Category Archives: Songkran

Songkran in Phra Pradaeng

The Mon people of Samut Prakan traditionally celebrate Songkran a week later than the rest of the country. This year it was later than normal as it was held between 22nd and 24th April 2011. The celebrations started with a Miss Songkran Beauty Contest on Friday night. Then each night, along the waterfront, there was a food festival.

During the three days there was also an opportunity to watch a traditional Mon game called Saba. It is difficult to explain the rules other than to say that it is a kind of courtship game. In the past, there wasn’t many opportunities for young men and women to meet and this game was one way that they me could perhaps find a future bride.

For many people, the highlight of the Songkran Festival in Phra Pradaeng was to come out again for a water fight. Which is ideal for people who believe that only having three days between 13 and 15 April is just not enough. This year, if you travelled around Thailand it was possible to join in water fights continuously for 15 days.

For me the highlight was the Songkran Parade that took place on Sunday afternoon. Thousands of local people lined both sides of the road as at least ten colourfully decorated floats and marching bands passed by in the parade which took nearly one hour to go from the District Office on the waterfront to Wat Prodket. This year the parade was broadcast live on television.

The parade ended with the releasing of the fish and birds at Wat Prodket. This is a Mon tradition for making merit that was later adopted by the Thai people. They believe that by releasing these creatures back out into the wild that they are saving lives. In this picture the Samut Prakan Governor led other people, as well as Miss Songkran, who is wearing the yellow dress, in releasing the fish and birds.

Building Sand Pagodas During Songkran

I spent most of my Songkran holidays enjoying the more traditional side of this new year festival. Yesterday I visited my local temple to take some pictures of two Songkran activities. The first one was Song Nam Phra where people poured water on the hands of monks. I told you about this one yesterday. The second event was Chedi Sai, the building of Sand Pagodas.

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These two events happen at most temples around Thailand during Songkran. The date does vary. Last year my local temple held it during the middle of the Songkran water fights. It was like an oasis in the middle of a war zone. In the surrounding area, roaming pickup trucks, packed with people armed to the teeth, were patrolling the streets looking for people to squirt with their guns. However, in the temple grounds, families were taking part in a more traditional part of Songkran.

This tradition apparently started as a way for local people to make merit. It was reckoned that over the course of a year, a lot of sand would accidently be taken away from the temple on the bottom of people’s shoes. So, once a year, local lay people would be invited to bring back some sand and build a stupa. Well, these days things are a bit more organized. When I visited this temple the other day a truck was just delivering the sand and the monks were busy making large piles for each team.

There was a good atmosphere at the temple yesterday. There was a lot of other things going on as well and plenty of food stalls to keep people fed.  There were a lot of families there. Each family was working on their own stupa. The shape and sizes did vary quite a bit and also the decorations put on them. But most of them had little flags and sticks with money attached to them

Bathing Monks and Novices during Songkran

One of the more traditional events that takes place during Songkran is “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 Chai Mongkol in Samut Prakan this afternoon during their annual “song nam phra” ceremony. People came to the temple in their best clothes with their families. 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 novice monks, poured some colder water down their necks.

Once the lay people had finished pouring water on the monks and novices, 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. Wat Chai Mongkol have about 300 novice monks at the moment who ordained for the summer holidays.

Pictures of Songkran on Bangsaen Beach

The Wan Lai Bangsaen Festival is taking place this weekend, 16th-17th April 2011, on Bangsaen Beach in Chonburi. This is the annual water flowing festival that takes place a few days after Songkran. People in this area of Chonburi Province are descendants of the Mon and they celebrate Songkran later than the rest of the country. I went down there today to take some pictures, but the main day is tomorrow on Sunday.

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The highlight for the Bangsaen festival is the sand pagodas that are built on the beach on the first day of the festival. It is traditional in temples all around the country to make merit by building sand pagodas. In Bangsaen the local people build both gigantic and beautiful sand pagodas. Tonight the judges will chose the best looking pagoda.

Usually I drive down to Bangsaen on the second day to see the completed sand pagodas. However, this year I am not free as I am taking pictures at my local temple tomorrow. Instead of going down early in the morning, I decided to go after lunch with the hope that some of the pagodas would be finished. I wasn’t disappointed as you can see from this picture.

For most people, the weekend means another excuse to have water fights. This resulted in Beach Road being one long traffic jam of pick-up trucks with people on the back throwing water at each other. However, unlike in Bangkok, it doesn’t really matter if you get wet and dirty here as you can always just run down to the beach and jump into the sea!

Also along the waterfront there were a couple of venues where they were putting on free concerts. Free, that is, if you don’t mind getting a bit wet. For people who want something more traditional, there is a Buddhist ceremony on Sunday morning at 7 a.m. with chanting and offering alms to monks. This is followed by pouring scented water over the hands of elders and on a Buddha image.

Tomorrow there also some traditional games played by the local people which include saba and relay races. One of the most fun competitions to watch is “sea boxing”. They had the qualifying rounds today. Two competitors face each other astride a pole. The winner of each round is the one who manges to stay on the pole. It is not easy to box and keep your balance on the pole. If you slip off you fall into the water.

Bangsaen is only an hour or so away from Bangkok and is the capitals nearest beach. This is a great place to come and relax and eat in the shade on deckchairs. Information about this festival was posted in advance on two of our blogs and Make sure that you bookmark these two sites if you want to experience some festivals that many foreign tourists don’t get to see.

Map showing location of Bangsaen Beach in Chonburi:

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The First Day of Songkran

Songkran in Thailand has become famous around the world as one big water fight. However, in reality, there is a lot more to this festival which marks the start of the traditional Thai new year. These are some of the pictures that I took on the first day, 13th April. The day started early with prayers, chanting and giving alms to monks. By making merit in this way the Thais believe that they will get good luck for the new year.

Next came the pouring of rose scented water over the hands of senior citizens. Elderly people are greatly respected in Thai society and people all over Thailand took part in this ceremony called “Rod Nam Dam Hua” with their parents and grandparents. They would also pour water on the hands of any revered adults. In return they would receive a blessing. This is really how all the water fights started.

Later in the morning came the Songkran Parade through the city. There were colourful floats and marching bands. The main float is for the seven daughters of a Prince who take turns to be Nang Songkran. This year it was the turn of “Kirini Thewi”. She is dressed in emerald green with emerald ornaments. On one of her ears she has a Magnolia flower. She is riding an elephant with an elephant hook in her right hand and a gun in her left.

A prophecy is also linked to whose turn it is to be Nang Songkran.  This year Thailand will be faced with plague and people will die because of disasters and mishaps. Subordinates will listen to their superiors. Product prices will be expensive and the country remains fertile. Wildlife will be endangered. Widows will have fortune. Troops will have victory over their enemies. You can interpret that in any way you like. But, this year it doesn’t look too good.

Lining the streets were several thousand local people. Many of them were armed with water pistols but quite a few also had small bottles of scented water. They would then shake this bottle at every Buddha image that passed them. For those who didn’t have this bottle, they would respectively splash water over the image. Once the parade was over, some continued with the water fights while others went with their families to pay respect to their elders.

Other traditional events that take place during Songkran include, paying respect to dead ancestors at the temple, building sand pagodas and also washing the hands and feet of the monks. The days this happens will vary as it is up to each temple. For my local temple they are doing this on Sunday afternoon. I will be going there to take pictures. You can follow me live on Twitter @RichardBarrow. I will then write about it here when I get back. Meanwhile I will be heading down to Bangsaen tomorrow where they will be having their Songkran Festival. It isn’t over yet!