A collective madness is about to descend on Thailand next week, when the Songkran Water Festival makes the entire county turn into one big water fight that lasts for four days. No one is safe!
Next week, all of Thailand will stop work and party for four days straight to celebrate Songkran, the beginning of the Thai New Year which is welcomed in by the entire country indulging in a truly epic water fight. Little kids, old grannies, mums, dads, everyone is out on the streets with pump action water pistols, buckets, barrels, basically anything that can carry water, ready to dump it over the first person they can find. As the temperature is regularly hitting 36 degrees in Bangkok, this is actually quite welcome, as long as you remembered to put your mobile phone somewhere safe – the Thais favour sticking their mobile phones inside a condom to make it waterproof… Don’t even bother to think you can escape getting soaked – foriegners always get singled out for special treatment, although it’s all in good fun. (If you want to try and take photos, you’ll need a waterproof camera case for sure – Canon do inexpensive waterproof camera cases which are specifically made for taking your camera scuba diving, but will let you get some great action pix of Songkran without trashing your camera).
Khao San Road unsurprisingly turns into a battleground of aquatic mayhem at Songkran, with tourists and Thais alike going at it full tilt, with talcum powder and foam usually all over the place as well. The whole country is gripped by the carnival like atmosphere of Songkran, and for any visitor to Thailand, it’s an unforgettable experience.
The first time I was in Thailand for Songkran, I was living on the little island of Koh Tao. There wasn’t much sign of activity first thing in the morning when I drove my bike down to the dive shop for the day’s diving. When I drove back at lunchtime, I got flagged down several times on my way home by Songkran roadblocks, where buckets of water would be poured over my head, talcum powder applied to my face and a glasses of whisky shoved into my hand – now that’s Thai hospitality. It’s just as well I only lived a mile or so away from the dive shop… This year I’ll sadly be missing most of Songkran as I’m off to the Philippines to go diving from the 13th April.
There is sadly a darker side to Songkran, mainly due to drunk driving out in the countryside. Every year, hundreds of Thais die at Songkran due to coming off their bike when they’ve been drinking. According to the local newspapers, there’s also been a bit of an increase in guys getting overly friendly with women, which is the sort of thing that can usually be brushed off but obviously can also spoil the fun too. Female travellers should be aware of this too without getting paranoid. Richard at Thai-Blogs.com has some more tips for enjoying the party. Certainly Songkran has changed dramatically from the demure religious celebration from which it began, but if you are in Thailand when it happens, you will have an amazing time. Just remember to not get too wasted yourself – it ruins your aim with a water pistol.