Songkran officially ends in Pattaya when the sun sets on April 19, but leading up to the finale, the streets turn to water war zones and traffic descends into gridlock.
There is, however, a gentler side to Songkran that takes place in the middle of all the water throwing madness.
It began on April 13, the beginning of the official Thai New Year, with traditional reverence as people made their way to temples for meditation and merit-making and watched as the Sanctuary of Truth’s annual relics parade wound its way through the city.
The nine relics came from the Busabok Stupa, which stands in the Sanctuary of Truth’s central hall. Taken once a year from the high perch where they were placed in April 2009 by the late Supreme Patriarch, they are put on flower-laden floats every April 13 and carried to six stops in Banglamung District.
The procession began at 7 a.m., stopping at Chonglom Temple, Nong Ket Yai Temple, the Pattaya Floating Market, Walking Street, the Beach-Central roads intersection, and Crystal Palace Hotel, before heading back to the Naklua sanctuary.
At each stop people – many dressed in traditional Thai clothing – were given the chance to pour holy water on the relics and make donations.
In Sattahip, Rear Adm. Wara Tankham, Commander of the Air and Coastal Defense Command, led alms giving on April 10 to start Songkran celebrations.
Military and government officers and their families then presented dried foods to 10 monks, followed by bathing rites for their Buddha image and seniors, and the release of 15,000 fish.
Nong Plalai’s mayor and 10 senior sub-district government officials started Songkran celebrations with the traditional method of bathing the Buddha. They followed this by pouring water onto the hands of respected senior citizens.
After giving speeches, Nong Plalai Mayor Pinyo Homklin and his officers were seated in auspicious order and had water poured on their hands by their constituents who asked for their blessing.
At Diana Garden Resort, Managing Director Spin Thappajug invited the Pattaya Journalist Association, Tem-Jai Club, YWCA Association Bangkok-Pattaya, AP International Group (Thailand) Co., Ltd., Por-U-Por-Kindergarden, Ban Ma Yim, and Pattaya Isan Club to take part in Songkran festivities at the Jaktheppiman Conference Center with religious rites presided over by Wat Utokkebseemaram Abbot Pra Chonlayanmunee.
Banglamung District Chief Amnart Charoensri led local politicians and the general public the bathing Buddha tires and water pouring on the elderly.
Much fun was the theme of the day at the Child Protection and Development Center, but first HHNFT Director Radchada Chomjinda taught the children how to bathe the Buddha then pour water on teachers and elderly hands before allowing the kids to run outside and splash away to their hearts’ content.
GM Denis Thouvard began festivities in the morning of April 13 by leading staff and hotel guests at the Centara Grand Mirage Beach Resort Pattaya in offering alms to 9 monks from Wat Sawangfahpruktaram.
Later in the day, Gerd K. Steeb, retired president, and director & advisor of Centara Hotels & Resorts led the Buddha bathing rites at the hotel, and later sat with 9 company executives as hotel executives and staff dressed in traditional clothing poured water over their hands.
At Avani Pattaya, GM Somsak Tanruengsri sent out staff dressed in traditional clothing to dance to the beat of drums and invite all guests to take part in Songkran activities.
Once all the religious duties were observed, it was back to “Modern Songkran” which basically translates to getting drunk and silly with all manner of water guns. People, mostly foreigners, started as early as 8 a.m., but bargirls joined in as the beer bars opened in the afternoon.
Throughout the 9-day Songkran celebration, police and soldiers kept security tight with police manning checkpoints across the area and stopping vehicles to check for helmet and seat belt use, licenses and registration, and to check drivers for alcohol use and engines for faults.