You are about to step into any 5 year old’s dream of dreams. Welcome to one of the craziest national activities on the planet. You’re about to get soaked to the bone and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.
Traditionally, Songkran (Thai New Year, although it’s also celebrated on a smaller scale in other South East Asian countries) was a rather subdued and spiritual affair, with everyone gathering to bless each other with little droplets of water from a small bowl, often with fragrant herbs added, in order to wash away the bad and begin the New Year afresh. Then some 5 year olds figured out that taking the whole practice to a new level was incredible amounts of fun, which handily coincided with the invention of the Super Soaker.
You have just arrived from the airport for the festivities, you have your brand new backpack full of travelling ‘essentials’ on your back, you are bright eyed and bushy tailed… and suddenly the world turns upside down as a huge bucket of green coloured, ice cold water soaks through your undies, Iphone, Passport and emergency teabags.
Disaster has struck… but rewind just a second. You have the Rat & Dragon team on your side, so make sure to take these precautions first:
1) Keep your bag at home
It’s definitely a good idea to avoid travelling on the first day of Songkran and up to 5 days after depending on where you’re heading. Whilst most places including Koh Phi Phi are only crazy for the day, Chiang Mai and Bangkok’s Khao San can see you being drenched at any point in the days to come. Mostly, overzealous tourists and the more crazy kind of local, often armed with Wiskey & Redbull buckets, are to blame. Either way, if you don’t want your stuff to get ruined, keep it well away from the streets.
2) Waterproof your phone
Finding friends, taking pictures, calling your mum when you’re really drunk and realize how much you love her whilst de-tagging yourself from all the pics of you throwing up on facebook is only possible if you have that most valuable possession of the modern backpacker on you. Your phone is your cherished connection to the world beyond your blurry field of vision, and numerous shops will be selling waterproof, transparent, and even touch sensitive pouches for your mobile device. Seal it up, and snap happy but remember, don’t drop it in the sea or the loo – your phone will be a gonner.
3) Get your Go Pro out, stick it on your water gun
Nothing captures the spirit of Songkran quite the same as a GoPro in the middle of the action. Check out our very own frontline report from Phi Phi 2014. For an extra bit of oomph, don’t hold it or brand yourself a tool by selfie-ing with a telescopic stick. With the help of a roll bar mount or even just a good helping of duct tape, you can create your very own Super Soaker cam, by mounting your GoPro on your water gun of choice, facing towards your victims (or toward you, if you’re into that kind of thing).
4) Buy beer cheep at flooded 7 Eleven
Bars will waterproof themselves, stay open for all the action and charge accordingly for booze. If you’re on a budget, don’t be scared to go into 7 Eleven (which if on Phi Phi will most likely be under 3cm of water everyone has to slosh through to get to the fridge), hand over your dripping 100 baht notes and stock up on cheap Tiger.
5) Eat enough or get supplies in advance
All that partying will dehydrate you, and all the beer will do so even more. Keep your energy levels up and party longer by adding regular fuel to your body. It’s easy to forget to eat if you’ve started partying at 9am, but actively make sure to get a good breakfast, a quick lunch and a dinner or two – preferably down a side alley out of view, and FAST! Otherwise, before you can say ‘not spicy’, someone will be washing your Pad Thai straight out of your hand with a nearby hose. It may also be an idea to stock up on emergency snacks the day before, as many restaurants will close early.
6) “Mummy’s wearing Chanel, darling”
If you haven’t clocked on by now, here it is in plain English: during Songkran, you are going to get wetter than you ever have been in your entire life. Wetter than whilst being underwater, in fact. The best thing to do is wear a bikini/board shorts and clothes over the top that a) are easily wrung out and b) can be thrown away at the end of the day if need be. Many people add extra kicks to their waterpower by putting food colouring to their tanks, which looks awesome when green and red splattered people run down the streets after each other, but can also stain your favourite Gucci. Talcum powder also features heavily and people are covered in it on a regular basis – so again, you have been warned.
7) Keep warm – and don’t get naked
Remember that whilst you’re having ice cubes shoved down the back of your Chang singlet, that even in a country as hot as Thailand, you can catch a cold. Make sure you’re a comfortable temperature at all times – avoid both heatstroke and flu. You can get arrested for nakedness, so try your best to keep your kit on, and consider taking a break to warm up after about 10 hours. Remember that at nighttime, there are no warming rays to dry your clothes, so stay away from the ice cubes.
8) Get some kick ass tat sunglasses
Whilst it’s frowned upon, sometimes you will get a squirt of water straight into your eyeball. To avoid this, consider buying some cheap sunglasses to a) look mega Breaking Bad/DEA-chic, b) protect yourself from pinkeye.
9) Beware of dirty water
With all these water guns that need filling, constantly and for free, you can imagine what goes into the ground during the festivities. No matter how appealing it may look, joining those other guys with the camel toe tattoos from Manchester as they take over the neighbours’ kid’s paddling pool is probably not the best idea after 5 hours of mixing body fluids. Whatever you do, don’t drink any of it and try and keep it out of your eyes and nose. And take a shower once in a while, cause you’re probably dirty.
10)Stay safe, enjoy and forgive
As with any mass party, staying on the safe side of crazy is always a good idea. Road traffic accidents double during Songkran, so stay away from motorbikes and pick up trucks as much as you can and as always, use your common sense. Smaller accidents can easily happen with people frantically giggling and blindly shooting water at each other. Make sure you enjoy yourself, take a break if you get fed up, forgive others for mistakes and keep cool so everyone has a good time.
11)DON’T get a tattoo
That is all.
Songkran is one of the world’s top festive experiences, whether you’re a 5 year old in body or at heart. You can see what it all looks like in real life in our Phi Phi 2014 report, and we would love to hear your experiences from different parts of this beautiful country.