Last year we covered the world's biggest water fight, the Songkran Festival in Thailand, and although our story was viewed 100,000 times, and everyone marveled at the delightfully eccentric contrast to public events elsewhere in the world, I acknowledged that I couldn't supply images which truly reflected how crazy things really get, mainly for fear of damaging my Canon camera system.
This year, armed with a Ewa Marine U-BXP waterproof housing and a Canon 5D MkIII, I was able to venture from the outskirts of the water fight into the center of the water riot with impunity. Millions of water pistols, shotguns and cannons are sold each year in Songkran week and here's how to have a ridiculously good time on a $5 budget.
Indeed, not much changed this year in the Thai celebration of the New Year. The Songkran Festival is held in the hottest part of the year, and serves many socially beneficial functions. For starters, it's an opportunity for the company to keep cool by getting wet for a week. More importantly, I suspect it serves as a release valve for the steam accumulated from the rigors of life.
You have to experience it to truly appreciate the magnitude of the Songkran Festival. Very few of the country's 60 million inhabitants don't get involved, and just as football, hockey, UFC and mock wrestling fans blow off the steam accumulated from the rigors of life elsewhere on the planet, the Songkran water riot is perhaps the healthiest way I've ever seen to let it all hang out and reset the blood pressure.
People of all ages fully participate, it's all done in exceedingly good nature, and the pressures of daily life seem to vanish over the Songkran weekend as your mind focuses sharply on who you get shoot next, and how you can avoid the next bucket of ice-cold water.
It's quite possible to go through the entire event having more fun than you thought possible without resorting to alcohol, but as with every other major festival in the world, the sinister side of the world's most popular mind altering drug reaped a bumper toll once more.
Thai roads are very dangerous in comparison to more developed parts of the world at the best of times, but the week of Songkran is unquestionably the most dangerous time to be on the roads.
Thailand has an annual road toll (or death toll among road users) of around 20 people per 100,000 inhabitants. That figure is similar to many other countries in Asia, South America and Africa where motorcyclists and pedestrians account for nearly all the road toll, and the end result is that death is somewhere between two and four times more likely than in Europe or North America if you take to the roads.
Statistics show that Songkran is waaaay more dangerous than at any other time. It may look like it has been raining just prior to these pictures being taken. All that water on the road is simply the result of people spreading the love with their water guns.
This year's coverage is largely a photographic essay. If you are interested in partaking in the festival, may I suggest you read last year's extensive story. Not much has changed, other than the number of international visitors, which is now climbing at a healthy rate each year.
The pictures will explain why they're arriving in ever greater numbers each year.
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