The main attraction will be at the Beach and Central roads intersection around the fountain where tourists can enjoy the beauty and capture images for memories.
At an April 4 press conference announcing the final “Wan Lai” plans, however, most officials took pains to point out that Pattaya’s week-long water fight has perverted the tradition of Songkran.
Students from Pattaya School No. 8 perform traditional Thai dance during the press conference announcing this year’s Songkran Festival.
“There are many (other) activities on Songkran, including making merit, offering alms, releasing animals into the wild, pouring water on Lord Buddha, and paying respects to elders,” City Councilman Rattanachai Sutidechanai said. “All these traditions represent Thailand. Therefore, we must maintain our manners and civility by playing within the norms of decency, showing foreigners the correct method to enjoy Songkran that has been passed on for generations.”
“During past Songkrans, there have been broadcasts showing people dressing inappropriately and exhibiting unwanted behavior. This has destroyed the beautiful image of Thai culture, causing foreigners to have the wrong perception about the country and resulting in a bad image shown to the world,” said Mana Yaprakhum, president of Pattaya Cultural Council.
“I urge youths to dress decently and enjoy Songkran to maintain our beautiful tradition because currently, the power of social media has allowed people to share pictures, images and videos rapidly. Hence, bad behavior and dressing inappropriately can influence the image of a culture and ours has been largely deviated due to the mix of other cultures … and this will be the image remembered by foreigners.”
Yet even with all the public hand-wringing, the same public officials couldn’t constrain their enthusiasm over the money Songkran brings to Pattaya.
“This is a festival that attracts tourists worldwide and raises a large income for our country. Therefore, we must act as good hosts by welcoming tourists,” Rattanachai said.
Passalin Saewarat, deputy director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Pattaya office, noted that the city is the top Songkran choice for tourists, beating out Bangkok’s Khao San Road and Khumuang Road in Chiang Mai. Thus, she said, TAT has advertised Pattaya’s “Wan Lai” festival on websites and at international road shows.