This was the reason that I had come to Cambodia.…
“Happy Holi!” you hear as a small child lobs a plastic baggy of water at your head.
“Happy Holi!” as a stranger rubs bright coloured powder on your face.
“Happy Holi!” you hear from the rooftop as a bucket of water drops on you from above.
Holi has been on my bucket list of Festivals ever since I first read about it. For some reason the festivals that include a lot of mess always make it onto my list. Holi is a Hindu festival primarily celebrated to farewell the winter and welcome back the spring. It involves the use of brightly coloured dyes and lots of water. Any one and everyone is fair game in this day long water-fight. It is worth staying in a good hostel during Holi so that you can meet people and team up for the day.
Preparations began the day before. Small stalls began popping up in the streets selling bags of coloured powder dyes and the staff at our hostel brought out cheap white t-shirts for us to buy so that we didn’t have to sacrifice our own clothes. We all went to sleep with excited anticipation for the next day and a silent hope that the weather would be a bit warmer too. I woke up early. Festivities weren’t meant to begin until later in the morning but I didn’t want to get caught out making a mad dash to get breakfast. Everything I had read online told me that tourists are a favourite target on the streets – it’s 100% true by the way.
It began as a war between us and the children next door. You may think it’s mean for a bunch of adults to have a water fight against little kids. Well, you haven’t met these kids. They were ruthless and very sneaky, as only kids can be. Our group was decimated by these 5-10 year olds. Real water balloons are hard to find in Kathmandu so the kids were using little bags made from cellophane style plastic. I got hit in the head and face a few times. Have to tell you. Those things hurt when they hit you. After about an hour it was time for our group to hit the streets and make our way to the main festivities in Durbar Square.
After navigating our way through the battleground like streets we finally made it to Durbar Square where there was a rave being held to celebrate. There was a DJ and TV cameras. The square was packed full of people dancing to the music. Occasionally a burst of coloured powder could been seen but it was basically a big dance party. Not really my scene. It took about 15 minutes to work my way through the crowd and back to the street. I began the long walk back to the hostel hoping to beat every one else to the showers. A word of caution though. If you’re on you’re own you get targeted more. I walked down the street to my hostel and found that when people spotted me they would laugh. When I walked into my room one of my dorm mates that had sat out the festivities also laughed at me.
I didn’t waste time washing it all off. I was freezing from all the cold water and desperately in need of a hot shower. To my surprise the dye came off easily. I had expected to look like a smurf for days but I was back to normal by the time I got out of the shower. Well almost, it took a while to wash the last of it out of my ears.