Happy Thai New Year!
Well the Songkran holiday here in Thailand is now upon us. It is basically the celebration of the Thai New Year and it has a pretty strong religious component to it also. It officially started on Monday the 13th April and runs for three days. Some towns set their own dates and even extend it out a few days.
So I don’t butcher the meaning of it, this is actually from Wikipedia:
The Songkran festival (Thai: สงกรานต์, pronounced [sǒŋ.krāːn], listen; from the Sanskrit word saṃkrānti, or literally “astrological passage”) is celebrated in Thailand as the traditional New Year’s Day from 13 to 15 April. It coincides with the New Year of many calendars of South and Southeast Asia. The festive occasion is in keeping with the Buddhist/Hindu solar calendar.
We had heard about this festival and I was really looking forward to it. It is huge in Thailand and is celebrated everywhere and by everyone. Some places like Pattaya, Bangkok and Chiang Mai especially, go off big time from all reports. Hua Hin is a tad more laid back but it still caught me by surprise. So what does this festival involve? Basically bucket loads of water, water pistols/guns/canons, talcum powder, floral shirts, exceptionally loud music, dancing, and of course alcohol.
Many years ago the water was just used to wash away the evil spirits and start the new year with a clean slate. This has gradually gotten to the stage where it is now one of the biggest water fights on the planet. You cannot walk or drive down the street without getting drenched. Everyone is fair game and if you don’t want to get wet, then stay indoors for three days. Some people are really polite where they either just sprinkle you with a handful of water or just pour a cup over your shoulder, giving you their blessings at the same time, where others will just throw a hug bucket of ice water over your head, or hit you fair in the face with a high powered water canon. Same goes for scooter riders, any vehicles with open windows, tuk tuks and the local buses. The traffic comes to a standstill around the city centre, so there is no escape. There is also the wiping of a coloured talcum power across the face and shoulders, which just adds to the mess.
Learne decided to stay at home (chicken) so I ventured off by myself, fully prepared with her waterproof Samsung phone for photos and videos, hence the poor quality of both as I just haven’t worked out how to use it properly. I was in quick drying shorts and shirt, and stuff neatly stored in waterproof bag inside canvas carry bag. I seriously considered not going as I was feeling poorly and I knew it would be busy. But I’m glad I went. It was a real eye opener and it was fun. This was early afternoon and there were people everywhere. Plenty of drinking but generally everyone was in great spirits and there was no aggro at all. There was no escaping the water, and that includes Police and Military personnel that were working around town. The Thais love loud music, so they are quite happy to find the largest speakers and pile them on top of each other on the side of the road and blast the dance music out. It was a real assault on the senses. It is just party central everywhere with everyone in their Hawaiin shirts. Very colourful indeed.
What’s the downside of Songkran? From what I’ve described, it doesn’t sound like there are any, but I’m afraid that’s not the case. The main one being the danger on the roads. Thailand has a shocking road toll as it is but the Songkran holiday period takes it to a whole new level. It is ridiculous the way they drive when they are sober, so imagine the carnage when drunk. Most long term expats advise others to stay of the roads during this time, which includes getting lifts with tuk tuks or motorcycle taxis. Just way too dangerous. Even watching some of motorbike riders getting hammered with powerful water canons was an eye opener. Then you have all the people riding around in the back of utes (lots of kids) with huge containers of water throwing it on other vehicles and pedestrians. Again, mix in alcohol and it can get ugly. There is also the issue of some going overboard with the water throwing etc. Some of this water isn’t too healthy and can cause some serious damage health wise if hit in the eye or ear. The trick is to wear glasses and keep your mouth shut. I headed home in the late afternoon and avoided the temptation to stay and have a few beers. Not sure how it would pan out during the night, but I’m sure the drunkenness would have reached new heights and there may have been some issues. I wasn’t going to find out as I’d seen enough and I can now cross Thailand’s Songkran Festival of my bucket list. But next year I may just drag Learne along for some fun.
All quiet the day after with our Buddhist Temple next door going until about midnight last night with loud music and PA noise. Only another 5 days of that. Cool place to visit though. Not sure what the road toll in Thailand was yesterday but I’m sure it will be a big number, but we do know that three Thais drowned on Hua Hin beach yesterday. This isn’t a surf beach and it is not rough, so who knows what happened there. Songkran is good fun for most but not for everyone, and if you ever get the chance to participate, then grab it by both hands as you won’t regret it…..
PS Quick update from official stats out this morning, and this is the reason we’re not keen to go on the roads during this festival:
60 dead, 724 hurt in 5th day of Songkran road havoc
Sixty people were killed and 724 were injured in 671 traffic accidents nationwide on the first official day of the Songkran holiday Monday.
In the first five days of annual Thai New Year festival April 9-13, there were 2,406 road accidents in which 251 people died and 2,532 others were injured.