By The Nation Weekend
IT’S SONGKRAN and while plenty of Thais will head home to spend time with their families, cities all over the country are celebrating the Thai New Year with ceremonies, performances, fun activities, food and the occasional water fight.
We take a look at what’s on over the holidays.
Known for celebrating the most beautiful of Thai traditions, the Water Festival is once again turning nine iconic piers along the Chao Phraya River into entertainment venues from today to Monday.
Designed on the theme of “Yoo Yen Pen Sook” which literally means “live peacefully”, the festival invites visitors to pour water over elders’ hands in the rod nam dam hua ceremony, bathe Buddha statues to ask for blessings and have fun creating their own handicrafts at a series of workshops.
One of the popular stops is Lhong 1919, where visitors can pay respect to the Mazu Goddess, watch a contemporary long-drum dance troupe perform, check out the food truck carnival and learn how to prepare Thai desserts, craft fish out of palms and make Thai flower garlands.
The Tha Maharaj community mall is transforming itself into a Thai temple fair and offers a variety of classic games, Thai brass and long-drum troupe performances, watercolour classes and a Thai kite-making workshop.
From 5 to 10pm on all three days, Asiatique the Riverfront joins the celebration with concerts featuring Thai favourites Lada R-Siam, Wan Thanakrit and Paowalee Pornpimon. Here visitors can walk through the Very Cool Loincloth tunnel, experience Wet ’n’ Wild Sea Boxing, roam around the old market, join the traditional loincloth workshops and ride the giant Ferris Wheel to watch the sunset over the Chao Phraya River.
Thai cultures and traditions are the focus at Iconsiam.
Thai cultures and traditions are also the focus at the Iconic Songkran Festival 2019 being hosted by Iconsiam on the Thon Buri side of the river until Monday.
Visitors are invited to pour sacred water on four revered Buddha images from different periods, namely Shinnasri Buddha from the Sukhothai period, Nimit Vichitmarn Molee Sri Sanpetch Borom Tri Lok Nart Buddha representing the Ayutthaa era, Buddham Viseth Sasada Buddha from Thonburi and Siam Dheva Thirat Buddha of the Rattanakosin period.
The Songkran exhibition depicts the festival’s history and tradition and features performances of the Viva Songkran dance, silk reeling dance and traditional drumming. Here too visitors can take part in free workshops such as making scented fans and scented water, Thai-pattern fabric painting and the art of fruit and vegetable carving and also dress up in traditional costumes for a photo shoot.
Top Thai actresses will join the procession by dressing in royal court costumes from four eras – Sukhothai, Ayutthaya, Thonburi and Rattanakosin. There’s also some water splashing and a concert by Nont Tanont and Da Endorphine.
Iconsiam’s Sook Siam zone is home to the “Sook Siam Yoo Yen Pen Sook” where visitors can pour water on hands of senior residents from the Ban Bang Khae Elderly Centre. Other highlights include a Ferris wheel, the egg pond game, sand pagoda making, a Songkran beauty contest and the presentation of traditional foods and handicrafts.
From 9am to 10pm, celebrants can take advantage of the free Chao Phraya Express Boats cruising to Wat Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklaram, Wat Arun Ratchawararam, Wat Kalayanamitra Worawararam, Wat Prayurawongsawat Worawihan, Tha Maharaj, Yodpiman River Walk, Lhong 1919, Iconsiam and Asiatique.
Just 30 minutes away from downtown Bangkok, Thai-Mon residents are gathering in the grounds of the provincial hall today to take part in the grand Hang Hong Thong Takhab processions, which see statues of swans decorated in coloured mirror glass and centipede-inspired handcrafted flags carried to the temples.
All generations of Mon are pouring water through a long bamboo tube to bathe a Buddha image.
They will also show off their skills in making the traditional hot season dish khao chae and building sand pagodas.
Continuing through Thursday, the festival includes the rod nam dam hua ceremony, culinary demonstrations of khao chae and mixed red sticky rice, Thai, Muslim and Chinese cultural performances, a sand pagoda building competition, Mon dance and Mon orchestra concerts. Youngsters will play Mon skittles in a showcase of the ethnic group’s unique culture.
Travelling back in time to the good old days of the old capital, Si Sanphet Road will serve as the main Songkran venue throughout the weekend. Here tourists can join the bathing ritual of Buddha statues and sand pagoda building and have fun with retro Thai dance and water fights with elephants from Ayutthaya Elephant Palace & Royal Kraal.
Tomorrow, the Thai-Mon residents of Bang Pa-in district will don traditional costumes for a unique centipede-inspired flag procession to Wat Thong Bo and join a bathing ritual of Buddha statues, in which they will pour water through split bamboo tubes to ask for luck, happiness and success in the coming year.
Nang Yai Wat Khanon National Museum is the place for art lovers to celebrate Songkran. Taking place today and tomorrow in a classic Thai ambience, the event features an art market and Thai-Mon food street where visitors can use cowrie shell money to bargain, a grand shadow play, a pong lang performance, a likay hulu dance and Lanna-style khon (masked dance drama).
Wat Ban Sing in Photharam district is today hosting the Bai Si ceremony to bring luck and happiness to Lao-Wieng residents for the year to come. There are also several cultural performances and activities to enjoy.
Later than in other parts of the province, Wat Ched Samian will celebrate the beginning of the Thai New Year next week with Flower Car processions, a long-tail boat racing tournament, a sand pagoda contest and the rod nam dam hua ceremony.
Sukhothai underlines its traditional heritage in the Songkran celebration at the historical parks.
The Retro Songkran Splendours event at Sukhothai Historical Park runs until tomorrow and features a variety of cultural activities and performances including a sand pagoda building competition, a Songkran beauty contest, bullock-cart processions from 12 communities, traditional sports and a market selling all kinds of local dishes, snacks and desserts.
The city is also hosting the Flowery Shirt Songkran Khao Tok Road festival around the Clock Tower until Monday, which will see residents building sand pagodas at Wat Thai Chumpol and dressing in colourful flower-covered shirts for the “flower car” procession. Other activities include retro Thai dance and a Miss Songkran contest.
The Amazing Songkran 2019 event, which runs until tomorrow at Phra Ram Ratchaniwet, takes visitors back to the contemporary culture during the reigns of Kings Rama V and VI.
Visitors can bathe Phra Buddha Sothon, register for royal cuisine workshops and watch demonstrations of 10 traditional Thai handicrafts, and enjoy a classical music concert by Sunatraporn Big Band, Vietrio, Lula, Radklao Amaradit, Saranya Songsermsawad and Praew Kanitkul.
The reception hall serves a formal Afternoon Tea set and guests can dress in period costumes to join a palace tour and watch a vintage car exhibition.
Chiang Mai is hosting the Pee Mai Muang Festival all over town.
The Northern city always prides itself on fantastic Songkran celebrations and this year the old Lanna capital celebrates its cultural heritage with the much-loved Pawenee Pee Mai Muang Festival that gets underway today and continues through Monday.
Running from Tha Pae Gate to Wat Phra Singh and the Three Kings Monument, this morning will see residents taking part in the alms-giving ceremony, the bathing rite of the revered Phra Buddha Sihing and a spectacular procession of Buddha images to mark the beginning of the New Year.
Tourists can enjoy several Lanna handicraft demonstrations and free workshops by TAT Chiang Mai Office, along with a temple fair, wisdom art performances and a Light & Sound presentation telling the story of Songkran Festival.
Other activities include a parade of women riding bicycles while holding umbrellas, the Lanna Traditional Devotion Ornaments Contest and the Miss & Mister Songkran Contest.
Chiang Mai University’s Lanna Traditional House Museum meanwhile gives visitors a chance to celebrate Songkran as their ancestors did. Here families will gather on an open space to build their stunning sand pagodas, join a bathing rite of Buddha statues and a rod nam dam hua ceremony and learn how to craft tung sai moo (an elaborate paper lantern resembling a pig’s intestine).
The old Lanna market serves as the main entertainment and dining venue with local dishes on sale and a stage for classic cultural performances and music.
Featuring the Cool-Isaan water tunnel, Isaan classic dance by the Mekong River and a Sand Art contest, the Northeast province of Mukdahan is hosting the Muk-Savan Fun & Fin Festival on Had Mano Phirom until Tuesday
Not to miss is the sand sculpture zone boasting lifelike models of such tourist attractions as Wat Roi Phra Phutthabat Phu Manorom in Mukdahan, Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai, Dragon Paradise Park in Suphan Buri, the Phi Seua Samut statue in Rayong and Wat Maha That Woramahawihan in Nakhon Si Thammarat.
Mukdahan draws local villagers and tourists with the MukSavan Fun & Fin Festival.
Down south, Dee Buk Road in downtown Phuket will be lined with 40 booths selling a wide selection of local dishes and desserts from today to Monday as part of the Water Festival.
Visitors can rent Baba costumes and take pictures in front of old Sino-Portuguese houses, join a bathing rite of Buddha statues and admire a collection of Phuket sketches by art students from King Mongkut’s Institue of Technology Ladkrabang. Lipta and Bird & Heart provide the entertainment tomorrow and Monday.
The resort island turns Chaweng Beach into a water splashing riot today and tomorrow. Before the water fights, celebrants can take part in alms-giving and rod nam dam hua, take in the dazzling Alpha Gay parade around the town and watch 100 villagers perform a traditional Nora dance.
The Songkran celebration at Nathon Market draws to a close today by inviting visitors to dress in Thai costumes and join several fun activities on the Cultural Street.