Songkran is an annual Thai festival that indicates the start of the traditional Thai Buddhist New Year. The celebration involves large waterfights on the streets.

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Motorcyclists getting hit by water. Photo by: Wyndham Hollis

The festival starts on 13 April and lasts for 3 days, but in some of the tourist cities, this festival is extended to last an entire week. During those days, Thai locals travel back to their hometowns and pour water over their elders hands to wash away bad luck and sins. They also visit temples to pour water over Buddha statues. Usually Thai communities organize a Miss Songkran pageant contest during the festival, where the contestants wear traditional Thai dresses.

The modern style Songkran has resulted in massive public waterfights. Kids and adults buy water pistols and carry buckets of water. They often stand next to the roads and splash anyone who passes by. A common sight is also the pickup trucks that drive around whith people sitting on the back with a large barrel of water in between them. In the big city centers, these waterfights turn into large scale outdoor water parties. In Bangkok, the sukhumvit area during Songkran attracts hundreds of thousands of participants each day.

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Large waterfight in Thailand. Photo by: John Shedrik

When you visit Thailand during Songkran you will see many people putting white powder on each others faces. This is part of the celebration and originates from the idea that a whiter skin looks more beautiful. Be aware that for some guys it is just an excuse to touch girls. In some areas the use of this powder has already been banned.

In Thailand, the days of Songkran are also known as the seven most deadly days, because during those days there are more deadly accidents than during the rest of the year. The combination of alcohol, wet roads and people throwing water on moving vehicles is a terrible combination. In 2014 over 300 deaths were reported. The festival is especially dangerous for motorcycle drivers as they are more vulnerable. Traveling by motorcycle during those days is therefore highly adviced against.

Despite the high casualties, Songkran remains an extremely popular holiday with both Thai locals and tourists. It’s worth it to experience at least once, just remember to keep your phone in a sealed plastic bag to protect it against all the water.

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Large waterfight in Thailand. Photo by: Madeleine Deaton

For a more personal experience blog of Songkran, you can read the blog on criticintransit.com

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