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6 things to consider when celebrating Songkran

Woohooo. It’s Songkran season! Songkran is the Thai New Year and, since it is the most important festival of the year, it comes with 3 official public holidays (and more private holidays) in tow. Everybody loves Songkran and everybody knows it. Ask people what they think or know about Songkran, and not matter whether it is a foreigner or Thai, they will probably say: Water, Party, Holidays (hopefully followed by ‘Family Time’ or something nice like that). Songkran parties can be found literally everywhere. On the streets, temples, in front of your local 7-11. Everywhere! And it is, of course, fun. Splashing water around, playing with water guns, wearing colorful shirts that would look ridiculous at any other day. So Songkran is fun and we can’t wait to celebrate it, right? Righ…well.

6 things to consider when celebrating Songkran

1. The first point is not so much a why you ‘shouldn’t celebrate’ but more of a ‘think about that before you celebrate’ point. Songkran is, as most public holidays and festivals are, a religious festival. It celebrates the Buddhist New Year and is done though in many other countries in the region as well. So it’s not only unique to Thailand. That is not a problem though and shouldn’t mean it doesn’t deserve recognition – but it’s something to think about. Especially if you have strong religious feelings. Getting water poured over your head and powder into your face actually has a deep religious meaning.

2. Be prepared to get wet. And by get wet I mean soaked. And by soaked I mean…what’s the next step after getting soaked? Well..that! Splashing with water is all good fun until you get cold, bored or whatever. Try to find a safe place. It’s almost impossible. There’ll always be someone to splash you and very often you don’t even see them coming since they do that from the back of pick up trucks. With ice cold water. Or with huge pipes that pump the water straight out of lakes alongside the road. Still sounds like fun? Probably not when you’re wearing something that you like your even cary an electronic device. There is no off switch for Songkran. So be aware.

3. Everything stops working. EVERYTHING. Well, besides 7-11. So if you need something (Banking, Travel tickets, documents, whatever) make sure you get it before. You won’t get it during the week of Songkran. Because Songkran!

4. Traveling. So you are planning a quick getaway during Songkran. And you thought about that the week before? Good luck getting a ticket. I tried that once and ended up in the crappiest bus ever (and I mean it. Think about the most crappy bus you can imagine and then multiply it by 12 and it’s still better than the bus I ended up in) and a trip that usually takes 8 hours by bus ended up taking 13. No kidding. And I was still lucky to have gotten a ticket. So traveling during Songkran? Forget it. One exception though: Bangkok City is empty. Except those spots where Songkran is being celebrated but the streets are empty. So if you have a car…enjoy!

5. WATER! So that’s a serious one now. Songkran is, obviously, a huge waste of water. Thailand is facing more and more severe droughts each year and authorities even haven warned against excessive water wasting. That doesn’t mean much to the average person though since Songkran is simply part of the culture and that water ‘needs’ to be wasted. So if you’re somehow responsible and want to do something good during the holidays, don’t waste water. Thailand desperately needs it (that’s also why lots of activities have been shortened – to save water).

6. Death. The time around Songkran always sees a HUGE spike in alcohol related deaths. This time is therefore also called ‘the 7 days of death‘. We have just recently seen the deadliest Songkran since 2009. So when you’re out drinking or about to get into the car or on a motorbike with someone who drank think twice. I want you to be able to read this article after Songkran as well.

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(cover picture via Wyndham @ Flickr under cc)

Sascha Funk

Founder / Editor at My-Thai.org
Sascha is the publisher of my-thai.org and switched from an online marketing agency life in Europe to a teaching and education life in Thailand. He also writes about Teaching & Technology.

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