Songkran or the Thai New Year falls on April 13 every year. It is the day when young people express their gratitude and pay respects to their elders and their ancestors. It is a day of happiness when we sprinkle water on each other to wish each other excellent health and good luck for the coming year.
We all look forward to Songkran, a festival that we enjoy since we were children. We wait a whole year for the day when we could visit our parents to pour lustral scented water on their hands and in return receive blessings from them along with a hug and a kiss on the forehead.
But sadly all of the sombre traditional rituals and even the fun parts were missing this year. We could not pour scented water on our parent’s hands nor receive their blessings face to face.
Instead we were showered with a dark vile virus curse that has destroyed everything we ever saw, touched, heard, tasted and smelled since the day we were born.
Songkran has come and gone and still we have not been able to show our love and loyalty to the people who gave us life. I am so very sad.
The official New Year falls on April 13 and according to traditional custom, Thais pour water all over each other on that day. But here in Pattaya, April 19 is our day. It is known as ‘Wan Lai’. ‘The day of flowing’. No it doesn’t mean the flow of water. The Thai expression means that on that day thousands of people are crammed together to celebrate, when the mass of bodies moves, you flow with the crowd.
For a lot of people, Thai and foreign, the anticipation of Songkran overwhelms them and they cannot wait, so they start the festivities as early as the April 11. Most of the action takes place along Beach Road around sois 7, 8 & 9. The excuse was, the weather was very hot and they had to cool down with buckets of water over their heads.
Tourists from other countries, especially those from the mainland China and neighbouring countries and territories like Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore, Japan and South Korea booked their holiday programs to come to Pattaya City just to be here for this water throwing craziness.
They were never disappointed as Pattaya City never failed to deliver. Year after year Pattaya’s reputation as the fun place to be resonated throughout the world and more tourists came.
Billions of Baht were spent on hotels, package tours, boat trips to the islands, theme parks, restaurants, shopping malls, pubs and bars and all the other pleasures that you could imagine.
But not this year. Since the evil coronavirus struck humanity, our country also had to take action to protect and safeguard our people from getting infected.
Had the coronavirus pandemic not struck, this past week especially on the nineteenth, it would have been a really wet day. By early morning we would see hundreds of pickup trucks rolling slowly along Sukhumvit Road and of course also on all the roads and sois in Pattaya, packed with people dressed in colourful clothes standing around a water tank, throwing water on everything and everyone as they drove by.
The streets would be packed with men, women and children of many nationalities frolicking, singing and dancing as they also threw water in all directions. Some had squirt guns and some even had the high powered water guns, which the authorities forbid them to use.
There were fun activities organised all over town including concerts featuring well known performers.
But this year that was not to be.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the authorities put out an early warning to the public that they were not allowed to come out of their homes with water buckets or plastic guns to play Songkran.
They urged us instead to show our love and pay respects to our loved ones via social media. We even have to practice social distancing in our own homes.
Looking on the bright side, this year the number of road accidents during the week-long Songkran ‘holidays’ was reduced drastically. Almost everyone is staying home due to the lockdown in Bangkok and the provinces.
Police officers were relieved that they didn’t have to handle so many road accidents caused by drunk drivers, not to mention physical assaults, harassments and hot-blooded young people fighting with each other with fists and beer bottles just to satisfy their egos or over a person they fancied.
This year due to the lockdown, many police officers were assigned to assist medical staff at road blocks to check people’s health and log their travels. But I don’t think they were complaining. In effect when they got off-duty, they happily ‘stayed home’ with their families just like everyone else.
On the positive side Songkran is very good for the economy, while on the negative side, families have to endure the agony of road accidents and crimes that cause injury and death to their loved ones during the dreaded ‘7 dangerous days’.
The coronavirus pandemic makes us think very hard about all that is happening around us. Life as we know it will never be the same. Will Songkran ever be the same? Will businesses ever recover? Will the human race ever get over the worst scourge ever to hit mankind in this lifetime? Will we learn valuable lessons from this viral phenomenon?
In any case, I miss my Songkran.