Thais and Farangs (foreigners) roam the streets with water containers or water guns (sometimes mixed with mentholated talc), or post themselves at the side of roads and drench each other and passers by. This, however, was not always the main activity of this festival. Songkran was traditionally a time to have family gatherings in their hometowns. By doing so, they mark the end of an old year and welcoming the incoming one.
On the first day, people ‘send off’ the past year in many ways. Houses are cleaned thoroughly, parades are staged in every town and Buddha images are carried to temples. The second day sees the families making merit with monks in the morning and ushering the arrival of the New Year by splashing scented water on each other. On the last day, people pay homage to ancestors and seek forgiveness and blessings from elders by sprinkling water on them.
Among young people, the holiday evolved to include dousing strangers with water to relieve the heat, since April is the hottest month in Thailand (temperatures can rise to over 100°F or 40°C on some days). This has further evolved into water fights and splashing water over people riding in vehicles. During this time, there is a buzz of excitement and you cannot go 500 metres before getting the inevitable drenching. It is common for five litres of water to be hurled at you, thoroughly drenching you from head to toe which will leave the youngsters pleased with their efforts.
On the water throwing day, we left and took the main road to our destination. We threw water at each other as well as passing vehicles. What a blast! Many of the vehicles passing by had added ice to their water buckets making their water ice-cold and a drenching from them a little more refreshing. After a few hours of the water fights, beer drinking, eating and general merriment, we arrived home drenched, but with a smile and a sense of satisfaction that we had given as much as we had taken.
I can honestly say that is a fantastic way to spend time with family and friends – I would recommend it to everyone. Make Songkran a feature in your next holiday to Thailand.