Songkran is the festival of utmost happiness for Thai people. During the long holiday many city dwellers go back home upcountry to celebrate with their families. It’s a time of refreshing fun during the hottest part of the year. The young playfully splash water over each other to generate and share a collective feeling of freshness. Soaking someone isn’t insulting, the water is a blessing bringing welcome coolness to people’s lives.
The Songkran festival takes place on 13-15 April and represents the traditional Thai New Year. The world Songkran comes from Sangskrit and means ‘passage’, that is passage into a new star configuration, into a new year. Even though the official New Year’s Day in Thailand has long been changed to 1 January, people still respect the old tradition.
WHERE TO GO?
At Khaosan Road, the heaven for backpackers form all over the world, the whole area is in undated for days on end as young Thais and foreigners douse each other with water, that’s when you’re likely to be splashed with water and smeared with powder by perfect strangers grinning wildly.
In Chiang Mai:
Celebrations take place all over the old town and along its ring roads, wherever water is plentiful. Traffic gets congested due to strikingly beautiful processions and convoys of pickup trucks loaded with people tipping barrels of water onto other vehicles and pedestrians.
The business district in the heart of Hat Yai is where the Midnight Songkran Fair takes place. The whole area is lit up with lanterns in all shapes and colours. Tourists, mostly from Singapore and Malaysia join the water splashing revelry at night, unlike in other places where water splashing takes place in the daytime.
In Khon Kaen:
During the Songkran festival, the main thoroughfare in the centre of town, Sichan Road, is closed and becomes a playground for water splashing. The road is playfully renamed “Sticky Rice Road” as a second Khaosan Road where local youths have fun splashing water, smearing each other with flour, dancing, drinking and eating.
Tips for Songkran water splashing
- Look at the event as fun. Don’t be upset at being doused, it is intended as a bestowing of blessing
- Wear light clothes that dry easily
- Keep your wallet, cell phone and camera in the plastic bag.
- Grab a bucket or water gun and join in the festival fun
- Grin and bear it.
*All images are courtesy of Tourism Authority of Thailand, New Delhi
Activities on Songkran Day
People dress up to go and make merit at the temple, prepare good food to offer the monks, and dedicate the merit to their dear departed. In the North, people take sand from the riverbank and pile it up at the local temple for the monks to use in construction work. After merit making, family members gather together. The young prepare flower garlands for a respectful rite involving pouring scented water on the hands of their elders to wish them long and healthy lives.
This ceremony contributes to warm family relations. As for children, Songkran is a perfect time. Their parents give in to their every whim, and they can douse people with colourful plastic water-pistols without being told off. Young men and women gather into crowds to splash one another repeatedly.
“Water splashing is only one part of the Songkran Festival”
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