Yes it has been a year since we celebrated Songkran, 2011, so get ready to do it again. This year the celebration often referred to as the Water Festival is from Friday, 13th April through Sunday, 15th April. But since it is a national holiday in honor of Thai New Year many businesses will be closed giving their employees a long weekend that actually lasts until the 17th of April. For those of you that have celebrated Songkran in Patong before, you know what to expect, so don’t complain when you find yourself soaked to the bone on your way to the store. For those first time participants let me try to explain a little about what to expect during the several days that we celebrate Thai New Year, which is what Songkran means. The best way I can describe the Songkran celebration in Patong is say that it a water gun fight to end all water gun fights that lasts the first two days. Now it goes on all over the island so if you are traveling about other parts of Phuket during this period, be prepared to get wet.
Patong Beach is the epicenter of the celebration, thus if you are in Patong Friday the 13th or on Saturday the 14th, you will get wet and not just a little wet, but you will be soaked by people with all manner of water guns, buckets of water and all manner of containers so they can dump water on passers by. If you want to take part in the celebration, first buy a squirt gun from one of the hundreds of vendors along the streets or that are sold in all the stores. Next, fill your wet gun and head to Soi Bangla where most people like to wonder up and down squirting each other. Don’t worry about running out of water, there are vendors with barrels of ice cold water that will happily refill your water gun for only 10 baht, but be prepared to get squirted and have ice cold water dumped on you as you wait to refill. It is all great fun for everyone, although some people, mainly foreigners, do tend to go a bit overboard with very powerful squirt guns, so do be careful. Even the police are not immuned from getting soaked
You will not only get wet, but many Thai’s will cover you face with white powder as a sign of good luck and Buddha’s blessing. So don’t be surprised when one person is dumping a bucket of water over you, while another is rubbing powder on your cheeks.
You may be asking how did the Songkran/Water Festival/Thai New Year Celebration evolve into this huge water gun fight? So let’s look at the history of the celebration, the Thai people have celebrated Songkran for centuries to honor the “New Year” based on the Sun passing into a new astrological sign, in this case Aries. You will be interested to learn that Songkran actually comes from a Sanskrit word, Songkhla, which means the movement or passing of the Sun into a new astrological sign. Water has always been a important part of the celebration showing the main focus of happiness in the new year, On the morning of Songkran Day the Thai people will give alms to Buddhist monks, bath Buddha images and pour water onto the hands of the elderly and most respected members of the community. Following these solemn proceedings, it was customary for young Thai girls to throw water on each other in celebration and it from this practice that today’s huge water celebration has evolved. The Grand Songkran Festival is celebrated in 13 provinces throughout Thailand in a variety of ways, with the largest being in Bangkok.
It is up to you whether you participate in Songkran and to what degree, but if you are looking for a good time with lots of good natured fun, load up you water guns and join in the celebration. But don’t forget the solemn side of Songkran since it is probably one of the most important events on the Thai calendar.
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