Songkran: Tips for playing in the world’s biggest water fight

CNN  — 

It’s inevitable.

If you venture outside during Thailand’s annual Songkran New Year festival, which kicks off April 13, you stand a very good chance of getting wet.

But we’re here to help you make sure your time in the splash zone is fun, safe and comfortable.

First of all, what is it?

Often referred to as the world’s biggest water fight, Songkran is a three-day festival during which revelers splash water on each other. This year’s main days of celebration are April 13-15 though some Thai cities stretch out the fun a few extra days.

On the first day of festivities, many families and friends celebrate by visiting temples and pouring water on each others’ hands as a blessing. People also pour water – a symbol of cleansing and purification – over Buddha statues.

Over the years the throwing of water evolved into its current form as a nationwide H2O fight filled with festivals and parties.

Where to join the party?

Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, has a reputation for holding the wildest Songkran festivities.

In Bangkok, Khao San Road and Silom Road are among the most popular places for tourists to celebrate, though water fights take place on many city roads.

Visitors can head to any Bangkok temple to witness the non-chaotic, traditional side of Songkran celebrations.

The merrymaking doesn’t only happen in Thailand, though the festivities there are the most famous.

Countries across Southeast Asia including Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos also celebrate the New Year water festival in mid-April. If you’re not a Songkran veteran, check out the above gallery of tips before you hit the streets.

Seven dangerous days

Unfortunately, there’s a downside to the revelry.

Songkran is the deadliest time of the year to be on the roads in Thailand, as thousands of people head back to their home towns to enjoy the holiday.

According to the English-language Bangkok Post, the so-called “seven dangerous days” of Songkran kicked off Thursday, with reports of 25 people killed and 348 others injured in road accidents.

Last year, a total of 322 Songkran revelers reportedly died and 3,225 others were injured over the seven days surrounding the Songkran festival. Drunken driving was to blame for 36% of last year’s Songkran accidents, while motorbikes were involved in 79% of them.

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Bangkok-based writer Than Rassadanukul contributed to this story.