Category Archives: Songkran

Parade of the Centipede Flags and Swans

Some of the most beautiful parades that I have photographed are ones organized by the Mon people of Phra Pradaeng. They originally came from Southern Burma where they were once rulers of their own kingdom. Due to persecution and wars, they have fled their homeland and can be found in neighbouring countries such as Thailand. It is estimated that 30 provinces around Thailand have Mon communities. Many of them seem to be in the Phra Phradaeng District of Samut Prakan, Pak Kret district in Nonthaburi and Samut Sakhon Province.

Photo Album of the Parade >>>

The Mon people have integrated into Thai society so much that you don’t really notice them much these days. However, this week, the Mons of Samut Prakan have a number of cultural activities. The first big one in Phra Pradaeng was on 13th April. This was the Swan and Centipede Parade Festival. I was over there yesterday and it was really good to see so many Mons wearing their traditional clothes. A rare sight these days. The next big event for them is Songkran on 22-24 April 2011 which they always celebrate the first weekend after the rest of the country.

The parade through Phra Pradaeng yesterday reminds the Mon people of their homeland. According to legend, Buddha once went to Burma where he saw two swans swimming next to an island. He named this land Hongsawadee. Over the years the island expanded and eventually the Mon people settled there. The word “hongsa” means swan. The Buddha also predicted that Buddhism would prosper here.The Centipede Flag represents that Buddha’s teaching. The claws of the centipede show that the Mon people will never be afraid of their enemies.

Attending the parade were hundreds of Mon people representing a number of local temples. Each of them carried an image of the “swan” as well as the centipede flag which was hoisted up the flag pole once they got back to their own temple. The parade first went along the waterfront before turning right at Phra Pradaeng District Offfice and then up as far as Wat Klang where it did a u-turn and then back to the start. On the return trip, people representing each of the temples broke away from the parade in order to go back to their respective temples.

I am always worried taking pictures during Songkran parades that I might get my camera equipment wet. Most people respect the fact that I am working. However, it is quite easy to get hit in the crossfire or someone to throw water on you from behind without seeing your camera. However, there was no real cause for concern. Not many people in Phra Pradaeng were playing water fights. This is because they play the week after the rest of the country. This year Songkran here takes place between 22 and 24 April 2011.

Songkran Festival in the Four Regions

A good place to enjoy the traditional side of Songkran, and probably learn a bit about its culture and history, is at the Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall on Ratchadamnoen Klang Avenue in Bangkok. For this month, until 30th April 2011, they have a free exhibition where you can learn about Songkran in the four regions of Thailand. I certainly learned a lot and you will find the information boards in both Thai and English.

Outside of the Rattanakosin building, there is an old style food market where they are selling a wide range of delicious Thai food. A lot of this food you don’t often see and so it is a great opportunity to come and try them out. The vendors are also dressed up in traditional costume of the era.

Next door at Wat Ratchanaddaram, there is an opportunity to bathe 32 revered Buddha images around the base of the Metal Castle. Thai people believe this brings them good merit by sprinkling rose scented water on the images. This takes place only this week during Songkran.

Also next to the Rattanakosin Hall, there are cultural shows being performed free of charge in the Mahajesadabodintr Pavilion Court. They have different shows each night between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. up until Sunday 17th April 2011. The night that I went they put on a performace of Khon, a masked play.

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Celebrate Songkran at Wat Pho

There are many different places around Bangkok where you can celebrate Songkran this year. The most popular places for the water fights will most likely be Khao San Road and Silom Road. However, if you want to see a more traditional side of Songkran, then I suggest that you head to the temples.

Photo album on Facebook >>>

Many of the Bangkok temples are having special activities for Songkran. Last night I headed to Wat Pho which is the home of the Reclining Buddha. Every day this week, until Friday 15th April 2011, they have different cultural shows in the courtyard in front of the Reclining Buddha building. These start at 4 p.m. and run until 5:30 p.m.

In addition to the shows, there is also an old-style Thai market where you can buy an assortment of traditional Thai food. This is a great opportunity to taste some of the delicious Thai food and also experience Thai culture from the four regions. While you are at the temple you can also make a “sand pagoda” to pay your respects.

I am out and about during Songkran taking pictures of different events and activities. You can follow me live on Twitter @RichardBarrow. Feel free also to add me as a friend on Facebook.

Songkran at Nakaphirom Park

Many foreign tourists, and even some Thais, seem to think that Songkran is only about the water fights. But, there is another side to this festival which is more traditional. It is possible to experience what I call the real Songkran at various places around Thailand. In Bangkok, one of the best places to go is at Nakaraphirom Park which is alongside the Chao Phraya River and next to the pier at Tha Tien. It is a new park with some excellent river views including Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn.

The opening ceremony was tonight but from Sunday 10 April until Friday 15th April 2011 it is open to the public. It is open from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. but it might be better to visit in the evening when there are also some cultural shows and when it will be cooler too. At the park you will be able to see how they celebrate the Songkran Festival in the four regions of Thailand. You will also be able to sample a variety of Thai dishes.

The show that we watched tonight was really spectacular and everyone did a grand job. It was about the legend behind Songkran which was fascinating. Each night during the week there will be different performances.

On Sunday 10th April: 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thai dance “Khan Dok”, Lantern Dance and Thoi Loi. At 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. there will be a play called “Suwanna Hong”.

On Monday 11th April: 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thai dance “Hang Nok Yung”, Drum Dance and Thai percussion. At 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. a Thai puppet show from Joe Louis.

On Tuesday 12th April: Thai dance “Khan Dok”, Martial Art “Phu Thai” abd Thai dance “Sawaddiraksa”. At 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. the play Khun Chang Khun Phaen.

On Wednesday 13th April: Thai dance “Thun Phar Khwan”, Songkran Queen Dance and Nora dance. At 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. a Musical Comedy.

On Thursday 14th April: 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. I-San Rocket Dance, Dance “Loi Long Le’ and Saneng. At 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. a musical comedy.

On Friday 15th April: 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thai traditional show. 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thai classical masked play “Khon”.

Map showing location of Nakaphirom Park in Bangkok:

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Pictures of Songkran Fun in a Thai School

Songkran is the start of the traditional Thai new year. It also marks the height of the hot season. A good way to cool off is to join in with the many water fights that are just starting in Thailand. Traditionally, you are supposed to splash your elders with a little rose scented water. But, these days people just throw buckets of water at each other. The dates of the festival are 13-15 April 2011. However, be warned, in some areas, kids have already started playing water fights.

At Sriwittayapaknam School in Samut Prakan this morning, the students went to school early in order to make merit for the start of the Songkran period. They went there with their parents. They first took part in some chanting and then received a blessing from 25 Buddhist monks. They next offered alms to the monks which consisted of food and other basic essentials. They also poured rose scented water over a Buddha image. This is the traditional way to start Songkran which I will be sharing with you again on 13th April.

Afterwards, the students, who have been attending summer school, took part in some fun and games. This climaxed for them with a giant water fight in the school playground. As you can see from these pictures, everyone had a lot of fun and got very, very wet! Over the last few days I have heard about Thai companies and organizations putting on their own Songkran celebrations. Even Hollywood in the USA joined in with the fun with a Songkran Festival in Thai Town last Sunday.

Like I said, Songkran doesn’t officially start until 13th April. However, you will see some kids and teenagers starting early. I think because Songkran is Wednesday to Friday this year that many people will be taking Monday and Tuesday off work. This means for many people, the Songkran holidays started today and will continue until at least Sunday 17th April 2011. But, that doesn’t mean Songkran is over on that day. Some places in Thailand have a late Songkran so the fun continues until 24th April 2011.

For more information, please visit our Thai Festival Blogs for the section on When and Where to Celebrate Songkran 2011. We have recently launched a new website called Thai Travel Blogs which has all the latest travel news for Thailand. Check the Songkran Blogs out over there including Tips for Enjoying Songkran. I have more pictures from the Songkran fun today at school on my Facebook page. Feel free to add me as a friend.

I’ll be out and about a lot during Songkran taking pictures of the water fights and also the more traditional events. You can follow me on Twitter @RichardBarrow. Happy Songkran!