Thai New Year & the Water Festival –
April 13th marked the start of the Songkran Festival, defining the Thai New Year. The festival is most known as the ‘water festival’ as buckets of water and water guns are out in spades – EVERYWHERE. Our roommate warned that you are not even safe on a bus, for they will splash water into the bus as you drive by. Not wishing to miss any of this fun, our wonderful friend Manee took us to experience it first hand.
We began at Wat Pho, well known for it’s very large Reclining Buddha, 46 meters long (or about 151 feet). It is said to have one of the largest collection of Buddhas but time prevented us from spending much time wandering. We did follow a few traditions there, including returning sand to the monastery and bathing the buddhas.
First ritual honored – returning the sands, taken away on your sandals, to the monastery. In other parts of Thailand, sand pagodas are made in front of the monastery as a form of worship/offering but also as a contest. This tradition has the benefit of also raising the height of the ground (if the Internet is correct).
Next, we performed the bathing ritual of the Buddhas, done as a sign of respect. Traditionally, this is also done with the elders and transformed into the water festival including buckets and water guns.
With these rituals honored, we headed to the most amazingly beautiful and oh my gosh cool, Temple Arun, or The Temple of Dawn. The Temple stands at 67 meters (over 219 feet tall).
The incredible thing is that you can walk up most of the steps and gain a gorgeous view of the city. Each step was at least a foot and a half high (which doesn’t sound like much but they were steep!). The fourth step was about at chin level. Long, very sturdy rails, wrapped in rope, helped us to ascend and descend mildly safely.
With our respects paid and the heat of the day increasing, we headed to our our first stop on Khoasan Road, typically called ‘the backpacker area’. At 11am, it was a mostly tame scene (versus Si Lom Road), which is not to say that we were not immediately soaked.
On this road, we could walk around though and there was enough space in between us and the next person that water gun fire could be exchanged. The images below from Si Lom Road express how tightly packed we were. Soaking occurred again, but more due to the firehoses than actual water gun exchange. Both are necessary to experience. My preference would definitely be Khoasan Road though.
With the packed people, the main form of revelry seemed to take shape in the powder/paste smeared on faces. My Internet search again explains this is a form of respect for the elders as it has a nice cooling affect. On the street, it is a nice method to connect with people or to smear their faces with white goop. James was often the target of this, whereas, only a few did so to me, always accomanied by “happy, happy” and a big smile.
And that concludes the brief (too late) overview of Songkran Festival. As it turns out, I couldn’t find a lot of information online (during my brief check about it) so feel free to correct and add information. Thank you to James for all of his pictures, as my search in many camera shops, did not yield me a dry bag like he had.
Think you would journey to the streets?
Click on a picture above or below to see more details. Few more I was able to take with my camera:
Few more looking down [thanks James!]: