Songkran Festival

Trip Start Apr 04, 2008
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Trip End May 30, 2008


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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Astrological calculation

Although the traditional calendar of Thailand like most of Southeast Asia utilizes a lunisolar calendar, the date of the new year was calculated on a purely solar basis. The term Songkran comes from Sanskrit "Sankranta" and means "a move or change" - in this case the move of the sun into the Aries zodiac. Originally this happened at the vernal equinox, but, as the Thai astrology did not observe precession, the date moved from March to April

Meaning:

         Songkran is a Thai word which means "move" or "change place" as it is the day when the sun changes its position in the zodiac. It is also known as the "Water     Festival" as people believe that water will wash away bad luck

The most Known celebration of Songkran is the throwing of water. People roam the streets with containers of water or water guns, or post themselves at the side of roads with a garden hose and drench each other and those that passerby. This, however, was not always the main activity of this festival. Songkran was traditionally a time to visit and pay respects to elders, including family members, friends and neighbors.

Besides the throwing of water, people celebrating Songkran may also go to a wat (Buddhist monastery) to pray and give food to monks. They may also cleanse Buddha images from household shrines as well as Buddha images at monasteries by gently pouring water mixed with a Thai fragrance over them. It is believed that doing this will bring good luck and prosperity for the New Year. In many cities, such as Chiang Mai, the Buddha images from all of the city's important monasteries are paraded through the streets so that people can toss water at them, ritually 'bathing' the images, as they pass by on  decorated floats. In northern Thailand, people may carry handfuls of sand to their neighborhood monastery in order to recompense the dirt that they have carried away on their feet during the rest of the year. The sand is then sculpted into stupa-shaped piles and decorated with colorful flags.

Some people make New Year resolutions - to refrain from bad behavior, or to do good things. Songkran is a time for cleaning and renewal. Besides washing household Buddha images, many Thais also take this opportunity to give their home a thorough cleaning.
In our situation we have taken this time to "Clean our Homes"  by releasing our extra weight that we have gathered in our backpacks and ourselves.

The throwing of water originated as a way to pay respect to people, by gently pouring a small amount of lustral water on other people's hands or over a shoulder as a sign of respect. Among young people the holiday evolved to include dousing strangers with water to relieve the heat, since April is the hottest month in Thailand (temperatures can rise to over 100F or 40C on some days). This has further evolved into water fights and splashing water over people riding in vehicles.
The use of chalk (ดินสอพอง) is also very common having originated in the chalk used by monks to mark blessings.

Nowadays, the emphasis is on fun and water-throwing rather than on the festival's spiritual and religious aspects, which sometimes prompts complaints from traditionalists.

Our Experience of SongKran was delightful, as we escaped away to a hidden  Reggae Guest house only 2 hours from Bangkok! This totally Chill beach front guest house, is not in the Lonely planet guide, which is the main reason that it is sooo unknown. Rayong is the nearest city only 20 minutes away and only a 25 baht ride all the way into the downtown core (very cheap)!. Sine we arrived just before SongKran we ended up having the nicest rooms with a huge balcony for a very little money! It was heaven with the beach spanning for miles, with the seductive aqua-blue sea calling our names! ... not to mention the comfy lounge areas beneath the shaded palm trees with the cool breeze from the ocean braising out skin with its sweet kisses!...The owner Mathew was a lovely young man, and we often enjoyed the sound of the numerous drum beats coming from  his artsy Jam room just above our heads!.We were also serenaded with the sweet sound of Vincents magical flute, caressing our ears with its charm....Much Love and Gratitude!...When we arrived we had two days of pure peace and tranquility, it seemed almost at times to calm, but we lavished in its sweet serenity!.And took the time to re-evaluate our current path...Then Came SongKran!!!.. The much loved and anticipated Thai New Years! (which i described above)...It was very wet!..hehe...A Blast indeed, the  water came underway around 11am, and the road became a water parade with trucks passing on either side  filled with huge water containers and families throwing water in every direction! We even witnessed a truck pass by with a plastic lining. and a mobile pool filled with youngsters slashing about! Everyone is smiling and laughing for the whole afternoon! No one grows tired and the water keeps coming!..It was very refreshing as it was quit hot the 3 day of the Festival!...They loved seeing us "Farung" as we were moving targets, and we would often have water wars during traffic Jams, it was great! It was fun for them to get us soaked as their cultured is very reserved and respectful, and this is a time for them to let lose and be free to be silly and playful!(which is very good for the heart and soul)...

It was a real community event with small children to the elderly in full participation! It was amazing to see the transformation of this once uninhabited beach become swarmed with hundreds/thousands of Thai people! Mind you the beaches never felt to crowded if one wanted to sneak away from the splashes, you could easiy sneak across the road and sit in the cool shade, and watch the festivities from a distance. On the Third (or last) day Dan made the brave venture into Bangkok to meet with Colin to arrange our visa's, and Ei remained in the more controlled madness in Rayong,.as their was clock work the festival, beginning in the late morning and winding down in the early eve.. Whereas in Bangkok,  it was a water Frenzy! There was no end to the madness of water, Day and Night thousands of People flocked to Khao San (the tourist area)  and it was a huge water party!... NOW let me repeat that.... This was a giant 3 day water fight, with smiley , respectful travelers and Thai's, all across Bangkok city!!!!!! IT was nuts! With Live entertainment at every corner with mosh-pits full of drenched Thai and Farang as they got  their groove on!...It was like a massive wave at times and their was no going against the current!...It was spectacular and a little to noisy at night when they tried to rest their weary heads. The next morning was a haze as it was surprisingly clean due to Bangkok's sleepless cleaning crew, although their were remnants of the crazy festival sparking memories of the day before!


Off for now,

Eileen
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