Imagine millions of people racing around a city armed to the teeth with super-soakers, water bombs and hosepipes – each with one sole purpose in mind: to saturate every single human being they encounter. Welcome to Songkran in Bangkok.
Celebrated between the 13th – 15th April, Songkran is the traditional Thai New Year and takes place at a time when temperatures in Thailand reach their peak – in Bangkok the mercury regularly hits 95°F. For over three days, a variety of festivities and religious ceremonies take place, including the offering of food to monks at the local wat or monastery. But without doubt, the big event is the massive water fight that engulfs the country.
The act of dousing everyone in sight is actually a ritual based on the idea that bad luck and misfortune are symbolically washed away. Of course in the dripping heat of April, this mammoth water fight also comes as a pretty welcome relief from the sweltering heat.
During this national holiday, many locals actually leave Bangkok and head up country to see far-flung family, but in no way does this dampen the mood in the capital. In many areas, the city’s famously clogged streets shudder to a complete standstill as thousands of people hurl themselves into the madness.
Smiling Assassins launch water bombs from shop windows. Giggling kids parade the streets with water pistols looking to drench anyone that falls between their crosshairs. And people pile into the back of pick-up trucks loaded with water tanks and proceed to hurl bucket after bucket at anything that moves. Or doesn’t move for that matter.
If you’re outdoors, it’s virtually impossible to escape getting thoroughly soaked. Basically, if you choose to step outside for a nanosecond, consider yourself a fully-fledged Songkran participant. Even people driving past on motorbikes are considered fair game, so if you head to Bangkok and choose to rent a bike, it’s worth bearing in mind you might find yourself a sitting duck.
If you’d rather just keep well out of things, you’d better be prepared to bolt the door and stay inside for the duration of the festival – it’s pretty much the only guarantee of staying bone-dry. But if you’re up for getting in on the action, head over to Khao San Road as this is generally where the biggest and baddest water fights break out. Oh, and don’t think for a second that being a tourist means you’ll somehow get off lightly. Far from it. If anything, the locals will gleefully pick you out as a prime target for a proper good soaking (all in the spirit of good fun, obviously!)
After three days, pretty much every man, woman and child in the city is left dripping wet. So if you’re heading to Bangkok during Songkran, come prepared – light clothes, goggles and perhaps a snorkel will serve you well.