Songkran is Thailand’s New Year and the official five days of Songkran 2013 festivities began today. That means, if you’re anywhere in Thailand, you’re likely to be splashed (or drenched) with water as you shop, eat, visit friends, conduct business or head to local tourist attractions. While Songkran is a time to have fun in some Thais eyes, many other Thais worry traditional Songkran customs are being lost.
Songkran 2013 is like any other Songkran. It’s the time when Thais go ‘upcountry’ to be with family, visits temples to make merit, or pay respect to the elders by pouring water on their hands. But, in recent years, Songkran has become a massive water fight in many parts of the country but particularly in tourist areas of Thailand as foreign tourists arrive specifically for Songkran and to get in on the ‘water fight’ action.
The problem is, massive water fights is not really a part of traditional Songkran customs, not to the extent it has ended up being in places like Khao San Road in Bangkok or in Chiang Mai. The other problem is, as foreign visitors to Thailand often don’t understand the importance of the celebration or the traditional Songkran customs that come with it, they sometimes do things they shouldn’t.
Water fights, for instance. If you participate in a Songkran water fight with Thais, almost always it’s a gentle affair that’s nothing more than a bit of fun.
With foreign tourists in Thailand, however, the same Songkran water fight often devolves into something vicious and aggressive and, in some cases, dangerous. Drunk tourists arm themselves with enormous water pistols and then go for your eyes or ears. Not only does it hurt, it can injure you.
So dangerous are some of these Songkran water fights nowadays, in fact, I’ve stopped going to any areas of Bangkok that might be crowded with foreign tourists ready for a Songkran water fight.
That’s why I always tell all my readers, if you are a western tourist visiting Thailand for Songkran, please have a little respect for Thai culture and calm down on the viciousness of your water fights. There’s nothing wrong with a little friendly squirting of water or silly, fun fighting with other parties across the street.
But, when your water fight devolves into aggressive unprovoked attacks at people who are asking you politely to “Stop” or, in some cases, is aimed at young Thai girls who are quite obviously offended and frightened, back off and don’t be a complete idiot. Or someone might get hurt. And that someone may be you.