Just a few days before the Songkran holidays and I was at Jomtien immigration stuck in a 2 hour queue. At this time of year it is always the same. Expats needing to get re entry permits so that they can leave the country and escape the water fighting. For long term expats Songkran equates to nothing more than – unfortunately – one big dangerous water fight. Well, it certainly does living in Pattaya and this goes someway into explaining why Songkran is disliked by so many expats.
I wrote a while back in one or my blogs relating the holiday period to the Hollywood blockbuster the purge, and it was met with mixed reviews from readers. How can a public holiday ever be described as something so sinister? Yes, I get that and it was perhaps going over board, but I do not know any other public holiday in the world where over 300 people are expected to die in the celebrations. It is ridiculous.
Just this week authorities said they would try and clamp down on the sales and consumption of alcohol during this period but also added that they felt it would make no difference. It is almost an impossible ‘party’ for the police to get hold of as it is – in the nicest terms – social anarchy. Too many people are involved for it to be controlled. Initially police said they would not allow people to sit in the back of trucks and throw water, and, by the way, it is actually a criminal offense full stop to travel with passengers sitting in a back of a truck, and now police say it will be acceptable. So laws are laxed during Songkran.
Us long term expats that exodus the country during this period often get tarnished as party poopers, but I have seen too much over the years to make me this way. I personally know people who have been killed in these celebrations, and it is always when a motorbike is involved.
Yes I know of the wonderful traditions and core principles behind Songkran, and they are wonderful. A time for us all to cleanse ourselves and show respect to our elders, but this does not equate to what you see in the streets of Pattaya, Phuket, Bangkok and the likes at peak periods of Songkran.
Case in point, it was reported that in Pattaya Soi 7 on Tuesday 10th April that some of the bars have already started throwing water in the street. Come on, the holiday period is between the 13th and 16th – what is going on here?
I love when I see Thais all wearing their brightly coloured shirts in the build up to Songkran, I love when I see families holding their own special celebrations that include young and old. But to move around the streets and go about your normal life in Pattaya is impossible without getting water thrown over you.
Parts of the country from Pattaya to Bangkok becomes one big playground – it is certainly impressive to see – but you spot potential accidents wherever you look. People drinking, dancing and jumping on and off the back of moving trucks to party with different groups along the road. All the time motorbikes drive in and out of this – with maybe three people on these bikes and all with no helmets – it is scary stuff.
Songkran is impressive though. Where else can you party so hard with so many people? But when you have been in Thailand many years it is easier just to jump on a plane and say ‘Have fun Thailand and I will see you next week when it is all finished’.