Well, for the third time on my world tour, I’m celebrating a “New Year.” First it was the Roman calendar’s January 1st in Australia. Then it was the lunar New Year in Hong Kong (Kung Hei Fat Choi!) and Tet (Chuc Mong Na Moi!) in Vietnam in mid-February. Now, in Thailand (as well as Cambodia, Laos, and Burma) it’s the solar New Year—Songkran.
Traditionally, it’s celebrated when the sun enters the zodiac sign of Aries, but it’s also the celebration of the vernal equinox. Up until 1940, this was the official New Year holiday in Thailand. Nowadays it is just tradition, though, as they too celebrate New Year’s Day on January 1st.
Traditionally, during the afternoon of the 13th, Buddha statues were bathed as part of the ceremony. Young people poured scented water into the hands of elders and parents as a sign of respect. The Thai people continue to celebrate this festival with water. But now, it seems everyone takes to the streets in a complete water gun fight and super splash-down!
Everyone gets soaking wet and since it is the hottest season of the year (temperatures can rise to over 100°F or 40°C on some days), the custom is quite refreshing. People roam the streets with bowls of water, water guns or even a garden hose, and drench each other and passersby.
And, of course, in tourist-filled places like Phi Phi it has become quite a wet and wild tradition. On my way back from the port and my tour of the islands, it was a good thing I was wearing a bathing suit because I got soaked. So what did I do? Punched a hole in the top of my water bottle and retaliated, of course!