Samui Wining & Dining
SONGKRAN ON SAMUI
 Welcome to the world’s biggest water fight!

Welcome to the world’s biggest water fight!

Songkran is a dazzling anomaly. At a time when it rains the least, virtually the entire population of Thailand organizes a massive water fight and indulges in days of fun and mayhem. Millions of people will get soaked, and millions will be throwing buckets of water over passers-by. If you’re not expecting it, you might wonder what on earth is happening.

          

Songkran celebrates the Thai New Year, and does it in aquatic style. It’s a rowdy and bizarre spectacle. It might seem totally modern – it relies a lot on super-soakers and plastic water pistols of all kinds and calibres but it turns out to be centuries old. Songkran hails from India and an ancient tradition there, Makar Sankriti, a celebration of the sun passing from the old year into the new one. The festival was adopted and then adapted by the Thais and has over the years become a deep part of Thai culture and there’s nowhere in the kingdom where it’s not to be found.

          

But what exactly is the connection between the sun’s phases and water? Everything is focussed on cleansing and preparing for the New Year. That’s why if you keep an eagle eye out you’ll see plenty of people cleaning offices, factories, hospitals and so on. It’s a communal effort. The water isn’t just for cleaning buildings, however, and its further use derives from a very old tradition; Buddhist Thais visited monasteries and poured water over monks during a cleansing ritual. The water wasn’t allowed to simply drain away; it was collected and then people poured it over friends and family, blessing them. Very small, symbolic amounts of water were used at first. Now it’s the very opposite – no bucket can be too big.P72-2 Yet, the tradition is still the same. When someone is pointing their super soaker at you, they’re actually blessing you and wishing you luck in the year to come. And having a lot of fun in the process.

          

On Samui and everywhere, Monday 13th April marks the start of this three-day festival, with the first day being the big water fight day (though you may want to be careful on the evening of the 12th, as some people often decide to start things early!).
The following two days are fairly quiet on Samui, with no more water throwing, though elsewhere in the country it can continue.

          

On the day of the water fight, best avoid doing anything you might do ordinarily, such as travel anywhere on the island (unless you do it before 9:00 am or after 6:00 pm) as the ring-road will be absolutely full of trucks. There are so many vehicles on the road that it’s more like a slow-moving parade than anything else. Revellers load enormous plastic barrels onto flat-bed trucks and tour the island while soaking as many people as possible as they drive by. Meanwhile they are in turn soaked by those standing outside buildings and anywhere with access to a tap. There are no winners and losers in any of this – the idea is for everyone to soak everyone.

          

Don’t even think about venturing out and about on a scooter or motorbike - you’ll be stopped every few metres and a fresh bucket of water poured over you. It’s simply too scary if you’re trying to concentrate on driving. Speaking of travel, the days leading up to Songkran and the days after it are peak travel times with many people on the roads. Unfortunately, it’s also a peak time for road accidents, and just like with the western New Year, plenty of drunk driving. You’ll see plenty of police out and about running alcohol checks and trying to keep everyone safe.

          

If Songkran isn’t for you and you don’t want to take part, then it’s simple: just stay in your hotel and keep off the streets. And irony of all ironies, it’s safe to sit on the beach – there’s never much in the way of water throwing there! Otherwise, just let Songkran come to you – your mere appearance on any street will be enough to ensure you get doused with water.

          

Where to go if you want to be in the heart of the action? Chaweng Beach Road gets the most crowded, and the revelry reaches insane heights at times. There’ll also be foam parties, lots of loud music and social gatherings as friends and family meet up. Down in Lamai, on the beach road, there will be the same kinds of scenes, albeit less crowded, simply because the town in less populous. In Maenam, the action all takes place on the ring-road, while Nathon there tends to be much less water-throwing.

          

Note that not all water is the same; some may have been chilled and some may have talc in it. Talcum powder also gets patted onto people’s faces. So you’ll probably end up looking quite strange by the end of the day, daubed in white.

          

If you’re on Samui with small children, they’ll love Songkran, but they may get a bit fractious after a long day in the sun – remember to use plenty of sunscreen. And remember to get your children their armaments in advance. Major supermarkets will have a satisfying array of firepower in stock and children will have immense fun just choosing their weaponry.

          

For most people Songkran is one of the best times in the year. Time to let your hair down and indulge in some hedonism. If you’re seeing Songkran for the first time, it seems unbelievable. Take some photos to get proof it really all did happen and amaze your friends – but do so at your peril as everyone and everything tends to get wet during this wildest of times.

          

                   

 

 


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