Songkran 2012

No one is trustworthy.  Even a small child will not hesitate to attack you from behind.  The amount of times I got shot in the butt is beyond count.  Single barrel, double barrel, pump action, shield guards and full on buckets regulate the city.  You cannot escape, the second you step out of your door, you will be rushed.  I made it half a block, once, before I was surrounded and drenched from head to my squeaky flip flops.  Songkran is the celebration of the Thai New Year and one immensely good time.

A couple of weeks ago, I wished my Thai friend a happy First Day of Summer.  He immediately shook his head and told me that Thais do not like summer.  I now truly understand why.  The weather gets above 100 degrees and the humidity is a serial suffocater.  Air Condition buildings are scarce and my room stays in the high 80s through out the night.  It’s been so bad that I can’t even use my laptop during the day because it overheats.

But for three days, I could spend my time stepping into a conveyer belt bathtub known as Songkran, The Water Festival, and forget that only a few days ago I was just as wet with sweat.  People of every age engage in a water fight that you literally cannot escape from.  Especially in Chiang Mai, where the center of the city (old city) is surrounded by the remnants of a city wall and a water fight armory of a moat. Inhabiters are known to get itchy water gun trigger fingers and turn the three day celebration into a five day water park.

The real reason for celebration:
Songkran is the traditional New Year’s Day, celebrated from April 13th-15th because it coincides with many other South and Southeast Asian calendars.  Originally, the date changed every year with the stars, but has now been set at the end of the dry season – the hottest time of the year.  
Along with Western traditions, New Years is a time for family, friends and renewal.  I learned the hard way that buses and trains can be booked full for the entire week with people returning to their towns and villages to visit family.  Some Thais make resolutions, some “spring clean,”  but most take time to pay respect to Buddha and others by sprinkling water (sometimes mixed with Thai fragrance) as a sign of “washing all the bad away.” Which is seen as a way to bring good luck and prosperity for the New Year.  (more on traditions, with a later update)

The more dangerous side of Songkran:

Despite the amazingly good energy that fills the city, there are some issues that I discovered are not to be overlooked.  First off, it’s extremely easy to forget that you are still in 100 degree weather for up to 8 hours a day for three days.  I was one of the ton of victims from heat sickness.  Sour stomach, killer headaches, fever and the need to sleep and recover for a whole day are the big effects.  Shade and (ironically) water are the main cures for such ailments.

The worst issue is traffic accidents.  http://travel.state.gov/ sends out Travel Alerts when there is a state of emergency happening in the world.  When a government is overrun, a tsunami is going to destroy a town, and when there are so many traffic accidents that there is a warning for “Songkran road conditions.”  Even a close friend of mine crashed on her scooter when she got a bucket full of water to the face, while driving down the highway (She is OK thanks to her commando roll instincts)

During the event, I mounted my GoPro camera to the side of my water gun.  I’m currently in the process of editing my experience over the week into a short video.  I will update this post with a link and more info when it is finished.  Until then, feel free to sign up for my newsletter at:  http://eepurl.com/hFlmI

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