Regardless of whether you have been to Thailand, you must have seen or heard of the Songkran Festival from documentaries, photos and perhaps even Youtube videos. The origins, the history, the cultural and religious significance of the festival aside, Songkran, especially to the youngsters, is all about splashing water at people on the streets just for the fun of it. Meanwhile, temples are crowded with devotees, public transport is strained to the point of bursting as country folks working in the city rush home to celebrate the new year.
Foreigners face no language barrier in this activity. The Farang colony of Khao San Road in Bangkok is suddenly reclaimed by Thailand as Farangs of all ages and nationalities celebrate as if they were Thais. in Bangkok is often turned into The biggest, most happening arena for Songkran in Thailand, is Chiangmai.
The tuk tuk you see above was registered in Chiangmai as seen from the licence plate. And if you happen to find yourself in Chiangmai during Songkran, prepare to get drenched. In contrast, the “fights” that you see in places like Bangkok are very tame. Chiangmai is the place to be if you really want to soak up on Songkran.
The Thais are most keen to see you immersed in their culture. As you stand there dripping wet, try to dance to the music, turn your squirter on the girl of your dreams and soak up the Thai people’s most graphic manifestation of sanook. At a time when water levels are at their lowest, Thais indulge in the fun of throwing all remaining water at strangers in optimistic anticipation of the monsoon.
For obvious reasons, elephants are often roped in to help dispense the watery blessings. Those without elephants can use pickup trucks. There has been talk of banning the splashing of water from the backs of pickup trucks, but it’s unlikely that people will obey. The biggest advantage of pickup trucks? They are fast, long-range and can carry barrels of ice water which will leave their opponents trembling.
Most of those holding their positions outside the shops and other buildings have to rely on taps to provide the ammunition. Pickup trucks can fill up at rivers, ponds and even the moat surrounding the old city.
Compared to calm and serene Loy Krathong, Songkran is a lot more boisterous. But for the young and virile, it’s no less romantic. Both festivals involve floats, processions and beauty contests. How does love blossom in the midst of all that vigorous splashing, messy hair and smudged makeup? Compared with sedate Loy Krathong, Songkran has the advantage of being sexy and spontaneous. This is the season to meet new friends, settle old scores, fall in love and start life anew. For the hundreds who get killed in road accidents or other alcohol related brawls, starting life anew holds a literal meaning. You can read more about it in my book Spellbound In Chiangmai.
So if you don’t mind getting soaked to the skin, make a trip to Chiangmai now. Remember to waterproof your passport. I got mine totally wet once. Songkran starts today and officially ends on the 17th of April. Sawadee wan Songkran. Len nam!
Spellbound In Chiangmai by Chan Joon Yee
© Chan Joon Yee