Happy Songkran! (April 13, 2014)

It’s Sunday and this is Songkran. Songkran is the festival celebrating the traditional Thai New Year. Prior to adopting a western calendar around World War II, Songkran was based on the solar calendar and its time varied from year to year. Today, it is celebrated between the 13th and 15th of April. For many Thai, the festival retains respectful traditions and religious significance. Celebrations include temple visits, religious ceremonies, family reunions, and annual house cleaning (I partook in this! See: So this is work). There is a great deal of symbolism involved, water having several different significances. Water was originally poured on elders as a sign of respect and humility. The water is seen to wash away last year’s misfortunes and is a symbol of a new start. For most Thai, the festival has become less religiously significant and a whole lot of fun. Pouring water on elders has devolved into a citywide (if not countrywide) water fight replete with super soakers. Yes, spraying others is still a gesture of goodwill, and smiles abound, but it is also fun and generates some good-natured competition. White talc mixed with water is also smeared on the faces of others as a blessing. This water fight is incredibly timely as April is the hottest month of the year in Thailand, and it is also (here comes another) a symbol of the coming rainy season.

On a darker note, Songkran is an incredibly dangerous time to be on the road in Thailand. The festival time is referred to as the seven dangerous days, which run from April 11-17. In the first two days this year (the 11th and 12th) 102 were killed and nearly 900 injured in road accidents. Perhaps the celebration is a little too big as the government chocks this up to drunk driving and speeding. I would conjecture that having so many people traveling, and generally in the streets is also a factor. And, given that 80% of these incidents have involved motorcycles, perhaps driving on the sidewalk is another problem???

I headed to Silom road, home of the biggest water fight (though trust me, they occur everywhere). My experience looked something like this (again sorry about the quality):

http://youtu.be/jSXyPwPQJFk

P.S. I love that even the fire/rescue crews are in on it!

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