Happy New Year (Songkran Festival)

13 Apr

April 13th begins Thailand’s New Year celebration called Songkran.  It involves the throwing of water on passersby to wish them good luck for the coming year.

The majority of Thais are Buddhists.  According to Wikipedia, “the throwing of water originated as a way to pay respect to people, by capturing the water after it had been poured over the Buddhas for cleansing and then using this “blessed” water to give good fortune to elders and family by gently pouring it on the shoulder. Among young people the holiday evolved to include dousing strangers with water to relieve the heat, since April is the hottest month in Thailand (temperatures can rise to over 100°F or 40°C on some days). This has further evolved into water fights and splashing water over people riding in vehicles”.

So, Ron and I needed to take the scooter to the big food store about 15 minutes away.  On our way, we passed “watering stations” of people with barrels of water, bazooka water guns and buckets splashing people passing by.  We were lucky on our way to the food store in that we barely got wet.  The ride home was a different story…

We were approaching a huge watering station and Ron tried to speed up a little to soften the inevitable blow but these are seasoned Songkran participants who managed to throw an entire bucket of water up in the air just as we were approaching and we drove right into it.  As I was sitting on the back of the scooter, Ron took the brunt of that hit.

Our next obstacle was to get past the traffic signal that was coming up.  This other group had set up a watering station just before the light so if the light was red, you were a sitting duck.  We planned our attack:  we would slow the scooter to wait till the light turned green, then gun it!  Well, it didn’t work out that way.  Locals with pickup trucks were driving around town carrying 5-10 people in the truck bed armed with water guns.  The truck ahead of us slowed down to combat the watering station group and then the light turned red.  Okay, no problem, while those two are battling on our left, we snuck past on the right and waited for the light to change hoping to be ignored.  Just when we thought we were safe, the car on our right rolled down their window and shot their water gun at us!  Needless to say, we were pretty wet by the time we reached our condo.

Ron and I decided to unpack the food and head back out with just my camera so I could take pictures of the festivities.  We drove to the big intersection where there was a lot of action and I stood out of firing distance and took some video and pictures.  It seemed like everyone was having so much fun that we decided to join in.  We were already wet anyway.

Our favorite local Thai restaurant called Popeye’s was just across the street.  We saw them all out dancing in the street and pouring water on people and scooters as they passed by.  We parked our scooter a little further away and slowly walked toward them.  One man saw us coming and decided to come greet us.  He managed to pour the first of many bowls of water over Ron’s head and that’s how our fun began.

They had a 55 gal bucket of water, a DJ playing American music, and free food.  After I put my camera away in the scooter, I was greeted the same way as Ron with bowls of water over my head.  The stores next to us had their own party going and one across the street so between all the groups dousing each other, we also tried to get anyone who dared to pass through.

One of the ladies came over to us and showed us the table that was set up with different Buddhas.  She showed us how to take some of the water in the gold bowl with the gold cup and pour some over each Buddha so that we might also have good luck in the coming year.  Then another lady came over with the traditional talc powder and put a streak on our faces to wish us health and luck.

We enjoyed watching everyone having a good time but Ron got restless.  He didn’t have a gun, so I told him to take the scooter down the street to the supermarket and buy one.  He came back with a big bazooka water gun and a huge grin on his face.  He said when we walked into the store dripping wet, all the cashiers were laughing at him.

There was a 8-year-old boy who didn’t speak english in our group.  When we were “attacked” by a group of boys from around the corner, Ron helped his little friend by attacking them back for the rest of the afternoon.

My favorite moment was when the local fire department came by with the fire truck to refill everyone’s garbage cans of water!  The tradition says that the more wet you get, the more luck you will have in the coming year.  If it holds true, Ron and I should have A LOT of luck coming our way 🙂

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One Response to “Happy New Year (Songkran Festival)”

  1. Chris April 20, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    This sounds awesome and a LOT of FUN! What an experience!

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