Songkran is, in its essence, a magical time and a wonderful festival. It is arguably the biggest water fight in the world. Elders are honoured by gently tipping water over their hands out of respect, families are brought together and water signifies washing away bad thoughts or actions plus brings good luck and a fresh new start to the new year. The general New Year celebrations at the end of December is also beautiful, with fireworks and relaxation for all.
On the flip side however, these two times are sadly the most dangerous times of the year too. However, below are some facts and tips to being aware and enjoying Songkran or the general New Year in safety.
The Hard Facts
The death toll over the recent 2016 New Year celebration period totalled 380, with 3,505 people injured and 3,379 road accidents in Thailand. These are the statistics for the general New Year at the end of December which are known as the 7 most deadly days in Thailand. The death toll for the last Thai New Year (Songkran) in 2015 which officially runs from 13th April to 15th of April (but usually lasts around 6 days) was 306 deaths, 3,070 injuries and 2,915 road accidents.
Please note that their is no negativity in the above paragraph; they are just the hard facts and there is a dark and light side to everything. So let’s look on the bright side by exploring ways to avoid the negative and reap only the positive side of these new year celebrations . . .
How Not To Become A Statistic
1) If you can, don’t use your car or travel around in both New Year periods. However, if you have to use your car try to travel during daylight hours, preferably in the late morning or early afternoon. If you have a motorbike the same idea applies, but if you have to use it maybe consider travelling by public transport in daylight hours, such as via train and then by bus to your destination.
2) One option is to stay at home over both New Year periods and join in with local water fight celebrations nearby at Songkran, where you don’t need to travel to. Or perhaps organise a party at your home with friends and family, instead of travelling long distances.
3) If you have family in Thailand or your spouse has family in Thailand then travelling a long distance might be unavoidable. There is the option however of saving up your holiday leave (if you are working) and visiting family a few days before the New Year and heading back a few days after the end of the festival / celebrations.
4) Apart from the obvious one of not drinking and driving, at Songkran never throw water at motorbikes or across the windscreens of cars. This obviously goes on, but if you can limit it to people on foot who want to join in and get wet you’ll be doing a good deed. Obviously, don’t get into any car or onto the back of any pickup where there is any chance that the driver has been drinking alcohol. Avoid getting into the back of a pick up truck if possible, but if you have to, make sure you are only in it when it’s travelling along very slowly.
5) Stick to small groups of people celebrating at Songkran where you can keep an eye on things. This way you can relax and have fun with less variables, such as avoiding someone drunk who gets over enthusiastic rubbing talk over a female festival participant. This way you can make a quick exit if there is a fight. More than likely though you will have a fantastic time with fellow respectful Songkran participants. In general, Thai people are more gentle than groups of tourists who sometimes go over-the-top with high powered water squirters, mistakingly approaching Songkran as a real water ‘fight’ where you have to ‘win’, which is not what Songkran is about at all. So if you join a group of tourists, make sure they are an intelligent group of people aware enough to get what the real meaning of Songkran is about.
6) Obviously, be respectful at Songkran and avoid using powerful water squirters, soaking people who might not want to be soaked, smearing talc over females, being rough in any way, throwing ice or using coloured talc. Getting wet should be fun, but anyone who gets coloured talc or a shard of ice in their eye or their girlfriend being rubbed all over with water and talcum powder by another guy is bound to lose their cool.
7) Enjoy Songkran in daylight hours but return home or to your hotel room as darkness sets in, as daylight hours are safer, mainly because people will be merry and not yet drunk.
Above All Have Fun!
Following the steps above at the New Year or at Songkran to avoid becoming a statistic or running into trouble will increase the odds in your favour to have a fantastic time. Nowhere in the world is totally safe and no activity on this planet is perfectly safe. Life just wouldn’t be worth living if we avoided everything out of fear; Songkran, as well as celebrations at the general New Year, simply have to be experienced in life and you would be missing out big time if you didn’t join in at least once. So, common sense should clear the path to being as safe as you possibly can and sets the scene for a fantastic time.