So now that we’re a few days past Songkran, I figured it was time to put pen to paper (euphamistically speaking of course) about our first New Year holiday in Thailand. The first thing worth noting is that the Thai’s celebrate several New Years Holidays during the year (World, Thai, Chinese and often individual tribes have a new year celebration of their own).
I’ll dispense with the not so fun part about Songkran: over the course of the 7-day holiday there were 364 deaths, 3,559 injuries, 3,373 accidents with 39% of the accidents attributed to drunk driving. With a little over 80% of the accidents involving motorbikes, it’s not terribly difficult to understand why there are so many (unfortunate) deaths. I sure appreciated being in a smaller town though, I’m sure Chiang Rai had it’s share of accidents but we didn’t see any ourselves. It was fairly clear as the week progressed that alcohol consumption and it’s prevalence in and around motor vehicles was on the rise, so we made it a point not to be on the road much more than was necessary.
One thing that I really appreciate about the Thai culture is that many businesses were closed for several days, the last few days of the 7 day holiday period, the whole town seemed to be shut down … we couldn’t even get a massage. Often, the businesses that were open, the employees were stationed outside their shops armed with water guns, buckets, or trash cans full of water waiting for willling, and sometimes unwilling, participants to pass by. We saw trucks with 8 – 10 people (from age 6 – 60) packed in the back, and if they weren’t all armed with super soakers, there was sure to be a 50 gallon drum of water (ice cold often) in the back. And there was no safe haven, we live on the outskirts of town and figured the “action” would all be in town …. NOPE …. the locals that run the small ma & pa shops, or live along the road, all had their buckets at the ready. They often had cones out in the road and would walk out into the lane to get our attention and slow us down ….. just to have buckets of water poured over our heads. It was all very good spirited though, I never felt like anyone was being “aggressive” about wetting us. However, we actually made it a point not to go out one day after a few days of getting absolutely drenched on the road no matter what path we took to or around town. We were able to “wave off” a few dryness saboteurs one afternoon but so many of the businesses were closed it wasn’t worth the effort.
Can you imagine what the news headlines would read after a holiday like this in the States? “Dozens dead as gun shots ensue from giant water fight in Los Angeles” … OR … “Over 7-day period, cops kill 10 citizens carrying life-like water guns because they “feared” for their dryness” … OR … “OC woman sues child 8, for making her spray-on-tan run”. But here’s the thing, the water tossing and wetting is a symbolic blessing. I suppose that in a country where 95% of the population is buddhist, the symbolism of the whole event is not lost on very many. Even the people that were trying to avoid getting wet, but did, were good spirited about it. But I will say, I targeted dry, unsuspecting foreigners as often as possible. Talk about a return to childhood, I don’t think I took a break at all one afternoon I was having so much fun.
For anyone that is thinking about visiting Thailand, Songkran is definitely one of those holidays that is unique to this region of the planet and would be worth the time. If your time is limited and you want to do a lot of other “tourist” related activities while here, it would be smart to allocate some time before or after the Songkran holiday for those activities.
The main street, standing room only.