Prepare to get soaked during the annual Song Khran Festival, a day of water throwing and face pasting (wiping a sticky watered talc on passers-by). All over Thailand in April, the hottest time of year, the streets are lined with young and old, some armed with small water pistols, others with large bazooka-type water cannons, small throwing bowls next to refilling barrels, even hoses during this much-anticipated holiday season. It’s the best fun of the year.
The wettest area by far during the festival is right here on my doorstep in Bangkok, in the Khao San Road backpacker area. Thousands of Thai locals and ‘farang’ revellers (foreigners such as myself) not only mercilessly drench each other but passing traffic too. ‘Farangs’ make legitimate targets as it’s a great way to interact with locals and most of us have probably never experienced anything like it apart from the odd pillow fight with siblings. Thai people just love soaking us. Thailand is known as the ‘land of smiles’, never more so than during Song Khran.
The arsenal of water guns and hoses lining the roads and pavements make a stroll relatively hazardous unless one is prepared to be dunked many times over. Best just to soak up the fun. Teenagers packed into the back of pick up trucks trawl the streets for victims, refilling their pistols and bowls from barrels of ice-cold water, which is then poured or blasted down the back of your neck many times over.
Revelling aside, New Year in Thailand is still a time of renewal and of showing respect for elders. The water theme of Song Khran originated from the cleansing of Buddha statues with water which was then collected and used to douse worshippers. It is held as the traditional New Year’s Day from 13 to 15 April.
© Warren Field 2011