The dance music started pumping at 7 a.m. and the water barrels were filled and positioned before the national anthem as Pattaya geared up for its “wan lai” Songkran finale.
One might think that after eight days of water fights city residents would have had their fill of Songkran. Many expats surely did. But Thais and tourists got a new wind of energy as Pattaya blocked off Beach Road and gave the official thumbs-up to all-out water warfare April 19.
Top city officials maintained tradition early in the day at Chaimongkol Temple, partaking in a merit-making ceremony before inviting the crowd to enjoy a stage show and traditional games.
The highlight of the event was the Songkran sand pagoda contest in which 20 companies and community organizations built their grandest castles for cash prizes. The Credit Union Issan Pattaya and the Soi Khopai Community took the top two prizes.
After that, it was everyone for themselves. Water guns, cannons, buckets and more doused anything that moved or didn’t, with those too slow also getting a face full of powder for their efforts. With temperatures soaring to 37 C, it was the perfect weather to get wet.
The insanity actually broke out on April 18 in Naklua and April 17 in Sattahip, where each community celebrated wan lai in a similar manner. Huge crowds flocked to Lan Po Public Park in Naklua as police and volunteers tried to unfreeze the traffic gridlock.
In Sattahip, District Chief Pongpan Yommart opened the official Songkran finale at Sattahip Temple. The district hooked up with several private organizations to stage a huge Buddhist relics parade featuring the Phra Sihing Mingmongkol, which is native to the area.
The Duriyang Navy Band provided the music and the “Nang Songkran” water spirit led the procession.
Yommat said Sattahip tries to stick to tradition when celebrating Songkran, although there was still plenty of water splashing.
Traditions also were observed by the Soi Chumsai and Nongsamor communities which, two days before wan lai, invited nine local monks to chant holy stanzas and enjoy a morning meal.
Neighborhood presidents Jirawat Plukjai and Wirat Tubtim led their Chumsai and Nongsamor residents, respectively, in making merit by donating robes and other necessities to the monks.
Finally, community members paid respect to the monks and to senior citizens with a traditional water-pouring ceremony. The day also offered free health checks by Asia Inter Medial Clinic.
Traffic, especially in Pattaya, was crippled by the wan lai celebrations with Beach Road shut down from dawn until dusk and pickup trucks carrying buckets of ice water crawling along the streets that remained open. Side streets leading to Beach Road also were blocked, adding to the gridlock.
Hotels and shopping malls also got into the spirit with Central Festival Pattaya Beach hosting its annual foam party and using big hoses to drench the crowd. Walking Street was as packed during the day as it was soggy that night.
The party spilled over into Jomtien Beach as well with several foam parties staged along Thepprasit Road and in the Jomtien Complex.
Tourism companies said Pattaya’s Songkran celebration drew a larger crowd of tourists this year, as last year’s celebrations were muted by the royal mourning period.