It’s time to dust off the water guns and raincoats as Songkran is approaching. There’s an extended holiday this year from April 12th to 16th but Songkran, AKA the Seven Deadly Days, often extends for at least a week. And those days really are deadly 400 people died and 4,000 were injured during Songkran.
It’s no wonder the Thai Transport Ministry is establishing a “Safe Songkran” programme; it’s the highest time for road accidents in what is already the world’s number one city for motorcycle crashes. This shouldn’t stop you donning your swimsuit and goggles though, just bear in mind these tips for a safe Songkran.
Don’t drink and drive. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway). Some bars and 7-Elevens will be open and serving alcohol, not to mention the beer stalls lining the festival hot spots. And be wary of drunk drivers – be it you, your friend or even a taxi or tuk tuk driver. The government has promised to confiscate the vehicles of any drunk drivers – so if you don’t want to walk home drunk and drenched, best hop on the BTS.
Don’t splash motorcycle drivers (even if everyone else is).
Take public transport instead of taxis or driving. Major routes will be packed and all 5 km of Silom will be blocked in favour of the neon-goggled, watergun-shooting pedestrians.
Leave valuables at home and put phones, cash etc. in waterproof pouches. You won’t go far without finding a stall selling pouches and ponchos, or stock up early from 7-Eleven. In the midst of the festivities, you or your children may also have powder rubbed on your faces. It’s harmless but can sting the eyes so goggles are handy in the thick of the festivities.
Avoid the crazy areas with younger kids (especially Silom and Khao San Road), where breathing space is a rare luxury. You could watch the crazies on Silom from the dryer skywalk above, but you’re still never completely splash-safe. For younger kids you could have your own party with a water hose and buckets in the garden or a nearby park or check out the options for kid-friendly celebrations.
Don’t throw ice, icy or dirty water (and it’s advisable not to swallow anything chucked at you either – who knows where it has come from?)
Wear old trainers/sneakers or waterproof shoes with grip instead of flip-flops.
Go local and get out of Bangkok – whilst the city is full of tourists you can have a less claustrophobic celebration in the countryside or even just outside of Bangkok. In Phra Pradeng District of Samut Prakarn, for example, you can experience more unusual festivities. Taking place at the Phra Pradaeng City Hall, you’ll see local people observe Mon New Year traditions, which are very different to those found in the rest of the country. They feature a spectacular floral procession, a parade of the local Mon people in their colourful outfits, a Miss Songkran parade, and more.
And finally… have fun! Seriously. You are going to get wet no matter what (unless you stay inside the house the whole time), and getting annoyed is not going to change that. Unless you are a monk, baby or elderly person, people will slosh buckets of water at you, so come dressed in a smile and waterproof poncho!