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Guide to Songkran Festival Thailand

April 8th, 2011 by

Visit Thailand this April and beat the heat by getting soaked to the skin. How? Songkran Festival!

Songkran is a Sanskrit word which means “passing through” and refers to the sun’s passing into Aries. Basically, Songkran is the celebration of the New Year in Thailand. It’s also referred to as the Water Splashing Festival.  The specific dates vary but generally the festival takes place the first two weeks of April.

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The festival is an opportunity for Thais to strengthen bonds with peers, colleagues, neighbors and their Buddhist faith. It’s a time to set new resolutions and correct all past bad conduct. At the start of the first day, Songkran adherents visit different wats to offer prayers and food to the monks.

Songkran is also a time when the people of Thailand pour a mixture of water and gentle Thai perfume over the Buddha images in their homes to cleanse them.  Eventually, this ritual evolved into a massive, playful water fight. As a result, truckloads of water are prepared in time for the celebration. Everyone dumps, squirts and throws water at anyone on the street. Even kids have a field day by arming themselves with water rifles and using each other as targets. Other materials used in the celebration include regular garden hoses, buckets, pails, or even disposable drinking water bottles. Elephants, which are highly venerated in the country, also play a part in the festivities. These creatures are instructed by their handlers to fill their trunks with water and give the roaring crowd a good spray.  There is no other way to stay dry other than to stay locked up inside Thailand hotels. But that wouldn’t be much fun now, would it?

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Those who are geared up to get wet and stifle the blazing Southeast Asian heat can enjoy Songkran in a number of locations across Thailand.

The celebration runs longer in Chiang Mai than anywhere else.  As with other cities, celebrants line the main arteries to load their “weapons” and pails with water for the big battle. The larger-sized Buddhas from the different monasteries are paraded along the streets in order for people to throw water at the images as part of the cleansing tradition.  Furthermore, Thais also bring containers of sand to their respective temples and dump them in one pile, which is later decorated with prayer flags of different colours.

Of course, Bangkok is an ideal location for Songkran as well. A lot of foreigners prefer to head to Khao San Road, a famous backpacker district, to take part in a wild water party. Others go to the Grand Palace and Sanam Luang areas for a piece of the action.  These locations are perfect to see huge, iconic Buddha images and get soaked, of course!

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Pattaya is another fun place to experience Songkran Festival.  In addition to water-throwing mayhem, small carnivals and flea markets are also set up for visitors. Celebrants must be prepared to brave chaotic traffic jams and wade through pools of water left on the streets, however.

Other countries in the region, such as Burma, Laos, and Cambodia, also celebrate Songkran.

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