When Australians think of Thailand, two things generally come to mind. First, it’s the sandy white beaches, and the laid-back island lifestyle. Second, the congested, polluted, and gritty urban centre of the megalopolis that is the City of Bangkok.
There is a third aspect of Thailand that Australians will often think of, involving Ping Pong balls being used in an extremely non-conventional manner. This is only because Australians have the dirtiest minds of any nationality (bar the Irish). Ping Pong balls should be considered a rather niche reason for Thai tourism, and not the focus of this article.
Half of the Australian readers just clicked “close”.
If you’re Australian, and you haven’t been to Thailand, you might be thinking, “hey, we’re an island of laid back people, we have sandy white beaches galore, and even a couple of large gritty cities, so what’s in Thailand for me?”. Well, Bruce’s and Kylie’s of Australia, the time has come to give up on Bali, and book your Sydney to Phuket flights. There’s more to Thailand than you would believe.
Every year, around April, Thailand hosts the worlds largest water fight. The local version of New Years is known as “Songkran”, and for Australians, there isn’t possibly a better time to visit Thailand. Going well into the territory of semi-anarchy (a territory Thai’s are particularly adept at exploring), the Songkran water festival is every water fight you could imagine, times a million.
Nobody is safe from attack. All city streets, all over Thailand, are transformed into temporary war zones. Every citizen is armed and trigger happy. From small children with tiny water pistols, through to roving gangs of smiling adults driving the latest pickup-trucks that have been converted into mobile water canons, everyone takes part. If you head outdoors, you will get wet, whether you like it or not.
Being known as “The Land of Smiles”, it’s quite the experience being a foreigner, and being openly welcomed to take part in such an authentic large scale traditional festival. Everybody is a participant in the Songkran water festival. As opposed to many other cultural festivals that Australian’s might attend, and simply stand on the sidelines gawking at the procession as it passes them by, taking part in such a Thai festival is something you will never forget.
It can be quite the culture shock for an Australian. Despite our easy going nature, quite simply, in the modern nanny-state that Australia has become, a festival like Songkran could never be a reality. Can you imagine the number of Council meetings, health code violations, and law-breaking that a country-wide water fight in Australia would entail? Thailand can be an eye-opener for sure – a pure demonstration of how people can have fun, on the cheap, without anybody getting hurt or fined.
Of course, there are a couple of precautions you should take. First, if you take a camera, you should assume it will be destroyed by water. The locals will, with a toothy grin, target the camera for their own pure enjoyment. Same goes for a mobile phone. Basically, electronics are not going to survive the Thai Songkran experience.
Songkran 2013 will begin on April the 13th. I should mention, this water fight lasts anywhere from a few days to a week, depending on where exactly in Thailand you find yourself.
I recommend Bangkok for the big city feel, or Phuket for the island experience. Either way, you’ll be sure to have an unforgettable time celebrating what is surely one of the best festivals you will ever attend.
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