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Gallery: Songkran's water fights, parties and old-school traditions
A quick guide to the madness and rituals as tourists and locals ring in the Thai new year
Nationwide water fights, traditional Buddhist rituals, parties, parades and plenty of alcohol. The Thai new year, better known as Songkran, is now officially under way.
Running from April 13-16 this year -- some cities stretch the celebrations out for a full week -- Songkran marks the beginning of the new solar year and the summer season in Thailand.
Though Songkran is more famous for the huge water fights that rock the streets of Chiang Mai and popular Bangkok tourist zones like Silom and Khao San Road, there is a traditional side to the event.
On the first day of festivities, families and friends celebrate Songkran by visiting temples and pouring water on each others' hands as a blessing, to start the year filled with good luck. People also pour water -- seen as a way of washing away bad luck -- over Buddha statues.
Over the years, those traditions have evolved into a nationwide water fight, a welcome form of relief given that April is the hottest month of the year.
It's also the busiest time of year for travel, with buses, trains and hotels packed with both Thai and international travelers.
Inevitably, with such revelry comes a downside. Songkran is also the deadliest period of the year for Thailand given the high number of alcohol-related deaths.
Last year, 271 people were reported killed and 3,476 injured in 3,215 reported accidents nationwide over the Songkran holiday. This year, officials say they hope to reduce the number of road-related deaths by rolling out various measures to curb drunk-driving.
Rules of engagement
Though most of the Songkran Festival is good clean fun, there are a few things to keep in mind if you're planning to get in on the water fight action.
Most of it is common sense, really. For one, fight with clean water -- either tap water or the popular large white jugs of water widely available in Thailand.
Hot water will not be appreciated (room temperature is fine), but, given how hot it is outside, most people won't mind if you pour ice-cold water on them as long as you're not hitting them with chunks of ice.
You can fight with water pistols (or in some cases, huge water guns), water buckets (big or small), plastic cups (avoid glass) and even garden hoses. For safety reasons, high pressure guns or hoses are prohibited -- if used, they'll be confiscated and a hefty fine might be issued.
For more Songkran tips, click here.