Seriously, how bad will it be over Songkran?

Discussion in 'General Discussion / News / Information' started by yychow0812, Apr 3, 2013.

  1. yychow0812

    yychow0812 Ol'Timer

    I would like some good, constructive and objective advice about the riding conditions on the roads over the Songkran period.

    Over Christmas / New Year last year, together with my other half, I did a 3,600 km loop starting from Bangkok, heading out towards Ubon, turning North to Udon, onto Phu Chi Fah, Chiang Khong, Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Pai, MHS, Mae Sariang, Mae Sot and back to Bangkok. It remains one of the best holidays of my life (and that includes skiing in Mt. Buller to Meribel to Aspen as well as sailing the BT Challenger to Isle of Wight).

    This songkran however, the other half is away overseas till June and I'm stumped as to how to spend my Songkran holidays. Was thinking of getting on the Versys and riding up to Nan and thereabouts but I'm a little concerned with all the alarmist reports of how dangerous the roads are going to be.

    What's the general consensus here guys and gals? Should I go for it? Any one interested to join me?
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  3. johngooding

    johngooding Ol'Timer

    Well it does depend where you want to go. From 13th to 15th and in some places a day or two before and after you will definately get wet, if you go out in the afternoon and evening in any of the busy areas, especially where tourists congregate. When I lived in Khon Kaen, I found I could do my normal morning cycle ride of 60km from 7am to 10 .00am with very little chance of getting soaked. The main highways are normally OK, you could probably ride most of the way from Bangkok to Chiang Mai on No 1 and No 11 highway without much trouble. The worst places of course are the streets which the town often close or make one way, just for the 3 main days. These are just waterfight areas, especially in tourist towns, and I have found no respect for bikes in these areas. In the mornings, passing through the villages, it is normally just keen young kids, not usually so accurate, and not usually ice water, keep your phone, etc out of the way and you may get a bit wet but not that bad. I have travelled from Chiang Mai to Udon on Songkran days leaving early in the morning, and only had trouble when arriving in Udon. So it may not be as bad as some will fear, and travelling in the light in the mornings I have never met any troublesome drunks or other such hazards.
    But of course you may meet a pickup full of frisky folks who may soak you, but keeping an eye out, they usually can be avoided on the open road. When approaching a village, I usually look at the road, you can see the wet parts where kids are throwing water, approach carefully, and let them empty their buckets on someone else, can be fun avoiding them. Good luck and take care whatever you decide.
  4. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Ol'Timer

    Yes, as John rightly says, a lot depends on where you go and what time you'll be on the road.

    I've toured around during Songkran before and by sticking to a combination of very rural areas and major roads I was able to avoid any dousings, drunks and drama. I rode from BKK to Nakhon Sawan to Pitsanulok, then the fantastic highway 12 east all the way to Khon Kaen. Stayed at the much recommended guesthouse/hotel on the west side of town (can't remember the name just now...). But the advantage is that you can reach the hotel without going in to the city. Leave your bike there and walk in to town for the Songkran fun.

    I reckon it's best to avoid riding in most cities where people set up road side "watering" stations and drive around in pickups looking to douse you. And of course, try not to be out on two wheels in the afternoons and evenings when the % of drunks must skyrocket.
  5. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    The most dangerous time of the year to be out riding. Scary stuff every day.
    Thousands of people throwing water beside the road, over loaded pickups with drunks driving.
    Sorry to say / advise but absolutely frightening.
    My advice for Songkran is always don't ride if you can avoid it.

    Bangkok Post 2012
  6. Franz

    Franz Ol'Timer

    Roads will be very slippery in some places as some folks blend the 'dousing water' with baby skinpowder or smear the bikes, passengers and cars with it. As stated in other answers, try to avoid riding in the afternoon and evenings.
    Besides Songkran you should be very wary right now as temperatures reach above 40'C, there has been a lot of fires in the woods, so all the gunk is on the roads too, further on the engine & gearoils that use to drip from Somchai's pick-up trucks.
    I go down every year during this season as underestimating the road conditions. Now I just avoid riding anything until the first rains wash away all that residue, better wet than hospitalised........cheers, Franz
  7. ronwebb

    ronwebb Ol'Timer

    I concur absolutely with David but also believe that the scariest problem is the tourist mini vans. They will come around a corner, two or three abreast overtaking each other in some kind of race. This I have witnessed all too often and even on the tight twisties up around Doi Mae Salong.
    They seem to be on a mission to reduce the population of the country in spades over Songkran and make a good effort of it every year.
    Its complete madness.
  8. yychow0812

    yychow0812 Ol'Timer

    Thanks for all the advice gents. It's pretty much as I thought, the main highways should be ok, city streets should be avoided as much as possible. I don't mind being doused though I would want to make sure that I can see it coming first and slow right down and let myself be soaked - it's no worse than riding in an heavy rain. I guess a lot of the accidents happen when the motorcyclist tries to avoid being doused and then losing control of the bike due to a combination of wet surface and wrong throttle control.

    Drunk drivers are another thing but then we see many of them everyday on the roads anyway.

    Take care all
  9. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Sorry, but for me the main highways will be chock a block full or overloaded pickups, drunk drivers, & drunk pax in the rear tray throwing as much water as hard as they can. A bucket of water in the face / chest at 60kph plus hurts - much worse than heavy rain; & sometimes there is ice, sand, small pebbles in the water collected from streams /canals.
    Don't ever under estimate how totally dangerous it is - absolute mayhem.
    Take extra special care, but best don't ride & tour at this time.
  10. johngooding

    johngooding Ol'Timer

    Well I just about qualify for the over 300K km in Thailand and I have used my bike for journeys nearly every Songkran, would I choose to tour over Songkran, no, probably not. Would I go from Doi Saket to the middle of Chiang Mai on my big bike, NO, on a scooter, probably yes. Would I leave my home at 6.30am and travel to KhonKaen, yes have done and will do again, and would not expect more than a minimal wetting. As for the 10kg at 130kph, it's just mathematics, not reality, that's not the way a bucketful is distributed, especially from a moving vehicle and if its being thrown from the roadside Y ou definitely should not approach as fast as 60 kph. So my advice, as before, is travel early. In the day, avoid the pressure spots, wear a full face helmet, gloves and a good jacket and take care, you will not be knocked off your bike.
  11. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Ol'Timer

    I think everyone here is aware that Thailand has some of the most dangerous roads on the planet, yet we choose to accept those risks and ride here anyway.

    Sure, during the Songkran holiday those risks are even higher, but as long as you know what to expect (ie. expect the unexpected) and ride accordingly, I don't see any reason why you can't get out on two wheels over the Songran holiday without putting yourself at greater risk than usual.

    I believe the OP has a Versys? Why not use this holiday as an opportunity to explore some of the more remote parts of Thailand- you could, for example, take the highway up to Tak, then West to Mae Sot, then South to Umphang. I'd be willing to bet you wouldn't get one bucket of water thrown at you on such a route, unless you go looking for it. Or Mae Sot north to Mae Sariang on the 105- do the hill tribe villages play Songkran? I imagine they don't have a lot of extra water lying about for such games. Sure, they'll be playing in Mae Sariang, but I bet it would feel pretty good to get soaked after the ride from Mae Sot. Then, from Mae Sariang you head west on the 108 to Hot, then on back to Bangkok on the highway.

    Or head east to Rayong, Chantaburi and Trat- beautiful provinces this time of year, lots of national parks and again, the traffic won't be too crazy, and as long as you avoid the towns, chances are quite good that you wouldn't have any troubles with Songkran revelers.

    Good luck whatever your choice!

  12. yychow0812

    yychow0812 Ol'Timer

    Thank you all for all the good advice coming in and please do keep them coming. I think it is very useful not just for me but for all us bikers out there.

    I fully agree with what TonyBKK is saying (if I'm not mistaken, you are going to undertake quite a long trip yourself up to Umphang via dirt roads?). My intention is to stay well away from the big cities and subsequent chaos but instead to stick to B roads as much as possible. Inevitably, there will also be water splashing from hoses and buckets from the side of the road but my current thinking is that I will not be travelling at any high speeds and will probably slow down to a crawl and maybe even stop to get a dousing to cool down. I will be avoiding all the big cities for sure.

    Songkran is a time for us grown ups to be kids again. Since we are more matured than we were, we have a better understanding of the risks involved (especially if we are planning to ride bikes during this period). However, we must not be paranoid to the point where we forget about living and enjoying life. I have spent the last few Songkrans in either Bkk or Pattaya (and once in Roi Et). I'm am looking forward to see how Songkran will be celebrated further North in towns like Nan and thereabouts.
  13. David Learmonth

    David Learmonth Ol'Timer

    Here in/near MaeChan we park the bikes up for two weeks. Takes that long for the novelty of SongKran to wear off here. Safer in the garage.
  14. ronwebb

    ronwebb Ol'Timer

    Sound advice. Applies to the whole country in my opinion.
  15. Joelthailand

    Joelthailand Ol'Timer

    Lock up the bike or ride a cheap scooter very carefully with a visor on your lid!!

    OMG 2 weeks of water fighting!!! ouch

    Thankfully in Phuket we get the night before & then a full day of it, then it's completely finished until next year......perfect :cool:
  16. David Learmonth

    David Learmonth Ol'Timer

    Hostilities started last year on the 8th April - on the way home from Fang - that was the first case & was soon followed days later by a lot more. I wish it only lasted a full day here. Sick to death of it after two weeks. Then we seem to have most of Bangkok up here visiting relatives so increase in traffic anyway. Also a lot of drink driving. I only use the car if absolutely neccessary!
  17. ronwebb

    ronwebb Ol'Timer

    For whats its worth, I saw an article in last Fridays Bangkok Post entitled 'Songkran Danger Spots published'.
    "The Transport Minister warned motorists of the dangers of two accident prone routes - the Tak - Mae Sot Road and Kabin-Pak Thong Chai road in Nakhon Ratchasima, especially during the Songkran festival".
  18. johngooding

    johngooding Ol'Timer

    Just decided last night to ride from Chiang Mai to Khon Kaen leaving early morning on Tuesday 9th and returning on Wednesday 10th, on return I will post what it is like on that route just a couple of days before Songkran. Incidently I notice that apart from 13th 14th and 15th, the normal days, the 16th and 17th have also been proclaimed national holidays, so I guess the government offices like immigration, and banks etc will not open until 18th.
  19. yychow0812

    yychow0812 Ol'Timer

    I will probably ride out from Bangkok on either the 11th or 12th and take a couple of days to get up to Nan. That should allow me not to rush and ride as defensively as required. As John said, 16th and 17th are substitute holidays so I guess the roads coming back to Bkk will be worse on these two days.
  20. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Good luck. Take extra care.
  21. johngooding

    johngooding Ol'Timer

    Well I am back from my return trip from Chiang Mai to Khon Kaen. Left CM 6.30am Tuesday, no need for cold weather clothing even that time of the morning. Road conditions quiet and even quieter as I went beyond Lampang and on, air still smoky for virtually the whole trip, and some fires on the way, especially in Nam Nao which is jungle, not cultivated and I guess are caused by the lack of rain rather than the farmers.
    Saw absolutely no evidence that Songkran was coming at all. The closest I got was one old lady coming out of her front gate with a large bucket overflowing with water, she approached the road and made ready to throw the water, I did the usual things, swore, prayed, slowed down etc, and without a glance in my direction she threw the water all over the pavement outside her gate, I think her regular cooling ritual during this extremely hot weather.
    Reached Khon Kaen at 1.45pm and no traffic and no people out and about. Just too hot, seems to be siesta time.
    The night before I had a debate with myself about which bike to take, the Honda CBR 250R, which I had cleaned up ready for sale, or the much faster more powerful Yamaha FZ8. I had never taken the Honda on a 1300km round trip. I decided on the Honda just in case there were any incidents with drunk dogs or mad adults with or without large quantities of water and powder and ice. If there was going to be an incident I would rather have it on the lighter, much cheaper to repair bike. I was very suprised how much I enjoyed the journey on the small bike, on the dual carriageways I cruised at 125 or so kph, managed to keep that up on the windy roads as well, dropping to 115 on some of the big hills. On the smaller roads I was able to overtake everything in front of me, even the 250, is faster than the 4 wheeled traffic, apart from the straight dual carriageways.
    Today (Wed), left KK, little bit cool at 6.00am, rain forecast, but never happened, light traffic for the first 2 hours, then a few pickups etc loaded with all the household possessions and Grandma as well, only room for drinking water, so no danger of a wetting. Past Chumpae, the new dual carriageway is a wonderful improvement on the old bumpy road that went from Chumpae to the turn off for Loei. Over Nam Nao, no traffic and very cold with only a vented jacket and no liner, also very smoky with some huge areas burning in the jungle. A bit of traffic at fuel stations, but no queues, and light traffic around Den Chai and all the way to Chiang Mai.
    On the homeward journey the only time I nearly go wet was by the council lorry spraying water on the tarmac road north of Lamphun, I guess another hot weather anti pollution measure. Home in Chiang Mai at 1.30pm. Again the little Honda performed amazingly well, I have no discomfort , wrists, back, butt or anywhere, and I think it was slightly less tiring than my normal, nearly 1 hour shorter, so faster, solo journeys that I used to make on much faster bikes. Less stressful travelling at easy speeds.
    So as far as the approaching Songkran goes, April 9 and 10 did not present a problem with water or drunk drivers. It has not started yet on any of the roads I travelled.
    As far as 650km journeys on a 250cc bike go, I am pleased I took the Honda, fuel consumed was about 20 Litres each way. That is about 32Km per litre, or about 3L per 100Km. If I had kept the speed down to 115 or so it would have been even better. The FZ8 would have, gone quicker, it just does that on all the open roads and would have burned about 5.5L per 100km, Additional cost for the return trip about 1300 Baht and of course tire wear on the FZ8 is approximately 1 baht per km, on the 250, about 0.25 baht per km. So an additional 975 baht. Now I ask myself why would I take the bigger bike next time? I think I am getting older and settling for a slower pace of life.
    So does anyone want to make me a good offer for a little used Yamaha FZ8, almost showroom condition?!?!?

    As others have said, stay safe this Songkran, but hopefully enjoy it as well.
  22. yychow0812

    yychow0812 Ol'Timer

    :lol-sign: what a novel way to sell a bike!!!

    It's a beaut, of that, there's no doubt. Sadly, doesn't suit my purposes. I've a Versys, all set up for touring 2 up and around Bkk, I potter around on the PCX.

    Thanks for the report on the roads.
  23. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Ol'Timer

  24. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Day 2 of Songkran madness


    A total of 62 people were killed and 496 injured in 465 road accidents nationwide on Friday, the second of Songkran's "seven dangerous days" (April 11-17), the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department reported on Saturday.

    The department on Friday reported the road death toll at 39.

    Combined accidents over the first two days reached 791, with 101 deaths and 838 injuries, according to the department.

    Chiang Mai had the most road accidents at 18. Provinces with the most fatalities were Chiang Mai, Kanchanaburi, Khon Kaen, Roi Et and Prachuap Khiri Khan, with three each.

    Prachuap Khiri Khan had the most injuries at 21.

    Accident-free provinces were Si Sa Ket and Trat.

    The main causes of the accidents were drunk driving and speeding. Motorcycles and pickup trucks were involved in the largest number of accidents.
  25. monsterman

    monsterman Ol'Timer

    problem of water in the face can be fatal i have seen it happen to a rider of a dream in pattaya but biggest danger is vehicles driven at speed by pissed up partygoing Thais ,,,, and dont forget they love setting new records for body counts its national pride at stake .
  26. johngooding

    johngooding Ol'Timer

    Sad to hear the statistics. The reality as outlined by Marcel earlier is that many people die on Thailands roads ever day of the year and many are reported as excess speed and or alcohol involved. Motor cyclists are high in the fatalities because of the exposed nature of the rider compared to vehicle passangers. The New Year and Songkran New Year times are worse than most, but one has to be careful all the year round.
    On a more positive note it would be good to hear some more uplifting results of what people did including bikes at Songkran, so here goes.
    On Friday 12th i took my scooter and successfully negotiated for the purchase of another scooter with Brian at 7am at Chang Puak. New scooter delivered to the salon. Brian works at MHS and has attended both music festivals, he looks forward to the next one, but did comment that he enjoyed the relaxed style of the first one most. Less speeches, maybe due to the rain. Then had to be home as awaiting people to come and buy the boxes I had for sale. No problems with water that day.
    Saturday, first full day of Songran, 8.30am on the Yamaha SX, went to Rimping, did some shopping for food and then visited Roger and bought a camera, found on Second Hand Chiang Mai group, home by 10.00am. No problems with water anywhere or any other Songkran Hazards. Finished getting ready the CBR for the new buyer. Refitted the OEM exhaust, and fitted new front brake pads. Rest of the day quiet at home, enjoying the kids dousing other passes by.
    This morning, my normal cycle ride of about 50km through the villages, leaving at 7am, lot of people about and friendly as usual. Wet patches outside the usual places in the villages, but no water hazards, to early. Home by 9.30am. Rest of day will be quiet. Formula 1 and WSBK to look forward to later.
    So have decided that Monday, will meet Keith at his home at 7am and we will go round the Samoeng loop on scooters, may even take some pictures. Report will follow.

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