It’s April in Southeast Asia, and the time to celebrate the New Year is upon us. It’s Songkran time! This is my first time celebrating Songkran, and it’s been an experience that I’ll never forget.
While Songkran has been known for it’s water fights, foam parties, and a drunken excuse to not work for a few days, it actually is a highly religious festival for the Buddhists of Thailand. It’s not uncommon to see pilgrims making their way to the nearest wat [temple] to pray, give food to the monks, or cleanse the Buddha by gently pouring water mixed with a Thai fragrance. Here in Chiang Mai, Buddha images from the city’s most important temples are paraded through city streets on decorated floats so people can toss water on them as they pass. Also, I’ve seen people carrying handfuls of sand to their neighborhood temple in order to make amends for the dirt that they have carried away on their feet during the rest of the year. The sand is then sculpted into piles and decorated with colorful flags.
The throwing of water began as a way to pay respect to one another, by collecting the water after it had been poured over the Buddhas for cleansing and then using this “blessed” water to give good merit to elders and family by gently pouring it on the shoulder. It has since evolved into an all out water fight, with buckets & guns, as April is also the hottest month of the year.
As me & some friends walked the streets lining the moat of downtown Chiang Mai, every 10 seconds another bucket of warm [dirty] moat water poured down our backs, and a truck hauling ice cold buckets of water were tossed in our faces.
For some, this event is torture, as you can’t leave your apartment or hotel even for food, without getting soaked. But for others it’s a celebration and a chance to unwind. I’m somewhere in the middle. I loved immersing in a new culture [pun intended], but after 3 days of returning home dirty & wet, I’m ready for this event to wrap itself up. In Chiang Mai, Songkran can stretch from 3 days to 5 days. I’m really glad I got to experience this amazing event. But I’m also really glad when I get dinner not dripping wet.
For more on Songkran, check out this video I made as well!