It is true – I hate Songkran. When you look at the pictures and the videos, it appears that everyone had SO MUCH FUN! But there is another side to the madness.
Songkran was supposed to be a two or three day celebration. Who could argue or complain about only two or three days of water fun? If you didn’t want to participate, you could stay home, do your shopping and your errands early and stay out of the madness. In fact, if it was only two days, you might be willing to participate.
And it was not called a “water fight” as it is today (often promoted as the “biggest water fight in the world”). It was a gentle time, with DROPS or SPRINKLES of water being doused on others — the elder for example, as a sign of respect. Young people poured scented water into the hands of elders and parents as a mark of respect while seeking the blessing of the older people. And as the Thai New Year is in April, the hottest month of the year, the water was meant as a kind way to “cool” others around you. But, you asked permission before putting water on anyone.
That is not the Songkran of today. In Pattaya, the “celebration” or MADNESS, has been extended to NINE days. Imagine having to go to Immigration to take care of your visa. You can’t go without being soaked. It doesn’t matter that you hold up your hand and say “no thank you” while you are riding the baht bus (our public transportation), because that only makes you a bigger target.
In fact, among those keeping score, extra points are given for soaking people that DO NOT want to participate, and for those wearing glasses. Sounds like friendly event doesn’t it? And don’t forget, the water is often the dirtiest water that could be found, to which the revelers add ICE BLOCKS to make sure it is as cold as possible.
Take a look at the image above. This is one of the pictures you don’t see much from Thailand because it goes against the “FUN of SONGKRAN” concept that the tourist board attempts to sell. As the captions reads, this was a group of tourists, who are out for a day of shopping and sight-seeing. They are dressed, with their cameras and back-packs around their necks clearly visible in the picture. They don’t have water guns and are clearly not participating in the activities. AND THIS GOES ON FOR NINE DAYS IN PATTAYA! That is why we must put everything important in plastic bags or protectors to go anywhere or do anything.
But if the cold, dirty, smelly water isn’t enough to get your attention, wait until you get attacked with the powder. And just like with everything else during Songkran, it won’t be a light “dusting” of powder. From history, “the white paste is a sign of protection and promises to ward off evil”. It is now brought by evil.
On the final days, trouble makers and drunks will walk up to you and physically push the powder into your eyes and ears and mouth if they can. Does she look like she is having fun and enjoying the attention? I don’t think so.
A few areas banned the use of powder, saying that it gave men an excuse to molest women while applying the powder. Although I don’t agree with their reason, I do agree with their idea – ban the use of powder. But this is Thailand – they can’t ban anything. They banned the of “water cannons” but every drunk foreigner still has on.
Some people use a talcum-type powder, while others use clay. According to Ajaya Malakrong, chief of the TINT’s Thai Irradiation Centre, few revelers are aware that the white paste they apply to their faces during the festival often contains germs, bacteria, viruses and yeast, which can result in conditions ranging from blisters to blood infections. Now, doesn’t that sound like fun?
Others have written first person accounts of their angle with Songkran. Here is one I like:
The problem comes in the week before the official day. The vast majority of the people in Pattaya just want/need to get on with normal life during this period; but their are a small army … who are determined to [ruin] … things for their own enjoyment. And the embarrassing thing is that [they] … are mainly foreigners.To them, this is Songkran and everyone is a target; irrespective of the willingness of their victims. First, an old couple, smartly dressed, walking down the road minding their own business; until the arseholes outside a bar tipped a bucket of water over them. The old lady was soaked and close to tears, the old gentleman was shaking with anger. Their attackers just laughed.A little further down the road a Thai lady on a motorbike was going or coming from work; smartly dressed in some kind of uniform. And finally a young couple with a baby in a pushchair. All three soaked, pushchair awash and baby screaming.
Notice the word he used … “their attackers”. Because that is what it boils down to — an attack. I didn’t give my permission and I intentionally chose not to participate. Over the course of NINE days, I have to go out and take care of my business – I LIVE HERE. Imagine in your own country, not being able to comfortably shop, go for an interview, go to the Police Station, or go to dinner with your wife, without someone pouring a bucket of cold water on your head.
Or better yet – imagine riding a motorcycle and your are hit with such a force of water that you nearly wreck your bike. Take a look at the picture to the right. Although this is an extreme example of the kind of madness Songkran brings, look closely.
Two people are riding on a motorcycle when they are hit with a fire hose! The pressure alone is enough to knock them completely off the bike. And what happens if the car or truck driving behind them doesn’t see them fall because of all the water thrown on their windshield? People die during Songkran.
In 2014, the year I am sharing my hatred of Songkran, “There have been 248 deaths and 2643 injuries on Thailand’s roads. And no, that’s not the yearly total so far. That’s over a period of just FIVE DAYS.” And that is the official release from the Government.
A huge portion of the drivers are drunk. And even though we consider the foreigners to be the worst when it comes to Songkran, these injuries and deaths are mostly of Thais!
“Little kids seem to love the holiday, but little kids can also watch the same cartoon over and over and over again without getting bored.” And if you read between the lines, this one statement says a lot for the type of person who enjoys coming to Thailand for this madness.
So parents, remember. When you come to Thailand during Songkran, you are not getting the Thailand that you should be presenting to your children. It is a wild, raunchy, dirty and miserable time.
Don’t think of it as the “biggest water fight in the world” … think of it as the “biggest wet t-shirt contest in the world.”
It is your choice.