Thailand’s Songkran Festival is Frighteningly Fun
Nobody is safe from Songkran. The Thai New Year festivities involve dousing anyone and everyone with water as a way to beat the heat and ring in the coming year. The three-day holiday (which stretches out to a week) is celebrated everywhere in the country with water guns, buckets and lots of ice-cold water. This past April I was in Thailand to celebrate Songkran for the first time.
“Holy shit,” is something I kept saying to myself as I partook in the festivities.
Most people leave Bangkok to go to their hometown for Songkran, but the remaining revelers are easily spotted. On board the BTS Skytrain (Bangkok’s monorail system), just about everyone is armed with water guns and waterproof pouches for their phones. They’re all headed to the Silom District, which is one of the biggest party spots in the city. Even with the roads there closed down to traffic, the thousands and thousands of people block the streets and making moving difficult. A tunnel/sprinkler system above makes sure nobody stays dry. Vendors are set up selling refills of water and snacks, while a few corporate-sponsored stages entertain the masses.
Beware the Crowds
What blew me away was the absolute crush of people during the day. In some sections, I was genuinely terrified. It was worse than any concert I’ve been, but a whole lot wetter. At night, I celebrated in the backpacker hub of Khao San Road. The crowds were even heavier there. There were times when it was impossible to move and the number of people trying to make their way through kept increasing. A lot of my Thai friends have no desire to go out for Khao Son after already doing it in the past just because it’s such madness.
At both places, my mild panic soon disappeared and I had a hell of a time enjoying the scene. It was like being a kid again, and even when you’re drenching someone with freezing water, everyone is good-natured about it.
I’m not being dramatic about being a little scared. Every year, hundreds of people die during Songkran. The deaths are attributed to drunken driving, but I imagine being blasted with water while driving a motorbike could also lead to an accident. In 2015, 306 people were killed in road accidents during the festival period. Every year the numbers of deaths is a big story but nothing really changes. Who wants to say no to having a good time?
I'm an American freelance writer who spent a couple years living in Cambodia. Now I'm on the move again and traveling all over the place. I'm willing to try any bizarre liquor that's presented to me. Any recommendations?