Monthly Archives: April 2009

Song Nam Phra during Songkran

One of the more traditional events that took place during Songkran recently was “song nam phra“. This is the practice of bathing Buddha images with rose scented water. Most tourists, and even some Thai teenagers, seem to think that Songkran is only about throwing water at each other. However, it was originally more a bathing of Buddha images and pouring water on the hands of monks and elders. The latter ceremony is called “rod nam dam hua“. Over the years people tend to spend more time playing water fights which is obviously more fun.

I took these pictures at Wat Mahawong in Samut Prakan last week during their annual “song nam phra” ceremony. People came to the temple in their best clothes with their families. Much like they did for the “phra chedi sai” ceremony which I told you about before. They then prepared some rose scented water which they first poured onto a Buddha image. Next they walked down a line of seated monks and carefully poured some water onto their hands. Some people, who were a bit more familiar with the younger monks, poured some colder water down their necks.

I am sure the monks didn’t mind this public bathing. Their chairs were all lined up in the sun and it was extremely hot. In the shade it reached a scorching 39 degrees Celsius that day. Once the lay people had finished pouring water on the monks, they then had some fun splashing water on each other. This is basically where the water fights started. In the old days, it was mainly restricted to the temples. Now it is on all the streets and no-one is safe from the roaming pick-up trucks armed to the teeth with barrels of water and powerful water guns.

I am glad that Songkran is finally over. For us in Samut Prakan it lasted seven days. After the final day I decided that it was finally safe to go and get my car washed. During the week there was no point as it was often smeared with white paste. I can now also walk down the street without having to keep looking over my shoulder. Not that I am walking around outside much at the moment. It is so hot here in Thailand. At least with Songkran there is plenty of water being thrown around if you don’t mind getting wet. I have written quite a few stories about Songkran in Samut Prakan. You can find them all in the Festivals in Samut Prakan section of our local website

Releasing Fish and Birds at Songkran

One of the best Songkran Parades in Thailand is held in Phra Pradaeng District in Samut Prakan Province. It is traditional for the Mon people in this region to release birds and fish during Songkran in order to make merit for themselves. Many of the townspeople dress up in their best clothes and then parade through the town to Wat Proteket Chettharam.

Many people in the parade either carry bowls of fish or bird cages. They take them to the temple where they then release them back into the wild. In this picture you can see the Samut Prakan Governor together with other government officials and the winners of the Miss Songkran Beauty Contest.

These days people don’t just release wild animals during Songkran. They will often do it when they go to visit a temple or on their birthday. They believe that by releasing the birds and fish that they are saving a life. However, what they often forget is that these creatures were captured just for them to make merit. So, this sin cancels out any merit they try to make!

Abbots of some temples have started to ban people from selling birds and fish for this purpose. However, the tradition for this dates back to the days of the Buddha. There was once a novice monk, who on hearing from his abbot that he was going to die within seven days, decided to travel back to his home to say goodbye to his parents. Along the way he saw some fish which had been stranded in a puddle. So, using his robe he carefully carried them to a nearby river and set them free.

Next he came across some birds that were caught in a trap. As it would have been a sin to “steal” these birds he decided to sit and pray for their welfare. Shortly later a gust of wind dislodged the trap and set them free. He then continued on his way to his parents. Several weeks passed and he did not die. So, he went back to his abbot and asked him why. They decided that he was saved by his meritorious acts of freeing the birds and fish.

Visit our Samut Prakan website for more stories from the area where we live.

Songkran Parade in Phra Pradaeng

Most districts in Samut Prakan have their own Songkran parades. However, the biggest and best is undoubtedly held through the town of Phra Pradaeng. This took place on Sunday afternoon and was probably also the last Songkran parade of the season. It started outside the municipal offices alongside the river and then wound through the town ending up at Wat Proteket Chettharam nearly two kilometers away. It is a long way to walk in the sweltering heat but I guess many of the participants were grateful that it was Songkran as there was also a lot of water being thrown around.

I have already told you about the opening ceremony conducted by the Governor of Samut Prakan. Once that was over they were able to start. The atmosphere was incredible as there were thousands of people lining the streets to watch the colourful floats and extremely beautiful Thai women riding up on top.

I had been waiting all day for this parade. There was so much to see and photograph. As well as the floats there were marching bands and groups of local girls and boys dressed in traditional dress of the Mon people.

As you can see from this picture there was a really large crowd watching as the parade passed by. They were actually being very restrained as not many people were squirting water at this stage. This probably gave the participants a false impression that they would reach the far end without getting wet.

I managed to get a good viewpoint for the start of the parade. I started down in the crowd but then got up on the stage so that I could have a more bird’s eye viewpoint. There were so many people here that it would have been difficult to see much. Further along the route there was less people but more water throwing!

This lady is the Miss Songkran Jumbo. As well as the Miss Songkran Beauty Contest, they also held a Miss Songkran Jumbo at Bang Nampheung Sub-district. This “elephant”, which is what they say in Thai, was the winner of that competition. She certainly has a lovely smile.

It took about 45 minutes for the entire parade to pass the point where I was watching. I quickly then made a dash for my car and then drove on the back roads to Wat Proteket Chettharam. The road was blocked near the temple but I was lucky that the policeman let me through. I had the foresight to put a sign in the car window that said “media” in Thai. I arrived just in time to watch the front of the parade walking up the hill on its last stretch before the temple. Everyone looked very exhausted.

The next event was the most beautiful of the day. It was the releasing of the fish and birds. I will share these pictures with you tomorrow. In the meantime, we have been posting some pictures of this event on our Samut Prakan Forums. You can also find more information on our Samut Prakan website at Make sure that you mark it in your calendar for next year as this is one of those places that doesn’t see many foreign tourists.

Songkran Festival in Phra Pradaeng

One of the biggest and most spectacular Songkran celebrations in Thailand is held in Phra Pradaeng district of Samut Prakan. Unlike the rest of the country, the local people here celebrate Songkran a week later. This means that if you know where to go, you can enjoy the fun of Songkran at least twice. The main events in Phra Pradaeng were held over the weekend with the big parade on Sunday. The pictures here are of the opening ceremony held at the municipal offices of Phra Pradaeng District. The guest of honour was Samut Prakan Governor Mr. Kwanchai Wongnitikorn who can be seen here cutting the ribbon.

The ceremony went on for about an hour. They started a bit late which meant that the local people lining the streets had to wait in the sun for the parade to start. While they were waiting they enjoyed themselves playing waterfights. In this next picture, Sunchai Khanasa, one of the deputy governors of Samut Prakan Province, is pouring scented water over the Buddha image.

Next they released caged birds. The idea is that you are doing kindness to the birds by allowing them to go back into the wild. Forgetting of course that they were captured just for this event.

In this picture, Samut Prakan Governor Mr. Kwanchai Wongnitikorn, is releasing some fish. This is a common sight in temples and many people think it is a Thai tradition. In fact, the Mon people from Burma brought it here.

Another traditional event that takes place during Songkran is sprinkling scented water onto the hands of your elders. In Thai this is called “rot nam dum hua”. In this picture, the governor then blessed the young lady by sprinkling the water on her head.

Next came a short dance in the Mon tradition. They not only dress differently to Thai people, but they also have their own dance routines. It is a shame that not many people were here to witness any of these cultural activities. It seemed to be mainly local officials and people of the media.

The next event was a brief introduction of the game Saba. In the old days there weren’t many opportunities for people of the opposite sex to meet and court each other. So, instead they used games such as this one. In this picture the Governor and his team are having a try themselves. I will post more on this later.

The final cultural activity of the extended opening ceremony was a demonstration of the making of kalamae. It is a bit like our Caramel and is based on the same word. It took them nearly all day to make one batch by continuously stirring. A team of strong men are needed. The Governor and his team tried for just a few minutes! I will write about this more later.

That was the end of the opening ceremony. We were now ready for the grand Songkran parade through the streets of Phra Pradaeng. I will share with you my pictures tomorrow. In the meantime, we have ben posting some pictures of this event on our Samut Prakan Forums. You can also find more information on our Samut Prakan website at Make sure that you mark it in your calendar for next year as this is one of those places that doesn’t see many foreign tourists.

Amazing Thailand Facts! (Part 4)

Here are another 20 amazing Thailand facts as compiled over on the Forums. You can see the other facts already posted by clicking here.

1. Siamese Twins

122. Chang Bunker and Eng Bunker were the famous conjoined twins who gave birth to the term ‘Siamese twins.’ They were born in Samutsongkram province of Siam (as Thailand was known back then) in 1811. They made their way to America eventually settling in North Carolina where they married local women and fathered 21 children between them. The Bunkers were fierce Confederate supporters, and two of their sons, Stephen and Christopher, served in a Virginia Cavalry unit during the Civil War (Christopher was a P.O.W. in a Yankee prison camp). (InterestedGuy)

2. Origins of the word Farang as in Guava.

A Guava was known as a ‘Farang’ years before the French arrived. It was the Portuguese who originally brought the Guava to Thailand, and the fruit was called a Farang after the Persian traders (the original farangs/Franks). Ton Farang = Frank’s Tree (S. Cleary)

Other relevant Persian words from this trading era in Thai include:

Dork Kularp = Rose
Angun = Grape
Kalam Phlii = Cauliflower
Kalam Dork = Cabbage

3. The worlds smallest aircraft carrier.

Thailand has the worlds smallest aicraft carrier, The Chakri Naruebet (Thai ???????????), which was ordered in 1994, at a cost of 7 billion Baht, and commisioned in to service in 1997. It carries a total of 10 aircraft. However due to a lack of funding it has spend very little time at sea and can usually be seen tied up at Sattahip Naval Dockyard (David)

4. Thailand’s most successful ”rock” band with Filipino name.

The Thai life band, Carabao, was named when it was formed by singer Aed and friends when they were studying in the Philippines, and “Carabao” is Tagalog for ”buffalo”. (Sparky). Aed graduated in the Philippines. (S. Cleary)

5. Thailand’s currency went metric in 1897.

The decimal system of currency in Thailand was devised by Prince Mahisorn and introduced by King Chulalongkorn in 1897. This divided the Baht in to 100 Satang. Prior to then the Baht was divided in to 8 fuang (?????), each of 8 ath (???). (David)

6. Thai Expatriates

There are more Thai expatriates per capita in Switzerland than anywhere else in the world. (Thais are attracted to Switzerland as it is where the King grew up and attended school, and therefore has a sort of mythical allure to them) (PoochaiNarak)

7. Buddhist Temple Abroad

The biggest Thai Buddhist temple outside of Thailand is the massive $3million temple dedicated to the memory of its patron the late HRH Princess Sangwal outside of Zurich Switzerland (PoochaiNarak)

8. Thai-Chinese

There are no exact figures, but it is estimated that over 1,000,000 Chinese migrants arrived in Thailand between 1920 and 1940. (S. Cleary)

9. Biggest Selling Album Ever

The best-selling album of all time was the soundtrack for ‘Mon Rak Luk Thung’. Mon Rak Luk Thung, as a movie, was first aired in the 1960s and albums sold in their millions after the Channel 7 TV Drama of the same name in 1994. (S. Cleary)

10. Heaviest Schoolbags

Thai elementary schoolkids have to carry heaviest bags to school, in contrary to university students. (Solosou)

“Mitr and Petchara: Thailand’s most popular film stars of all time”

11. Most Popular Thai Actor

Hailing from Phetchaburi province, Thailand’s most popular actor of all time is the legendary Mitr Chaibancha. Mitr starred in more than 300 movies and was known as Thailand’s equivalent of Charles Bronson. Sadly, Mitr fell to his death during a helicopter stunt in 1970 at the tender age of just 36. Unlike the star actors of nowadays, Mitr was pretty dark-skinned! (S. Cleary)

12. Most Popular Thai Actress

Once nicknamed ‘Honey Eyes’ because of her beautiful round eyes, Petchara Chaowarat born in Rayong province is Thailand’s most popular ever actress. She starred in over 300 movies mostly alongside Mitr Chaibancha. Sadly, her eyesight seriously deteriorated and is now virtually blind. Rarely venturing out, she lives in seclusion with her husband. (S. Cleary)

13. The King’s Mother Language

King Bhumiphol and his elder brother King Ananda (King Rama IX & VIII) only ever spoke their mother language together – French. (S. Cleary)


The people of the north-east are often stereotyped as not the brightest people and certainly not the most successful in the land, but wait for it:

14. Tony Jaa

Tony, actor, star of Ong Bak (1 and 2) and Tom Yum Goong — from Surin. (Sparky)

15. Pira Sudham

Pira Sudham from Buriram was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature for his novel Monsoon Country, The Voice of Isarn (Surawat)

16. Paradon Srichapan

Paradon, a Khon Kaen native, was once a world’s top-ten ranked tennis player (Surawut)

17. Petchtai Wongkamlao
Also known as Mum Jokmok, has starred in mega films such as: Ong Bak, Tom-Yum Goong, Killer Tattoo, Yam Yasothorn, and Dumber Heroes. He’s from Yasothorn. (Pailin)

18. Phra Ajarn Mun Bhuridatto

(1870-1949) Ubol Ratchathani
Perhaps the most revered monk in modern Thai history and undoubtedly one of the most globally influential. Ajarn Mun and another Isarn monk Ajarn Sao founded the Forest Meditation Tradition, a tradition which would later spread Theravada Buddhism throughout the world. (S. Cleary)

19. Somluck Kamsing

Born in Khon Kaen ,on 16th January 1973. He is the first Thai athlete to win an Olympic gold medal. It was in the men’s Featherweight category at the 1996 Summer Olympics. (Anatta)

20. Sek Loso

Sek Loso or Seksan Sukpimay has been one of the most successful Thai rock singers of all time. He was born on 7th August 1974 ,in Nakhon Ratchasima. (Anatta)