The World’s Largest Water Fight with Helena from Coconut Resorts
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…
It’s about learning to dance in the rain!”
All I did was step outside of my villa at Coconut Resorts, and it hit me!
I’m not exactly sure why, or what I did, but there I stood soaking wet. The streets were a blaze of people with buckets of water, giant water guns, and hoses stretched from who knows where, out into the traffic. Truckloads of Thais and tourists were frantically throwing as much water as possible onto the people lined up along the sides of the road, and in retaliation the pedestrians scrambled out of their way only to attack the vehicles en-mass when it appeared they had an advantage. I had inadvertently walked into the middle of what appeared to be a chaotic battle. I looked down at my newly pressed clothes, watching the water run down my legs and into my shoes, and wondered why. Why me?
“Happy New Year!” the gardener said to me with a smile, and handed me an umbrella.
So here’s what I now know, and out of the kindness of my heart, I thought that I should pass along to you some details that may be of interest to you, come the 13th of April in the Kingdom of Thailand. Although it would make me smile to witness your surprise, if you had been as unaware of the festivities as I was.
There are only two things that one must keep in mind during the coming holiday of Songkran… two very important things. They are the two actions that will allow you to enjoy this celebration to its fullest. Two rules you must not forget, despite the fact that they contradict one another.
1. Keep smiling
2. Keep your mouth closed
There is also the fact that you will get wet, no matter how hard you try to avoid it, so wear something you don’t mind getting soaked with the mystical waters.
Beginning on the 13th of the month and running until the 15th, Thailand will find itself immersed in the annual world’s largest water-fight. The festival of Songkran is definitely the most celebrated of holidays on Samui, due to its unconventional method of ending the past year. Songkran is the traditional Thai New Year’s holiday, and certainly the most unconcealed of all annual Thai celebrations. It is a time of appreciation, worship, merriment, and most importantly, outright fun. All celebrations for the Thai people are executed with full-hearted enthusiasm, whether it is a foreign or a national holiday event. Songkran however, brings forward the true passion of a people who are grateful for the changing of seasons.
Songkran is basically a weeklong street festival for the Siamese, and is an absolutely astounding spectacle for the visitors. While the splendid preparations and over-the-top behaviour, the feasting, the dining, the singing and dancing, and the beauty contests, are the obvious signs of Songkran, there is a deep underlying religious tradition that is the root of this special holiday. This fifth lunar month is the season when the days become longer and the nights become shorter, with the spring equinox bringing the days and nights closer to equal lengths. Songkran is a time of great purification for the Thai people, the spring-cleaning, if you will, for their Buddhist faith.
To most visitors, Songkran is widely known as the ultimate water fight!
The beauty of this festival is that it occurs during the hottest time of the year, offering relief from the stifling heat with its wild water tossing street battles. If you think that you can escape the skirmishes by ducking indoors, be warned that open doorways, windows and vehicles are fair game! The water exchanges are not truly battles, but more in the form of a drive by splashing. People will line the streets ready to take aim at truckloads of combatants armed with day-glow coloured water pistols, while the opponents on board pour buckets and barrels of ice-cold water on the crowds. There are of course, those who want to be certain that visiting tourist have the opportunity to join in the fun, and revellers will often enter restaurants and include dining guests as part of the hunt. It’s all done in the spirit of Sanuk (FUN!), and unless you have an aversion to water, no one is generally injured. It gets so heavy at times, that we recommend wearing full diving gear as you drive your motorbike down the main drags in Chaweng, Lamai, or through any populated Ring Road area.
Songkran is a time when everyone gets to act like a child again and there’s a lot of laughing and shrieking going on, an interesting step away from the quiet natured, social norms of Thai behaviour. Thai people are culturally held in reserve, non-aggressive, and respectful, and this rare opportunity allows for them to break out of their shackles of timidity, and for one day of the year act in an acceptable crazy manner without fear of what other people will think.
The fun aside, this doesn’t mean that the Thai people don’t have a deep and abiding respect for the more spiritual and cultural traditions associated with this holiday. At the end of the day, it’s all about the essence of being Thai, the honouring of traditions, and the respect of family and community. People put on new cloths, clean up and bless their houses, and make clear their abiding devotion to their parents, and to their elders. This family holiday is about making things new, cleaning up your act, and purifying your life.
For those of you who are fortunate enough to visit the kingdom during these three days, join in the festivities, allow the children that are scattered through the villages to take aim on you, and relish this opportunity to share in the washing away of the past year.
Remember my small pieces of advice and keep smiling, but keep your mouth closed. Only Buddha knows where the water came from!