‘You’re going to get wet’: revellers soak up Thailand’s first post-pandemic Songkran water festival

‘You’re going to get wet’: revellers soak up Thailand’s first post-pandemic Songkran water festival

‘You’re going to get wet’: revellers soak up Thailand’s first post-pandemic Songkran water festival


After three years of Covid restrictions, Songkran celebrations marking the Thai new year have returned in full swing, with water fights across the country.


At Bangkok’s Si Lom Road, street sellers with stocks of colourful water pistols and floral shirts lined the streets, while shops put out tubs of icy water as refills for crowds of tourists and locals. Almost 200 official locations across the capital are holding celebrations for Songkran, and in the Gulf of Thailand, island-wide water fights were under way.


“I think everyone is just extremely happy,” Gavin Arnott, 24, a tourist from Canada, said of Songkran, as he took part in the celebrations. “There’s just a sense of freedom,” he added, before he was cut off mid-sentence by a cascade of water flung from the back of a passing pickup truck. “It’s just so fun, you see people from all walks of life, it brings out every aspect of Thailand.”


Nearby, Som, who was also selling water guns, said that during Covid they hadn’t been able to sell at all. Her 13-year-old daughter, Ing, was helping drum up custom by spraying passersby. “They are happy and having fun,” she said of the crowds of drenched tourists.


During Songkran, it’s traditional to sprinkle water on the hands of elders to mark the new year but festivities in Thailand have also evolved into huge water fights that draw tourists from across the world.


Last year, water fights were officially banned on Khao San Road, a party area popular among foreign tourists, due to the pandemic. It’s hoped festivities, which take place during Thailand’s hottest month, will boost the tourism sector as it recovers from Covid.


Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, the president of the Thai Hotel Association, said that the sector was picking up faster than expected. “There is definitely pent-up demand for travel within Asia. Asia was the last region to recover so there is a lot more room for growth this year,” she said.


Christina Zhang, 22, a tourist from China, where travel restrictions were relaxed in January, said she had visited Thailand because she wanted to experience the Songkran water fights. She came prepared with goggles and a giant water gun, and, by lunchtime, was already soaked. Her advice to other tourists? “Bring the equipment. And if you have enough money, maybe hire a fire truck.”


Similar events were held across the country, including in Chiang Mai, where water fights went ahead despite high levels of air pollution that have plagued the north of Thailand for months.


In Koh Tao, an island in the Gulf of Thailand that’s famous for its diving spots, hundreds travelled to enjoy celebrations. Songkran festivities there last just one day, due to limited water supplies on the island.


However, the water fights are unabated. Tourists are warned to leave mobile phones and cameras at home. Luckily, dry bags, plastic phone covers, as well as water guns are not in short supply. Even the convenience store 7-Eleven covers its cashiers with plastic. People were also encouraged to avoid driving vehicles through the unpredictable plumes of water and busy thoroughfares.


“I feel really excited because it’s my first time and I don’t really know what to expect,” said Spanish visitor Marc Delgado Cruz, 23. “I didn’t buy a water gun so I declare myself a pacifist. Let’s see if that helps.”


British traveller James Stickley, 23, said he was “super excited”. “I’ve obviously heard a lot about it. Everyone seems pretty happy. I haven’t started drinking yet so I’m sure that’ll make it more interesting.” His friend Dylan, also from the UK, was ready to “take on everyone”, adding: “As we get more beers down us … we’ll start some real havoc.”


Those trying to avoid getting wet on Songkran had few options. “Stay at home,” joked dive centre owner, Nantiya Thongnual, 35. “Midday is a super hot time, so that is going to be the ‘water war’ and you’re going to get wet.”


Ratcliffe, R. (2023, April 13). ‘You’re going to get wet’: revellers soak up Thailand’s first post-pandemic Songkran water festival. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/apr/13/youre-going-to-get-wet-revellers-soak-up-thailands-first-post-pandemic-songkran-water-festival

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