Thursday, 24 April 2008

Songkran Thailand—April 2008

Due to the clumsy way handles images these pics of Songkran are poorly organised, however, they do tell the story of Songkran in Pattaya. 

As you can see, I had a good time, meeting locals, dancing, taking pre-emptive counterstrike action against hostiles (shooting girls with my water gun), and resting from my labours. There were girls dancing in the streets, an unwary cat sleeping through all of this, children playing around, farangs (just like me) getting into the spirit of things. All much fun.


Songkran in Thailand !

What is a ‘Songkran’ you may well ask? Indeed—it is a term not often heard in Australia, however, in Thailand it is a special and joyous occasion, one bound into the cultural and religious history of the country and region, and also an occasion which provides lots of fun and amusement.

Songkran (‘Song-kraaan’) is a celebration of the traditional Thai new year. In days gone by, before Thailand changed the start of its (official) year to January 1st, Songkran marked and ushered in the Thai new year. This date was set astronomically/astrologically and took place at the end of the hot season, around mid April.

The principal behind the festival is renewal. A new year brings a new beginning. It is a mix of ritual and activity. The defining action is the sprinkling of water on one’s head. ‘Sins’ are washed away by this water, thus you begin the new year afresh. The expectation is that this will bring good luck, even prosperity in the new year. The use of water also shows respect to the recipient. Traditionally younger people wash the hands of older people. Many younger people, who tend to live in the big cities, return home during Songkran, even if only for 1 or 2 days, to join with their families in the celebration. There are also a number of associated religious ceremonies, going to a Wat (temple), washing of images of Buddha, giving food to monks, carrying of sand, praying, etc.

This is the traditional, religious aspect of Songkran. What makes it of interest is the ‘game’, which it has become. This ‘sprinkling’ of water has been turned into a sport largely carried out by young Thais, and farlangs, who want to have fun.

During Songkran, on the streets of any city, town or village in Thailand, you will see hoards of people, armed with large water guns, looking for people to inundate with water. The time of Songkran varies somewhat in different regions of Thailand, however, in Pattaya it culminated on the 20th of April. In Pattaya, where I am now, the Beach Rd (which runs along the beach) was cordoned off to traffic and thousands of people walked along the street, from morning to late evening, shooting each other with water guns. Mothers, children, teenagers, all with smiles on their faces. Needless to say, keep your non-water resistant belongs at home or securely wrapped in plastic.

One annoying aspect is the use of ice water. Outside the numerous bars and clubs in Fun Town tubs of ice can be seen melting in large tubs of water. This icy water is then sucked into delivery devices and sprayed onto unsuspecting public. Ambient temperature water is fine, but this cold stuff is another matter. On a related note, bear in mind, if you every find yourself in Thailand during Songkran, that the water is often not of the highest quality. Try not to swallow when a bucket full of water hits your face.

One interesting sight is the rubbing of powder onto the faces of celebrants. This practice originated with Buddhist monks who used chalk to mark blessings. As you walk along the streets during Songkran people will come up to you and politely rub talcum powder mixed with water onto your face.

I spent and enjoyable several days playing Songkran. I bought several water guns, and joyously shot people with water. Farangs are always a good target. Many long-term expats do not like this festival. They do not like being unexpectedly sprayed with water. Many of these dull people leave Thailand for a week or so, or simply stay indoors. Boring as all get out! Get a life ! The farangs who walk around looking unhappy about Songkran are always good targets. hehe

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