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From Spain’s La Tomatina, to Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival and India’s Holi Festival, the world is full of amazing cultural celebrations that fill us with awe and amusement. They inspire travelers and photographers everywhere to pack their bags and head for the far corners of the planet. One of my favorites happens this month in Thailand – The Songkran Festival.

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Songkran is one of the most unique ways of ringing in a new year anywhere in the world. Songkran is much more than just a typical Near Year’s celebration with a countdown leading up to some confetti and a few fireworks – it is a festival steeped deep in a cultural tradition of washing away sins in water that has evolved into an epic nationwide water fight and street party. It’s not just Thais who love Songkran – an estimated half million tourists will take up arms in the glorious water fights throughout the busy streets of Thailand’s cities.

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The Songkran Festival lasts a full three days from April 13th-15th and coincides with the New Year celebrations in many parts of Asia. The festival holds a very important place in Thai society, with most locals getting up to a week off from work and school. Songkran also falls on what are typically some of the hottest days of the year for Thai residents, which makes the water wars even more satisfying. The tradition started with families pouring water over themselves when they visited temples as a form of spiritual cleansing, and overtime has grown into an all-out water war that no one, including the police, is exempt from! In present day Songkran celebrations, Thais and foreigners alike arm themselves with whatever water wielding weapon can be found – buckets, hoses, water guns – you name it, they have it. If you’re lucky, you might even get drenched by an elephant.

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It’s more than just water. Songkran is a street party that doesn’t end for days. It’s a festival to please all of the senses, with music and dancing filling the streets both day and night. This is a time to completely wash away the old year and roll in the next on a high note.

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If you happen to ever make it to Thailand for this amazing festival, there are a couple things to be aware of. Thailand has some of the most dangerous roadways in the world, and deaths during the festival’s three days can reach into the hundreds. Festival time is madness on the roads due to the influx of tourists and the 2 million or so Thais that will travel within the country during the festival’s three day stretch. It’s become so bad that the week around festival time has become unofficially recognized as the seven days of carnage. Many motorcyclists are injured or killed every year after being hit by buckets of water while traversing the tightly packed streets. Take extra caution, and you’ll be fine. Secondly, waterproof ALL of your electronics because you will be getting wet! It might be a better idea to carry around a Go Pro (or any waterproof camera) than risking your DSLR getting poured on by a firehose on the streets of Chiang Mai.

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If you’ve been to Songkran, we’d love to hear your story – leave a comment below!

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