Numerous festivals and fairs in Thailand are incredible – there always seems to be something going on. The most wonderful of all Thai festivals is known as the “Songkran Festival” (the Thai New Year), which starts on April 13 every year and is known to last for 3 days with the throwing of water over everyone and sprinkling of the elderly and scared images.
Songkran on April 13 is ‘Maha Songkran Day’ or the day to mark the end of the old year, and is also known as ‘National Elderly Day’. April 14 is ‘Wan Nao’, which is considered ‘Family Day’; whilst April 15 is ‘Wan Thaloeng Sok’, which the New Year begins.
Traditionally, Songkran is the time of cleansing – washing away the old and bringing in the new. Buddha images are bathed most of the time with scented water with flower petals; houses are cleaned and monks and older family members receive the respect of younger generations through the process of sprinkling water or scented water with flowers over their hands.
The emphasis today, however, is not on tradition, and while many families still follow these customs at home, the festival’s water wars have become the main attraction for both tourists and younger generations of Thais.
For Pattaya, Songkran celebration is not performed on April 13 -15, but its well-known Songkran ‘Wan Lai’ (literally: flowing day) takes place on April 18-19, especially on 19. Some people will go out, in late morning, with water tanks on pickup trucks, and circle around the city until they can move no more, packed in Songkran’s traditional jammed-traffic somewhere in the afternoon. Some will walk the streets having water fights using containers of water or water guns. Pattaya Beach Road, especially, is set to be the Songkran’s walking street flanked by various vendors and concerts for tourists. There are also people standing at the side of roads with a hose to soak anyone who passes by.
Some people not only have fun, but also earn money on the day. As a big festival means large crowds in town, it is a golden chance for merchants. And since everyone needs at least a water gun or water dipper or power or chalk to join in the event, people who see opportunities set up temporary stands to sell the items, and food as well.
Most people release themselves and have lots of fun leaving everything behind for a whole day. The city is full of joy, cheers and music. Even though the traffic is an absolute nightmare and the weather is terribly hot, and there are risks of accidents and crimes, people have been counting down time for the ‘must not miss’ day since the beginning of April. It also does not hurt that April is the hottest part of the year in Thailand, so being soaked is a refreshing escape from the heat and humidity.