Everyone knows about the December 31st new year and the Chinese new year, but surprisingly few people are aware of the Thai new year which just happens to begin today. The Thai new year is so big it can’t be contained in one day and spreads over three.

I could go into the significance, history and religious meaning behind Songkran, but that has already been done infinitely better than I could attempt. Instead, I thought I’d talk about how Songkran makes Bangkok a very different place for these three days.

The most obvious difference people notice about the Thai new year period is that Bangkok feels empty and that’s because the first day of Songkran is involved with showing respect to your elders, meaning people have left the big city for their home towns. Catching a taxi from one side of town to the other is never quicker than during Songkran.

Songkran is also known as the water festival and should you go anywhere in Bangkok during the three day period, you’ll find out rather quickly why. Add water and apply liberally is an understatement! Even worse is if you’re farang (a westerner), because it is seen as a sport to absolutely drench unsuspecting sods.

Every Songkran (this is my third), all I can think about is how much water is being wasted and how I don’t want to get wet, but I have to admit that Thai people seem happy (more happy than usual).

Of course, with any major holiday such as this, the casuality rate is high and hospitals are worked overtime to stem the flow of accidents that inevitably occur. Thai Police recently stated that they hoped to keep the death toll below 60 people this Songkran – Thailand-wide. 60 seems quite high to me, but I can only imagine what it has been like previously if that amount is seen as a good thing.

If you’re happy to get wet, Songkran is the best time of year to be in Thailand (if not, then it’s the worst). Khao San Road is extremely popular for these activities with both Thai and western people (well, the backpackers who gravitate to that area), so if you’re looking for a water fight that’s the place to be.

Myself and some others that I know of are holed-up in our shelters waiting out the cold war. Wish us luck!

4 Comments so far

  1. Khun Dude (unregistered) on April 13th, 2005 @ 1:43 pm

    Under 60 deaths? in 2003 over 600 died in traffic deaths during Songkran…. once again the government is dreaming. their other goal is to have Thailand drug free in a year… sounds realistic

  2. him (unregistered) on April 13th, 2005 @ 1:51 pm

    I was thinking the same – under 60? what, just on Sukhumvit, maybe! I remember the papers last year carrying a death toll “so far” each day. I got the feeling it was something to be proud of.

    Although I understand the ideas behind songkran, I think it’s a shame that so many take it to such extremes. When I spent it on Koh Tao, I remember how the restaurant owners would playfully spray water down your back and so on, nothing offensive, all meant in fun and light heartedness, and taken thus.

    But here you see trucks with people on the back throwing oil drums of water at buses, cars and moto’s. I mean, thats not fun, that’s just being a bunch of thick obnoxious pricks.

    There has to be a line between what you do, and consideration for others.

  3. him (unregistered) on April 13th, 2005 @ 1:53 pm

    BTW if you want a water fight, come down to around Soi 23 – Soi Cowboy. The hundreds of prostitutes make it quite a spectacle but you can’t really blame them – I mean, any reason to break with the daily routine of having to flirt with, and screw, ugly old western men, who wouldn’t? :)

  4. Ben Harris (unregistered) on April 15th, 2005 @ 5:11 pm

    If they’re at Soi Cowboy, can’t they reasonably do both at the same time? :)

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