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Top 10 dos and don’ts for the 2020 Songkran festival

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Top 10 dos and don’ts for the 2020 Songkran festival | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Songkran is a lot of fun but there's also things you can do to protect yourself during the annual festival
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Heading to Thailand for the 2020 Songkran festival? Want to know the dates, where to go and the dos and don’ts for this amazing water festival in Thailand?

Songkran is a single name given to a series of concurrent events – an astrological ‘new year’, a Buddhist festival, the ‘change’ from dry season to wet season and a humongous water festival.

The word “Songkran” comes from the Sanskrit word saṃkrānti, literally “astrological passage”, meaning transformation or change. The term was borrowed from Makar Sankranti, the name of a Hindu harvest festival celebrated in India each January to mark the arrival of spring. The date also coincides with the rising of Aries on the zodiac chart and with the New Year of many countries around South and Southeast Asia.

Whilst Songkran has traditionally been celebrated with a gentle washing of Buddha images and some tame pouring of water amongst relatives, in the last few decades it’s morphed into a big water fight where, if you dare to venture outside on April 13 (and following days in many regions), you WILL get wet. And ‘getting wet’ may not be a gentle tinkle from a kid’s water pistol. It’s just as liable to be an entire bucket of ice-cold water.

Songkran will be held on April 13 but in many of the tourist locations it will run until at least April 15 as well. In Chiang Mai and parts of Pattaya it can run even longer. As a guide, if the locals aren’t throwing water at each other, don’t start pumping litres of water from your plastic weapon – you may have your dates mixed up.

Top 10 dos and don'ts for the 2020 Songkran festival | News by The Thaiger

Somehow the Songkran traditions morphed into a national water fight!

Here’s a few things to do if you want to celebrate Songkran like the locals

1. Use public transport, for your best safety, and to reduce the amount of traffic on the streets. There will be a lot of people travelling on the roads and sois (streets) throughout Songkran as many Thais head home for the holidays (it’s the time of the year when Thailand experiences its worst road toll).

And, if you’re on a motorbike you’re going to end up with buckets of water thrown at you by enthusiastic locals lining the streets. Take a taxi or any other transport, or walk. Parking will also be at a premium on the day, especially at the Songkran party hotzones.

2. Learn a few phrases for the day. “Sawasdee pee mai” (Happy New Year) is a great start. This is a good way to pass on your good wishes to the locals on their special day of celebration. If you’re carrying your latest expensive Nikon with interchangeable lenses for the day you better learn “Mai!” (no!) and point to your investment whilst shouting at the same time. Even better, leave your expensive camera at home, take a waterproof smartphone instead, or carry your camera or phone in a sealable plastic pouch.

3. If you’re going to go Thai Traditional for the day and visit a local temple (Wat), dress appropriately and follow the lead of the locals in regards to ceremonies and behaviour. Make sure your knees and shoulders are covered. Pour water from around the neck of the Buddha statue, not over the head. It’s also traditional to pour water onto older people’s hands to indicate your gratitude. Don’t bother packing your water pistol if you’re heading to the temple, it’s a much more gentle celebration here.

4. Put all your important stuff and electronic devices into a zip-lock plastic bag – passport, camera, money. Even better, leave your valuable things at home or in the hotel safe. If you head outside on the Songkran days, you WILL get wet, so don’t act surprised or get angry if someone hurls a bucket of water at you as you wander down the street. It will be done with a smile and with the best of intentions. Save your Sunday clothes for church or a visit to meet the mother-in-law.

5. Some clothes can become very revealing when wet (hence the wet T-shirt competitions??). So wear a swimsuit underneath your clothes. What may be an accident could end up with a few giggles, but may be offensive to some people and even get you arrested.

6. There will be pick-pockets around on the day, especially in the touristy areas. With all the confusion, noise, moisture and bodies, you’ll be an easy target if you haven’t taken precautions to make it difficult for a pick-pocket to lift your valuables without you even knowing.

7. Wear waterproof sunblock. It’s the hottest time of the year and whilst all the water, fun and noise will distract you for hours, the sun will keep beating down and leave with a nasty sunburn if you don’t take precautions. You may be on holidays but the sun isn’t.

8. Eat properly beforehand and make sure you hydrate throughout the day. You’re going to burn plenty of energy and keeping hydrated is really important. Even though there’s lots of water flying around, you need to keep drinking fresh water whilst you’re out enjoying yourself. And DON’T drink the ‘water’ they’re putting in the buckets or water pistols. It could be from anywhere – it certainly won’t be fresh drinking water.

On that point, you’re going to end up sloshing around in a filthy swill of dirty water combined with sweat, suncream, spilled drinks and heaven-knows-what. And some of this is going to end up sprayed, maybe straight into your face. If you have cuts or abrasions you’d be mad not to cover these up and do your best to avoid getting avoidable infections. Songkran can be a potential health hazard!

9. There are plenty of ‘weapons of choice’ available for a serious Songkran assault. But the larger pump-style water cannons are generally frowned upon these days. You’ll be much happier with a smaller water pistol rather trying to stumble around with a few kilos of water all afternoon. Remember, it’s not the size of your weapon, it’s how you use it!

10. In the party locations Songkran is all about noise, fun and probably lots of alcohol as well. If you plan on having a few drinks whilst you’re water-playing as well, make sure you have friends around that can support you on the day, and night. Whilst the intention is to have awesome fun, it can get messy and potentially dangerous. Not everyone visiting the Songkran hotspots has your best intentions at heart.

HERE’S a few places and local festivals to enjoy your Songkran around Thailand this year.

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Songkran

Thai traffic jam as tourists wait for the Koh Chang ferry

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Thai traffic jam as tourists wait for the Koh Chang ferry | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Khaosod

There’s been a traffic jam in, of all places, Trat, as impatient domestic tourists waited for the ferry to head to Koh Chang from the mainland. The island was invaded by Thais getting out of town for the long LONG weekend and, despite the forward bookings, the traffic police and ferry operator weren’t ready for the onslaught.

The long weekend runs from yesterday through to the end of Monday, 2 days public holiday to make up for the postponed Songkran celebrations in April, which were cancelled amidst the middle of Thailand’s outbreak of Covid-19. Over 10,000 tourists were scheduled to arrive on the island yesterday and today. Cars lined up for more than 3 hours to catch the Ferry from Ao Thmmachat Pier to the pier on Koh Chang. The Khaosod reported that at least 1,000 cars were lined up to get on the ferry at Ao Thammachat that will take them to Koh Chang Island.

Despite being one of the country’s largest islands in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Chang has remained somewhat off the mass tourism development footprint (Phuket is the largest, Koh Samui second and Koh Chang third). In 2019 the island’s hotel market hosted 1.2 million guests at its 272 tourism establishments that feature 7,617 rooms, with more on the way. Hotel occupancy for Koh Chang teeters between the mid to high 60’s, though the off season sees numbers often drop by half, like other islands around Thailand.

Perhaps the biggest barrier to entry for new larger hotels in Koh Chang remains the lack of direct airlift and dependence on the privately operated Trat airport, not far from the pier on the mainland. The distance across the channel, between the 2 piers, is about 3 kilometres.

The Koh Chang Deputy Municipal Clerk said that over 10,000 tourists had been waiting to travel the island early yesterday but that 1,000 cars had already crossed over to the island before lunchtime. About 2,000 cars were estimated to have crossed onto Koh Chang in the past 2 days. The cars are expected to wait at least 3 hours just to get back onto a ferry for the ride home.

Mainland police did their best to manage the additional holiday traffic in the area. Police said they received dozens of reports from motorists complaining about the wait to get catch the ferry to Koh Chang with most reporting the wait of 2-3 hours. The piers and related officials will have to find a solution so tourists don’t have to wait so long on holidays. Local residents and Koh Changians think it’s high time for a bridge to be constructed from the mainland to the island so cars can drive directly into the island, just like Phuket.

SOURCE: Khaosod English

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Economy

Hotel bookings bounce back for long weekend holiday

Jack Burton

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Hotel bookings bounce back for long weekend holiday | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Web Design Thailand

The long holiday weekend is reportedly seeing heavy bookings at hotels and resorts, reigniting hopes of a revival of domestic tourism, which has been battered for months by the Covid-19 outbreak. Accommodations in the southern provinces in particular have been receiving a good rate of bookings with holidaymakers for the 4 day extended weekend.

The tourism authoritiy of Thailand says hotels and resorts in coastal provinces in the East and seaside provinces in the South are reporting a surge in bookings to 80% and 90% occupancy over the 4 day weekend, which kicked off yesterday. It should be noted that not all resorts are open and than many have opened a select number of rooms, skewing the TAT’s rosy picture for the holiday break.

Tomorrow is a substitute holiday for Songkran and Tuesday is the birthday of HM King Maha Vachiralongkhorn.

In the eastern Rayong province, where an infected Egyptian airman stayed and sparked a public scare 2 weeks ago, a large banner was put up in the central business district thanking people nationwide for supporting the province through the crisis. It’s now been 14 days and none of those who came in contact with the Egyptian airman have tested positive for the virus. After testing thousands, authorities have declared Rayong is now free of Covid-19… again.

In Pattaya, several large beachfront hotels say their bookings have jumped to a strong 90% from July 24-28. Pattaya is one of the most popular seaside destinations as it is close to Bangkok. The heavy hotel bookings are believed to be a result of sales promotions and the Rao Thiew Duay Kan (Let’s Travel Together) tourism campaign, in which the government offers subsidies for holidays.

In neighbouring Trat province, hotels and resorts on Koh Chang and Koh Kut islands were nealry booked out. The province’s 2 ferry piers were jam-packed yesterday with cars waiting to board a ferry to the islands.

In Phuket, the director of the TAT’s provincial office said about 6,000 mostly Thai tourists visited the resort island during the previous long weekend from July 4-7, when more than 30 million baht was injected into the local economy. She says she expects the current long weekend will bring even more tourism money. Despite the positive outlook from the TAT, the island’s main tourist town of Patong has been very quiet with fewer than 30% of the shops open.

The Phuket province also expects about 50,000 medical and health workers to visit and take advantage of the government-sponsored Kamlang Chai (moral support) tourism program, which provides a discount for 1.2 million medical and health workers nationwide as incentive to travel.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Songkran

New Songkran ‘replacement’ holiday added on July 27

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New Songkran ‘replacement’ holiday added on July 27 | The Thaiger

The Thai government has declared July 27 the first of, what will probably be, substitute Songkran holidays. This year’s Songkran holiday was postponed as the April 13 Thai New Year holiday, and the days around it, were right in the middle of Thailand’s outbreak of Covid-19 and subsequent ‘lockdowns’.

Songkran celebrates the start of Thailand’s wet season. The first replacement holiday falls right in the middle of the country’s wet season.

Narumon Pinyosinwat, speaking for the Thai government, says the decision was made today. But despite the ‘substitution’ date being announced, – it falls on a Monday, making it a long weekend – there was no talk of water fights and the usual celebrations associated with the annual Songkran. With the emergency decree also extended until the end of July (it was officially sanctioned today), there will likely be a ban in place at the time on “large gatherings”. There is no mention of how the remaining 2 days of the postponed Songkran break will be distributed at this stage.

There is also another public holiday on July 28, which is His Majesty the King’s birthday, so the long weekend will now become an EXTRA long weekend. Traditionally Songkran sees an exodus from the main cities as Thais head home for the annual holiday. The four day long weekend (and you can be assured that many Thais will also take off the Friday before as well), will give Thailand an extended break to celebrate the Thai New Year.

SOURCE: Khaosod English

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