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Songkran Festival – it’s impossible to stay dry

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Yes you read it right. Unless you stay locked up indoors, it’s impossible to stay dry during Thailand’s Songkran festival. Songkran is my favorite, and Thailand’s most famous festival. It’s the world’s biggest water fight, and it takes place from April 13th to 15th every year. For locals, it means a long holiday and the chance to go out and have fun. It also marks the beginning of the traditional Thai New Year. So Happy New Year people!

How do we celebrate Songkran?

Songkran celebrations are similar to those of the Indian Holi Festival, the Chinese Ching Ming, and the Christian Festival of Easter. The most famous aspect of the Songkran celebrations is the throwing of water. If you’re visiting Thailand during this period, don’t be surprised if you get splashed. Crowds of people roam around throwing buckets of water, using water pistols and just generally soaking anyone in the vicinity. April is the hottest time of the year in Thailand, so being soaked is actually a refreshing escape from the heat and humidity. Buddhists also visit temples throughout Songkran, where water is poured on images of the Buddha and onto the hands of Buddhist monks as a mark of respect.

It’s not just water you have to look out for; you may also find yourself covered in chalk, or white powder. It’s a custom originating from the chalk used by monks to mark blessings. Ah man, that powder is still itching….

Our traditional New Year begins with early morning merit-making. This includes offering food to Buddhist monks and releasing caged birds to fly freely into the sky. Then, from the afternoon until night, we don’t stop splashing water and chalking people’s cheeks. To be honest I don’t follow the morning ritual, it’s the afternoon activities that interest me!

The traditional way to wish someone well at Songkran and to make peace after splashing them is to say ‘sah-wah-dee-pee mai’, which basically means ‘happy new year’. Or you could just say Happy Songkran.

If you want to enjoy Songkran to the fullest, I recommend trying out a few things. Either get on the backside of a pick up with a bucket full of ice water and do the city tour, or go for a tuk-tuk (auto rickshaw) ride with your friends or family. I’ve experienced both and I’d probably say I enjoy the tuk-tuk ride more, as you get splashed more often then standing on a pick up. People always stop the tuk-tuks and make sure each passenger is soaked with water and covered white (by chalk/powder).

Where should you go to make the most of the festival?

thelocalist.com_SilomRdBangkok

Silom Road during Songkran Festival 2014

If you are in Bangkok you’ve got many choices. The festival lasts for 3 days and 3 nights, so you’ve got time to try out a few different places. Khao San Road, Silom Road, Centralworld Foam Party and RCA are the most famous places to celebrate Songkran in Bangkok. Bangkokians tend to go out of town for a long vacation during the festival, so foreigners outnumber locals on Khao San road. Many Thai people make their way to their hometowns to spend time with older relatives. In other parts of Thailand, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Pattaya are well known for their wild Songkran celebrations.

I went to Khao San and Silom Roads this year, and it was great fun. The roads were full of people. Looking down upon the people from a balcony above the street might even have given you the impression of zombies fighting for flesh! Songkran is the best three days in Thailand, so if you’re coming here, make sure you visit in April during the festival long weekend. Life after Songkran is boring…I’m already missing those splashes.

THAI_ArunPandey_M

 

MEET THE LOCAL: ARUN PANDEY

 

Images. Photos by Arun Pandey.

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