Monday, June 1, 2009

Thai New year is wet and wild




Songkran (Thai New Year) “love it or leave it”! Every year April brings a time of joy to millions of Thai’s, and a time of dread for hundreds of expats, but it is an adventure you should experience at least one time.
Songkran is the Thai traditional New Year which starts on April 13 every year and lasts for 3 days. At this time, people from the rural areas who are working in the city usually return home to celebrate the festival, and while a lot of expats find this time of year a good time toescape to other parts of Southeast Asia, at the same time, thousands of Singaporeans, Taiwanese, Malaysians, and travelers from Hong Kong come to Thailand to celebrate and party. So while parts of Bangkok temporarily turn into a deserted city, some tourist places are so crowded with partiers, the traffic comes to a complete standstill.
The Songkran tradition is recognized as a valuable custom for the Thai community, society, and religion. The value for family is to provide the opportunity for family members to gather to express their respects to the elders by pouring scented water onto the hands of their parents and grandparents, and to present them with gifts including making merit for their ancestors. In return, the elders wish the youngsters good luck and prosperity.
Bangkok goes crazy at Songkran. The two areas that everyone, both Thai and farang, flocks to are Kao San Road, and Silom Road. Everyone will be armed with the latest pump action water pistols and walk the streets soaking everyone else. Pickup trucks will be jammed full of people surrounding a large water barrel and as the truck drives past, bowls of water are tossed from the container onto everyone. This is a time when thousands of high school and university students party until early in the morning. On Silom Soi 4, hundreds gather for water throwing outside ofTelephone Pub; with water, ice, and talcum powder everywhere—it turns into a war zone. On Silom Soi 2/1, @Richard’s Pub has a dry zone inside the Soi for partiers, with a beer garden and an outdoor Bar-B-Q. The whole of Silom from Rama IV Road to Naratiswat Road is closed to traffic in the late afternoon, as thousands gather to play, party, drink, and listen to live bands.
In Chiang Mai during this period, people from all parts of the country flock there to enjoy the water festival, to watch the Miss Songkran Contest, and the beautiful parades. See the procession of the Thai-Lao Buddha image Luang Pho Phra Sai paraded around the city of Nong Khai. In Phuket you can see the procession of Phra Buddha Sihing, the Songkran parade, and the Young Kids Songkran Contest, and then enjoy the water fun along Patong Beach. Pattaya starts their Songkran festivals after the rest of the country, usually 16-19 April.

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