Songkran is the New Year celebration focused around rejoicing for the coming storms in the rainy season. As in many cultures, water is a sacred resource, especially in this extremely hot location, and it is welcomed every year. Local people have made a game out of soaking others on street corners, using water guns or just pouring cups full of icy cold water on passerby’s. If you never grew up with siblings this might be the one time you feel like a true “big-kid.” In addition to water, people put talcum powder on others, especially on their faces. Monks put the powder on places to mark their sacredness and bless them. Putting the white powder on people now blesses them into the New Year.
Our trip into Patong Beach became a lucky coincidence. Due to some predictions of bad weather we decided to postpone going to Phi Phi Don Island, and instead agreed to explore the surrounding neighborhoods of our island for my birthday weekend.
Muay Thai is a famous style of boxing, and Patong is known to have some of the best fighting in Thailand, especially at Bangla Stadium. Sunday was one of the nights of fights, so we were excited for this outing. We had no idea the fun we were about to embark on.
As soon as we started reaching the outskirts of the city, there were tale tell signs of the impeding fun. We would notice mini cliques surrounding huge barrels of water, waiting for a semi dry soul to approach and be completely drenched, with water and laughter from the fun. Even though it was almost 6pm it was still humid out and the water was a welcome treat to cool off with.
Songkran is celebrated April 13-15, and Sunday was the 12th, so that evening everyone was welcoming the New Year. Huge water guns could be purchased on the side of the road from vendors, happy to arm another soldier of fun, regardless of their age. No one was too young or too old to use a water gun.
Then as nighttime was coming, a 30 minute downpour began, as if saying, ‘Yes, I am here, Happy New Year to ALL!’
Water guns squirting across street corners at wet strangers in every direction. After getting blessed with talcum powder more times than I have fingers, I had an idea! Use the swimming goggles I had purchased earlier in the day as protection against powder in my eyes and on my contacts AND from icy cold water being squirt into my retina. I have no idea how no one had figured this out, but it was pure genius and saved me from a lot of pain and annoyances later.
TIP: If you are traveling to Thailand just for this festival I recommend you buy a great water gun at home. Even though they are very cheap, they often are pretty crappy and will break down easy. Bringing a water gun from home will insure better quality and secure more time for fun and squirting people right in the eye ball. (That was my jam, right in the eyeball, “Got you!!“) Also, purchase some swimming goggles and use them during this water fight to protect your other weapon, your eyes!
Streets were packed, music was bumping, drinks and water guns, spilling and we were having a blast. I highly recommend this experience to anyone visiting Thailand. Songkran is the time of year to visit!