Culture, tradition and religion got top billing as Songkran began around Pattaya, with the city’s conservative leaders preaching values as the usual hedonistic water wars raged around them.
Mayor Anan Charoenchasri and Tongchai Wattraimitwitthayaram Worawihan opened the April 12-20 “Wet and Cool the Thai Way” Thai New Year festival at the intersection of Beach and Central roads April 13.
Nopsitcha Na Nakhon, director of the Preservation of Education, Religion, Culture and Sports for Education, said that Pattaya this year was campaigning to preserve the traditions and cultural heritage of Songkran by encouraging tourists to wear Thai floral clothing, fully cover up, and play gently with water with no powder.
Two blocks north and south on sois 6 and 7-8, no one seemed to get the message, as both Thais and foreigners pounded each other with ice water and high-pressure water guns as they do every year.
Still, the city’s leaders tried their best to encourage conservative values for the city’s rollicking holiday, bathing a Buddha image with holy water, showcasing relics from the Sanctuary of Truth and distributing “pha yants”, fabrics bearing Pattaya’s symbol and blessed by monks.
Hundreds of Thais lined up to receive their pha yant, tying up traffic even worse than usual for Songkran Day.
Anan’s cultural crusade made its next stop on a soggy Walking Street, where city council members and business owners were invited to walk the length of the entertainment district to open the Pattaya Songkran Festival.
The event included long drummers and dance performances. Tourists joined in the dancing and Thais again lined up to receive pha yants. City leaders scheduled cultural events each day on Walking Street through April 20.
Activity on Thai New Year’s Day started early all around Pattaya, as Buddhists flocked to the area’s nine major temples to make merit and wish for prosperity over the coming months.
Believers participated in food offerings in the early morning, watering Buddha statues, giving the offerings to monks, and freeing birds and fish.
Entire families were a common sight, with parents saying Songkran Day was a good time for everyone to do something together to bring good luck to the family for the coming year.
At Chaimongkol Temple, Abbot Panyarattanaporn presided over the merit-making services, leading 30 monks to participate in the holy water ceremony.
Many Buddhists and their families offered breakfast to monks staying in temples and people wrote down their ancient names and those of dead relatives for the requiem ceremony, which represents gratitude presented to beloved family members who have passed away.
In Sattahip, Rear Adm. Eakaraj Phomlumpak, commander of the Air and Coastal Defense Command, and his wife Somjit led sailors in giving food offerings to 10 monks in a Songkran Day merit-making exercise.
They poured holy water on Buddha statues and the hands of the elderly, then released 84,000 freshwater fish at the ACDC reservoir.
Gov. Pakarathorn Thienchai was the master of ceremonies as Chonburi opened its annual Phra Buddha Sihing and Songkran Festival at Chonburi City Hall.
He said the festival always has a positive impact on the local economy, society, sports, entertainment sector and local tradition and culture promotion.
The April 11-19 fair began in 1932 and promotes and maintains local traditions while boosting tourism, Pakarathorn said. Proceeds from the event go to a charity fund.
Among this year’s attractions were an antiquities exhibition, Thai arts and culture displays, a parade, beauty pageant, sales of locally made products, blood donation booths, and games.
The April 13 parade included 12 floats and vehicles carrying Buddhist relics on which people can pour holy water. Each district also sent two senior citizens to participate in the parade and audience members respectfully poured water over their hands in exchange for Thai New Year’s blessings.
The floats were judged as well, with Sriracha District winning first place and receiving the HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn trophy and 50,000 baht cash.
Second place went to Phanat Nikhom District, which earned a trophy and 30,000 baht; and third place and 20,000 baht went to Ban Bung District.