The songkran Water Festival, marking the Thai new year, is generally the largest country-wide celebration of the year. It’s also a huge excuse for foreigners to get drunk and stupid.
My first experience last year was mostly great, a lot of fun having my face covered with powder and being doused with water (some with ice) numerous times. Somehow, I managed to keep my camera dry and took some decent pictures (see below).
The only downer for the celebrations in Hua Hin was an ugly incident we had with some young Thais getting into a one-sided fight with some older British tourists.
In my daily news today for Hua Hin Expat News, I included the following:
Songkran festivities watered down
Provinces across the country have been preparing activities and various measures to keep revelers safe while celebrating Songkran Festival this week.
The celebrations are taking place amid tighter controls over revelers’ behavior and water wars, stricter traffic rules to prevent road carnage, additional measures to prevent possible attacks, and stronger limits on alcohol consumption.
Elephants and Songkran
Authorities have also urged revelers to dress decently and refrain from using high-pressure water guns, while water-splashing from trucks is only allowed in designated Songkran zones. The sale of alcohol is banned in those zones and local leaders were told to hold activities within permitted time periods and watch out for known troublemakers.
In Buri Ram’s Muang district, performance stages were set up at the front of the i-Mobile Stadium and a “water-sprinkle tunnel” was installed yesterday for the Buri Ram Songkran Carnival, which will be held on Thursday and Friday from 6pm to midnight. More than 100,000 people are expected to join the event, which covers the six-kilometer-long Buri Ram-Parkhonchai-Pattarabopit road.
Ratchabutr Road in Ubon Ratchathani’s Muang district was turned into the “avenue of water and flowers” for Songkran, with a 300-meter water tunnel to entertain revelers.
Sukhothai’s Khao Tok Road saw a water tunnel installed near the city’s clock tower and people had already started splashing water nearby.
In Chiang Mai’s Mae Rim district, Mae Sa Elephant Camp brought five elephants to play with water along with children and visitors to boost the Songkran mood.
National Security Council chief General Thaweep Netniyom said that, in line with Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan’s instructions to beef up security, important high-traffic venues would be guarded.
Deputy police spokesman Major General Songpol Wattanachai told officers not to take leave during Songkran so they could provide security against any possible attack and arrest motorists who break the law. He urged revelers, especially women, to wear decent clothing and be polite.
Meanwhile, the Public Health Ministry has provided Bt7 million to fund blood alcohol testing on people involved in suspected drunk driving accidents during Songkran.
The bar was also lowered on the legally acceptable level of blood alcohol for motorists, from the current 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to no higher than 20mg, he said. If a driver found to have exceeded the limit is under 20 year of age, police would also punish the establishment that sold them the alcohol, he said.
Meanwhile, police have proposed that it should be legal for passengers to ride in two-door pickup trucks’ extended cab spaces and in the cargo bed of pickup trucks under certain conditions, a source at the Royal Thai Police said.
The source said police asked the Land Transport Department (LTD) director-general to consider criteria that allows people who need to use pickup trucks to carry more passengers than can be accommodated in seats with seatbelts in certain circumstances.
Police suggested three guidelines: First, that the extended cab space behind the front seats of certain two-door pickup truck models could have seatbelts installed for passengers. Second, that pickup trucks with an open cargo bed could be allowed to carry up to six persons, if hand rails and seatbelts are possible. And third, that trucks allowed to carry passengers in the cargo bed must drive at less than 80 kph in municipal areas.
A new requirement came into effect yesterday requiring drivers of passenger vans on fixed routes to remove excess seats to meet the 13-seat limit. Failure to comply could result in a Bt5,000 fine and a licence suspension of up to six months. The new rule covered 15,808 passenger vans registered nationwide. – The Nation
A Songkran primer
The Songkran celebration is rich with symbolic traditions. Mornings begin with merit-making. Visiting local temples and offering food to the Buddhist monks is commonly practiced. On this specific occasion, performing water pouring on Buddha statues is considered an iconic ritual for this holiday. It represents purification and the washing away of one’s sins and bad luck.
As a festival of unity, people who have moved away usually return home to their loved ones and elders. As a way to show respect, younger people often practice water pouring over the palms of elders’ hands. Paying reverence to ancestors is also an important part of Songkran tradition.
The holiday is known for its water festival, which is mostly celebrated by young people. Major streets are closed for traffic, and are used as arenas for water fights. Celebrants, young and old, participate in this tradition by splashing water on each other. Traditional parades are held and in some venues “Miss Songkran” is crowned.
The mythical origins behind the celebration of Songkran revolve around the Nang Songkran or the Seven Ladies of Songkran. Kabilla Phrom, also known as Brahmā, enjoyed betting and met a seven-year-old boy named, Thammabal Kumara who was able to recite scriptures in public.
Kabilla Phrom wanted to test the child’s knowledge so he descended to earth and presented three riddles to the boy and in return if he knew the answer Kabilla Phrom would offer him his head to the boy. However, if the boy failed to come up with seven answers within seven days he would lose his head to Kabilla Phrom.
The three riddles were, “where did a person’s aura exist in the morning, where was it at noon, and where did it appear at night?”
For six days, the boy pondered over the riddles and could still not find an answer. However, the boy who was laying under palm trees heard a male and female eagle joyfully talking about how they would soon be able to feast on a boy’s dead body. The two eagles then revealed the answers to the riddles that the boy overheard and he immediately went to Kabilla Phrom.
The boy recited the answers, “In the morning, a person’s aura appeared on his face, so he washed it. At noon, it was at his chest; so, he wore perfume there. And at night, his aura moved to his feet; that was why he bathed them”,
Kabilla Phrom had lost the bet and so had to cut off his own head. Kabilla Phrom’s head, however, held special powers, if it should touch the ground, the earth would catch fire; if it should be left in the air, there would be no rain and if it should be dropped into the sea, the sea would dry up.
In order to save the world from these possible disasters, the god’s seven daughters or Nang Songkran placed their father’s head on a phan and carried it around in procession around Mount Meru before placing it in a cave on Mount Kailash with many offerings. Thus, at the beginning of each year, Kabilla Phrom’s daughters would take turns to bring out the god’s head and carry it in procession around Mount Meru; this celebration is known as Songkran. – from sources
And here are a few photos from last year (new photos tomorrow):