Mai is without doubt Thailand's leading venue for Songkran
celebrations! People here take Songkran VERY seriously indeed.
They get organized - they drive gangs of people around the
city in pickup trucks hunting down willing victims to soak.
Herds of people stand along the streets armed with water pistols
and great big barrels of water that are continually being
filled by hoses. All of this preparation is for just on objective
- to get as many people as you can as wet as possible! The
whole scene is absolute chaos, but fantastic fun that lasts
for three or four whole days - even longer in more rural parts
of Chiang Mai province! However, if you dig a bit deeper,
order in the chaos. Songkran is not just about wild water
fights… it has a calmer, quainter side.
Mai, the traditional festival that underlies the Songkran
festivities has a structured, ordered route. On 12 April people
clean their houses and generally prepare for the coming New
Year. It is a day of procession with Buddha images and floats
that start at Nawarat Bridge and weave their way through the
city streets culminating at Wat Phra Singh. On 13 April people
prepare meals and food for merit-making activities that occur
the next day. People also go to the Mae Ping River to collect
sand to take to Wat Phra Singh. Here they make the sand into
sand castles which they stick flowers into. On 14 April the
New Year begins in earnest. Merit-making ceremonies take place
at temples and the food prepared the day earlier is given
to monks alongside other gifts. Everywhere Buddha images are
gently cleansed using specially scented water. 15 April sees
the last day of activities. On this day people pour water
into the hands of their elders (parents, grandparents, etc.)
and generally pay respect to them by uttering prayers for
their health and good fortune in the coming year.
the visitor, Songkran in Chiang Mai is a tremendous experience.
It is a blend of hedonistic fun, ritual and ceremony that is
simply unique to Thailand. It takes at least two or three days
to fully appreciate the festival, so if you are in Thailand
around this time, and you have the time, consider a trip to
Chiang Mai - it just might be an experience you never forget!