Songkran is the celebration of Thai New Year. This isn’t celebrated with a countdown, champagne and kisses like it is in the U.S, but is celebrated in a giant nation-wide water fight! Songkran follows the tradition Hindu & Buddhist calendar. The roots of this water fight comes from the local religions. Blessings come from monks often in the form of water and chalk. The water symbolizes the washing away of sins and bad luck. Nowadays, I think (like with most major holidays) the true meaning has been pushed a bit to the side. We didn’t witness blessings being bestowed in a spiritual way, but instead a giant party where people bought water guns & colored chalks, lined the streets with barrels of water and buckets and took turns trying to wipe as much chalk/water mixture on others as possible. Here’s a look into how we celebrated Songkran in Bo Phloi, at Safari Park Zoo and in Kanchanaburi.
» Celebrating in Bo Phloi – After work a groups of co-workers/co-volunteers at Safari Park went out grabbed some beers and snacks. While enjoying our beers at this tiny bar (which is basically a family’s patio) the owner came out with a giant smile on her face and a little tub of chalk mixed with water. She walked around the table dripping water over our heads and wiping the chalk mixture on our faces & arms and of course on our clothes. This was my first experience being “Songkran-ed.”
The second time in the Bo Phloi area was when Stacey and I drove to town to get some gifts for Salapong for making us dinner, and our adorable little English Class students were calling us over wanted to “get us”. They called our names from across the street, so we decided to give in and drive over and let them wipe their chalk on us and toss buckets of water on us, knowing that we were defenseless. They laughed intensely and it made me laugh too seeing their smiling faces.
The face of a Westerner who’s been “Songkran-ed” for the first time.
» Celebrating at Safari Park Zoo – Now there were two instances of celebrating at the zoo. Staff vs. Volunteers, but the first was a surprise attack by the staff where they ambushed our housing with hoses and buckets! I was freshly showered and in decent clothes, ready to go get a beer when Salapong & Ms. Toi came into my room, picked me up and carried me screaming down the walkway outside where a hose of cold, cold water was waiting for me at the end of the walkway! I was soaked to the bone! This led us to a retaliation after the staff meeting…
The before shot of all the volunteers
Stacey gets credit for this awesome shot of Ry making an attack
» Celebrating in Kanchanaburi – Stacey and I had been “back to civilization” for a day after leaving the zoo, but decided that there was no way we were going to miss celebrating Songkran with our Safari Park friends! So, we met up with them and got ready to celebrate! We put our swimsuits on under our clothes and filled up our water guns (which were essentially useless because others had buckets!). We met up at a restaurant and braved the streets. Of course, it wouldn’t be a celebration without some Chang beer! So, we stopped and bought some, but they smartly transferred the beers into empty water bottles so we wouldn’t get chalk and water in a glass & so no glass was broken on the streets! Genius!
Of course, we turned on each other from time to time.
After a while we decided to walk down and get some more beers. We stopped at this little tent where we still were graced with our chalk “blessings”.
This is what an afternoon of celebrating Songkran looks like! It was a blast celebrating it with my Safari Park crew! This is just a look at what celebrating Songkran looks like in Kanchanaburi, Thailand and surrounding areas! What a great experience!
* Just as a side note: this festival can be a deadly festival because people will throw buckets of water on motorbike drivers causing lots of accidents! We listened daily for the reports on deaths and injuries. (Injuries usually totaling above 1,000!) So, while this festival is a lot of fun, be sure to be cautious and be mindful of the people riding on motorbikes.
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