Thailand's Songkran Festival

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This week marks the start of a major festival in Thailand, and today’s guest blogger, our friendly and popular guide Air from Bangkok, is going to tell us a bit about what it all means. Make sure you take a look at the images to the right - Air's husband is a professional photographer and he took some great shots at last year's festival.

In this coming week Thailand has one of its most famous festivals: the Songkran Festival that is held on the 13th, 14th and 15th April. Originally this is the Buddhist New Year celebration; in neighbouring Buddhist countries you will find similar festivities. Internationally this festival is known as the Water Festival. Buddha images are being rinsed with water, houses are being cleaned and on the streets everybody is having fun by throwing water on each other. The rinsing and cleaning with water is symbolic for making a clean start of the New Year, so as to let the New Year start with good luck.

The water splashing is a fun way to cool down in the hottest time of the year. Groups of people roam the streets with water guns or throw big buckets of water from the sides of the street or from the back of a pick-up truck. It has become a touristic festival as well, with many visitors coming to the backpacker’s street of Khao San road, which is the stage for a big party with lots of water splashing. For visitors coming to Thailand next week, be prepared to get wet. Please bring some waterproof bags to protect your mobile phone, camera and valuables. Foreigners are one of the most popular targets! Please join the festivities as Thais will be very happy to welcome you.

The history of this festival goes back a long time. Thailand, and other Buddhist countries, did not follow the Western calendar. The current year on the Thai calendar is 2554, which marks the number of years since the Buddha passed away. The counting of the years is still widely used following the original calendar, mixed with the Western months and days. For Thailand the changing of the years is now synchronized with western countries, and has been since January 1st, 1940, but originally the New Year would change with the Songkran festival. Countries like Cambodia still follow the original year changing during Songkran; in Cambodia they will change to 2554 next week.

For most Thai people the festival period means a long holiday. Many companies close for one week. And everybody is going back home to spend time with parents and families, and going to the temples to pray for the new year and give food to the monks. Personally I will take a holiday too, go back to my parents. I haven’t seen them for a long time, as they live far away, near Laos. I had a busy high season with many guests from ToursByLocals. After the New Year, I will prepare some more original and authentic tours, and hopefully my new ideas will make the new year even more successful than last year.

I’d like to finish with saying Sawadee Phi Mai (Happy New Year) to all the clients, tour guides and staff of ToursByLocals.

If you’d like to chat with Air about travel plans in and around Bangkok, you can contact her here: Air’s private tours of Bangkok.
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