2 June 2014 - SONGKRAN FESTIVAL - Thailand


- Thailand - 

G'day folks,

One of the best festivals to enjoy in Thailand is Songkran. Why? It's loads of fun and the festival usually goes from April 13 - 15. Read on ...

This is the time of the Thai celebration of New Year, Songkran – an event that marks the beginning of the solar calendar (it translates as ‘the passing of’). For some, it’s a period of reflection and carrying out of familial shows of respect to elders. But for others (in fact for most people) it’s a perfect excuse to get merry, hit the streets and throw tons of water around at anything that moves out there. 

Traditionally speaking, Songkran tradition was the time of year when the rice harvest was in and farmers had to wait for the rains to begin in order to plant their rice. This would be the driest point of each year so it would seem sort of illogical to waste water by pouring it over elders’ hands but amazingly, gradually over the years Songkran has developed into an orgy of water throwing using buckets and water guns.

 Songkran starts off innocuously enough but by midday on April 13 streets are lined with pickup trucks with their beds loaded with ice-cold water and ‘water warriors’ strafing and splashing passersby who line the side of the road shooting back. As you can imagine it’s a fairly chaotic scene, all the more so because the very agents of Law and Order – the police – are the number one targets for many revellers. Nowadays people have taken to adding talcum powder to their watery ammunition; icy water is also an added delight although the police take a dim view of ice cubes.

Small children delight in equipping themselves with water guns and spraying anyone who comes in their path – no one is exempt! Remember this date when you are in Thailand and leave your cameras and anything likely to suffer water damage behind in your hotel room, because of all the water flying around. This is a nationwide festival but the craziest place to get involved in Phuket is… no prizes for guessing – Patong’s centre of hedonism, Bangla Road with the Beach Road coming in a bedraggled and soaking second as the place to splash and be splashed at.

 Normally the police will try to keep a cap on things by allowing water throwing only on April 13 but it appears that in Patong anything goes so expect the watery revelry to  last longer there.

  One thing is absolutely certain: unless you plan to sequester yourself in your room for three days YOU WILL GET WET WET WET!

   Still, as with all wild parties, certain precautions have to be taken and these are:
  • Only take waterproof photo equipment out with you
  • Do not wear expensive clothing – it will be ruined
  • Best not to ride a motorbike for very many obvious reasons and indeed avoid driving any vehicle
  • Wear sunscreen and apply it regularly as it will wash off
  • If you are in a vehicle don’t expect to get to your destination in a hurry as traffic is snail slow

Clancy's comment: I've enjoyed many Songkran Festivals. They are a wonderful way for foreigners (farangs) to mix with the locals. If you ever have the chance to visit Thailand during this time, do it.

Oh, by the way. The cover of my next book, due out any day, includes a photograph I took some years back in Thailand - the morning after another Thai festival - the Loy Krathong Festival. Thai people make lanterns, krathongs, and lay them on waterways with gifts and candles. Look closely and you will see a young girl strolling along the beach, searching for candles that have been washed up by the tide. Cute pic, eh? Cute girl too ... Not to mention the photographer.


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