Jamie's Phuket Blog

Songkran 2011 (Not in Phuket!)

Aside from being a massive waterfight, the Songkran holiday is also a traditional time of year with particular emphasis on paying respect to your elders, and many Thai people will travel for Songkran to visit family. This is a more important holiday than the "Western" New Year, although the calendar year does change on January 1st and of course it's another excuse for a party, but Songkran is something more local and is a major public holiday from 13th - 15th April - and this year, since the 13th was a Wednesday, that basically meant a 5 day holiday from Wednesday to Sunday. A good long break to travel and see family, and for the first time I managed a Songkran away from Phuket - normally I am working, since April is still kind of high season, but this year the boss kindly agreed that after work on the 12th I could head off - my wife and I drove the 400km from Phuket to Chumphon on the evening of the 12th, arriving a bit after midnight.

This was a very nice opportunity for me to be involved with the family rather than just drinking beer and throwing water in Phuket like I did last year! Now of course in Chumphon there is plenty of water throwing too, and we loaded up our pick up truck with a couple of barrels of water ready for a drive round town, but first, at home, we paid our respects to the elder members of the family, which means my wife's Mum and Dad - her grandparents all passed away more than 10 years ago. Mum and Dad are not that old actually, both under 60, but they are the "elders" :)

Songkran traditions

Above - this is the Rod Nam Dam Hua tradition, pouring water on the hands of your respected elders - that's me with Ma and Pa. And below my wife's sister doing the same while her other sister and my daughter look on. It was very special to be involved (after 10 years!) with the family.

Songkran - Family Tradition

We drove first to an aunts house on the edge of town not far from the railway station. Family and friends had set up a big hose pipe there, and a stall selling snacks and drinks. It was a very hot day, lots of liquid refreshment needed if (like me) you planned to drive around in the back of a pick up truck for several hours. The hose pipe at aunties house had 2 functions. It could be used to refill peoples barrels in their trucks (see below - sign says Water For Sale)...

Water for Sale

Or if you didn't want to buy any water, you could get a faceful for free anyway! Some people were happy to get soaked, some people for some reason like to ride around on a scooter and try to avoid getting wet - impossible and can be dangerous too, swerving on wet roads. Songkran always has accidents related to water, wet roads and (often) drunk people riding scooters.

Splash! (1)

Also at aunties house, a small shrine was set up with a Buddha statue. Here family members could pour water on the statue. My son always takes his Buddha related activity seriously. Well, his name is Monk after all!

Songkran Buddha

Before we headed off to drive around town, get soaked with ice water, get sunburned and covered in powder, I took a few photos of passing truck loads of party goers. Smiles all around. I know that the "Land of Smiles" was a tourism slogan, but Songkran is a good day for smiles.

Happy Songkran

Songkran Girl

And you've got to have your gun ready! In our pick up truck we had a couple of big water pistols as well as 2 big barrels of water and plastic bowls to scoop up the water and throw it. This guy is ready for action ...

I have you in my sights

Songkran is one of those days when you can't help but feel happy. Everyone is having fun. No glum faces on show, no worries, a day of total enjoyment doing something that you'd normally not be able to do... soak total strangers (well probably not all total strangers in a fairly small town like Chumphon). Adults and kids join together in acting like kids! Our kids started on each other .....

Wet Day

Take That Sister!

Well, one of these days, if I have some spare cash, I need to get a decent camera and underwater housing. In 2009 I tried using my Canon Powershot in a clear plastic bag - worked OK. This year I had a cheap underwater film camera (film? what's that?) in a plastic housing and tried getting some action photos from the back of our truck. It's hit and miss, I think with a digital, I could take 200 photos and get 20 good photos. This cheap film camera, well after some photoshopping a few photos looked OK and it was fun taking them... was also fun being almost the only foreigner on display.. I think I counted about 7 or 8 foreigners as we drove around - Chumphon is a nice enough little town, but does not have that much for tourists - I want to write more about my second home later. Mostly Chumphon is useful if you want to get a boat to Koh Tao. As one of the few foreigners I guess I was a rather obvious target. The 79th bucket of ice water was maybe one too many! This is me on the pick up truck with face smeared with powder...

Jamie Songkran

And a couple of the "best" shots taken from the truck...

In yer face for Songkran

Songkran Trucks

Songkran on the Streets

I sat in the back with a sister-in-law, a niece, my 2 kids and we cruised the streets. There's no point trying to avoid the water! Most of the time you don't see it coming... you may be "exchanging fire" with one truck and another passes by and offloads a bucket of cold water. Small water pistols are not powerful enough weaponry, it's better to have a small bucket to scoop water out of your barrel and deliver a bigger punch :) All in good spirits! You are not allowed to get angry if someone drenches you from behind with an icy shower, and if someone wants to smear you with powder, please remember this is a sign of respect. I seem to enjoy Songkran more each year. But I am very happy that in Phuket (and Chumphon town) it lasts just one day.

Songkran is the same date every year - April 13th is the big day. If you are in Phuket on April 13th next year, plan to get wet! Don't carry around valuables or electronic items that might be damaged by water - or at least carry things in a dry bag. Don't wear your very best clothes - it's not just water, but sometimes water with added dye, or powder. And make sure you are well armed. And take every ice cold shower with a smile. It's Songkran!

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