Whether you’re a tried and true resident or a tourist dropping by for the biggest party of the year, Chiang Mai’s Songkran festival is going to be the focus for the next few days. In light of this, the staff at Citylife have a few tips for a safe and enjoyable Songkran experience.
Don’t drive. Traffic around Chiang Mai is infamously foul, but there is a reason that the time around Songkran is known as the “Seven Deadly Days.” Traffic accidents spike 80% from April 11 to 15, and in 2012 there were 320 fatal road accidents. Despite the goverment’s prohibition on alcohol, there will inevitably be drunk drivers posing a danger to others. Even outside of the city, locals in the mountains like to surprise motorcycle drivers by splashing water on them, often resulting in traffic accidents.
Don’t drink the homemade lao khao. There are a lot of people around the Old City handing out free drinks from stalls or the back of pickup trucks, including homemade juices and lao khao. Unfortunately, these drinks can become infected with parasites from the moat water being splashed everywhere. Stick to sealed drinks (and don’t forget to stay hydrated).
Prevent infections. Despite the city’s work to clean the moats before the festival, they still contain many parasites that can make you sick if they get in your eyes, mouth, or ears. When someone dumps water on you, keep your eyes and mouth closed. The best way to prevent ear infections are ear plugs, which you can pick up at your local pharmacy.
Use sunscreen. Although the water being thrown around keeps you cool, it won’t protect you from UV radiation. If you have fair skin, use 30 SPF sunscreen every half hour to stop sunburn from ruining the rest of your festival experience.
Protect your belongings. Nothing is more disappointing than getting soaked all day only to come home to a dead cell phone and a soggy wallet. Street vendors and shops stock waterproof bags the week before Songkran that can be hung around the neck or tucked in a pocket. If you’d like a cheaper option, simply double-bag your knick-knacks in a ziploc.
Have fun and stay safe!