, Europeans and other tourists swarm into Thailand for Songkran celebrations and they usually buy the biggest, most evil-looking, water gun available. They also don’t care what you are wearing or carrying – everyone is fair game. Wearing a suit? You get soaked. Carrying a camera? You get soaked. So when they saw me with my camera and big white lens, I was fair game. “You’re going to get wet anyways,” one guy shouted as he hosed me down.
But I accidently discovered a great way of staying dry (for the most part). I would stand next to police officers and monks. As in most 2nd and third-world countries, police are extremely feared and you wouldn’t dare to spray a cop. Monks are of course revered in Thailand and are pretty much off-limits to getting doused.
My camera did sustain several direct hits from water guns and one good drenching from water thrown from a bucket by a passing pick-up truck. These dousing usually left some water drops on the UV filter lens, but I just dabbed them off with a towel that I brought along. One kid did put his grubby fingers right on my lens, but the residue quickly came off after I persuaded (and it didn’t take much effort!) another child to spray my camera.