Songkran brings Pattaya together in merriment, culture and religious harmony

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Tourist police showed they were into the spirit of the event when they dressed in Songkran attire and walked along Beach Road distributing 5,000 boiled eggs to Thai and foreign revelers so that they wouldn’t go hungry while splashing around Pattaya. Tens of thousands of revelers packed into our beachside resort community for the wet and wild finale to the week-long Songkran festival on Tuesday, April 19. Nationwide, the carnage on the roads was the worst in a decade, and when the water settled, 442 people will not see another Songkran. We certainly hope you and yours enjoyed a safe and fun beginning to the Thai New Year, and wish you health, happiness and prosperity in the year ahead. (Photo by Teerarak Suthathiwong)

Thailand may be going through its driest period in 20 years, but the government wanted visitors from around the globe to know that the biggest water fight in the world was on.

So, millions of people country-wide got their buckets, hoses and other gear ready for the seven-day nationwide street party that began Wednesday April 13 to mark the Thai New Year.

Tourist police showed they were into the spirit of the event when they dressed in Songkran attire and walked along Beach Road distributing 5,000 boiled eggs to Thai and foreign revelers so that they wouldn’t go hungry while splashing around Pattaya. Tens of thousands of revelers packed into our beachside resort community for the wet and wild finale to the week-long Songkran festival on Tuesday, April 19. Nationwide, the carnage on the roads was the worst in a decade, and when the water settled, 442 people will not see another Songkran. We certainly hope you and yours enjoyed a safe and fun beginning to the Thai New Year, and wish you health, happiness and prosperity in the year ahead. (Photo by Teerarak Suthathiwong)

The government had instructed the Tourism Ministry to make sure foreign tourists didn’t misunderstand the severity of the drought and cancel holiday plans out of concerns the water supply will be cut off, he said.

Songkran, as the festival is known, has the spirit of a soggy Mardi Gras and is a major tourist attraction. Revelers line the streets, or prowl the roads in pickup trucks, armed with water guns and plastic bowls, and douse anyone in sight. Some areas are closed to traffic for wet and wild street parties with loud music, booze and dancing.

An elephant at Nong Nooch Village pours water on revered Buddha images.

In past promotions, the tourism authority has played up the party scene, urging tourists “to get wet and wild” and “be part of the largest street water fight the world has to offer.”

As millions of Thais and foreigners ended their week-long Thai New Year holiday last Sunday, Songkran in Pattaya – the longest festival in Thailand – continued…coming to a close on Tuesday April 19.

But even before the last water gun was holstered, tens of thousands of people were drenched in madness, entertainment, culture and, of course, lots of the wet stuff.

Vice Adm. Sanon Pha-em give alms to monks in Sattahip.

While Songkran is observed for three official national holidays April 13-15 and with “wan lai”, or water-throwing days, for a day or two in different parts of the country, Pattaya starts when it begins and only stops after everyone else, except Phra Pradaeng District in Samut Prakan.

Driven by Thais and foreigners, the water-throwing began late April 12 and didn’t stop until many hours after the sun set on Tuesday, April 19.

Away from the water warfare, many couples and families visited local temples to make merit with food offerings, donations and wishes for a better Thai calendar year ahead.

Sand Pagodas at Wat Nongprue symbolize returning sand to the temples.

At Chaimongkol Temple in South Pattaya, residents and tourists alike congregated. The temple was the site of the annual Buddha parade April 19, complete with relics and flowers.

A similar parade was held earlier in the festival, starting from the Sanctuary of Truth in Naklua, snaking its way through the city from the Pattaya Floating Market to Central Festival Pattaya Beach and back.

Boonsampan Temple was busy as well April 14, hosting its own wan lai. Local residents were seen offering food, goods and donations in the early morning before the water battle commenced. Food and drinks were free and the temple also organized a 12,000-liter barrel of water for people to play and soak their loved ones and friends.

Revelers celebrate ‘Wan Hab’ at Wat Suttawas temple, which means to carry offerings to the temple to make merit.

On April 15, Nongprue Temple held its acclaimed sand pagoda activity. This tradition is organized annually and is believed to bring good fortune to those who participate.

In old times, people would visit local temples and step on the sand and take it home. So sand pagodas were built in order to have people bring the earth back to the temple and restore their good luck.

Other activities included food offerings, donations and water-pouring ceremonies.

Chonburi Governor Chonburi Khomsan Ekachai bathes a sacred Buddha image with scented water.

Major hotels held their cultural celebrations for Songkran by hosting traditional water-pouring ceremonies, offering food to monks and pouring scented lustral water into the palms of the senior management, wishing them a fresh and new beginning for a happy Thai New Year.

Chonburi

In Chonburi, the province opened its 84th annual Buddha Sihing and Songkran festival April 11 to welcome in the Thai New Year at Phra Buddha Sihing Hall in Muang District.

The festival, which began in 1932, combines the ceremony venerating Buddha Sihing with celebrations of Songkran and the Chonburi Red Cross Fair together into one. Activities included a procession for venerating the Buddha Sihing statue, water pouring for the elders, folk games, classical masked-dances from the Department of Fine Arts, cultural performance, exhibitions and stalls.

Dancing and singing Sattahip residents lead a procession carrying a flower-bedecked Buddha image.

For Songkran, festivities included arts exhibitions, a Songkran parade, Miss Songkran pageant, sports competitions, sales of locally made products, Chinese movies, and concerts every night.

Each night featured musical performances, including Bua Kamonthip, Frame, Milkshake Malee Huanna, and Cham Chamrum with Yes SH Days, Pu Pongsit, Mahahing and Labanoon.

Sattahip

In Sattahip District, the navy’s Air and Coastal Defense Command held its merit-making ceremony for good luck led by Vice Adm. Sanon Phaem. He led military personnel and their families in giving dried food offerings to Buddhist monks.

This family makes merit by releasing a bird from its cage.

The sailors also released 84,000 tilapia into the sea, planted Burmese padauk flowers, bathed Buddha statues in holy water, and poured water on the elderly’s hands to receive their blessings. Sanon said the annual observance preserved traditional culture which will be passed on to future generations.

Nong Nooch Tropical Garden was one of the main sites for a Pattaya-area traditional cultural festival.

Pattaya Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome and Tourism Authority of Thailand Pattaya office Director Suladda Sarutilavan opened the festival, highlighted by elephants blowing water from their trunks over VIPs and the crowd.

Kids large and small stay cool during the heat wave.

Nine other elephants put on a show while the park organized parades, food offerings to the spirits and a human vs. pachyderm water fight that the jumbos won trunks down.

The finale

Songkran came to its finale with the ‘wan lai’ days in Naklua, Pattaya and Jomtien Beach on Monday and Tuesday.

Naklua celebrated its wan lai on April 18, with the festivities taking place at Lan Po Public Park. The day began at 7 a.m. with a food offerings to 99 monks and pouring water on Buddha statues.

Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome bathes a Buddha image at the Nong Nooch celebrations.

The following day on Tuesday April 19, Pattaya and Jomtien held similar ceremonies with the pouring of water on monks, the elderly and worshipping the Buddha images at Wat Chaimongkol.

The Pattaya version of the parade bearing the sacred Buddha image commenced at noon moving from Wat Chaimongkol in South Pattaya Road to the Dolphin Roundabout and back again.

Needless to say on both days the streets were filled with tens of thousands of people having a great time throwing water at each other.

Songkran’s water wars ended Tuesday, but the official end of the holiday period was on April 20 with a rice festival at Wat Suttawat Temple. Believers gathered at the holy grounds where they perambulated 3 times around the main temple before giving alms to the monks. This tradition is also believed to bring the participants good fortune and healthy, longer life.

These young girls wish one and all a Sawadee Pee Mai with a courteous ‘wai’.

A Thai lady solemnly pours water over a Buddha image silently praying for peace and prosperity for her beloved country.

An elderly lady pours water on the scared image of Lord Buddha at Wat Boon Kanjanaram in Jomtien.

No one is spared from a full Songkran blessing, not even the constabulary.

Sattahip residents built a special swimming pool for the children to romp around in and stay cool.

It’s a fun day for everyone.

Just a little cooling powder to wish in the Thai New Year.

Man the water cannons, we’re under attack!

Beating the heat, and staying within the rules.

Sukhumvit was not a safe zone during Wan Lai in Pattaya, Naklua and Jomtien.

Beach Road is packed almost all the way from north to south.