Songkran in Pattaya and Siam Square, Bangkok
If you are new to Thailand, and unsuspectingly find yourself being soaked by random people as you walk by the streets, don’t lose your cool. It is a regular occurrence in April during the Songkran festival. This is the annual Buddhist New Year celebration that is associated with preparation for the coming year and spring cleaning at homes and in temples. As part of the tradition, the Thai’s sprinkle and splash water on everyone they come across as a symbol of washing away any previous bad luck and face with new year with a fresh start. If you enjoyed the ice water bucket challenge that trended a few years back, then you will be sure to enjoy the Songkran festival. Only, it will be bigger, with even more water involved.
The festival is marked by plenty of fun activities and rituals and in widely celebrated in different parts of Thailand. In some cities, the festival lasts for more than the three days allocated to it, and in some, it is observed in a modern manner while in other cities the traditional fashion is maintained. Here is how the Thai celebrate Songkran in Pattaya and the Siam Square, Bangkok.
Songkran in Pattaya.
The New Year festival in Pattaya is celebrated unlike in any other place in Thailand. The entire festival is taken to the extreme, beginning with an extension of a whole week celebration, in contrast to the standard three days. The entire city turns into one giant week-long water battle running from the 13th to 19th of April.
Activities tend to take place in traditional homes, and it is the temples all over the city are expected to be packed with Buddhists. The streets gradually begin to pack up over the week and fill up with excited, happy crowds.
There is an extended festival called Wan Lai which means ‘the day that flows.’ On this day, just like the festival’s meaning water literally flows everywhere. There are people armed with water guns, buckets, and dispensers – anything that can hold water.
Beach Road in Pattaya is typically cut off from traffic, and you will find stages set up for live music performances. The fire department also parks its vehicles nearby and provides water to revelers for re-filling. It is not hard to see pick-up trucks turned into moving parties, with loud music playing and stocked with water barrels. Another bizarre, but common sight is monks in the back of these pick-ups, driving around and giving blessings to people en-route. Out of respect for them, though, nobody splashes water at them, and their saffron robes are left perfectly dry unlike anything else in their surrounding.
Another weapon you are likely to come across during Songkran is a white paste which is a mixture of water and talcum powder and is applied on the face. It has no cultural significance, however, and is used purely for the fun of it. Less fun, however, if the paste gets into your eyes.
Songkran in Siam Square, Bangkok.
Having fun amidst the scorching April heat is a big part of the Thai culture. This is no exception in Siam Square, Bangkok. It is all kinds of entertainment at the town’s square during the Songkran festival. On top of roaming people with hoards of water, you will find large machines which sporadically splash mountains of bubbles into the street creating a foam party.
There are also religious processions marching through the town with people carrying statutes of Buddha on smartly decorated floats. Thai locals will try to splash water on the Buddha symbolizing good luck for the New Year.
Whether you are a Thai citizen, a tourist or an expat, everyone is practically your best friend during Songkran. You quickly find yourself jumping into random strangers’ pickup tracks and joining them on the splash assault madness.
Riding a scooter or cycling during this period is practically suicidal. Remember that alcohol is in generous supply for the three days of celebrating Songkran. People are clumsier, jumpier and no one is going to think twice about splashing or pouring buckets of icy water on your face as you pass by.
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