Thanks to jj, April 2007
in mid-April, the sun and the earth align such that at high noon the
sun is directly over Thailand. This also happens to coincide with
the official beginning of the rainy season and the rice planting
season. Hence, too, the closing of schools to allow all the children
to lend a hand planting the rice. Except today, the children only
seem to plant themselves in front of the TV or computer game
Culturally, there are a number of traditions associated with
Songkran. One of them is a thorough cleaning of the house. Another
is paying respect to the elders. Somewhere, between the two of
these, the ‘throwing of water’ became part of the culture. If you
are fortunate enough to accompany your Thai significant other to her
‘home’, you will likely see these events in their original and
entire village will gather at the customary place: the square, the
village meeting room or temple. The elders of the village will be
aligned in descending order of age and the entire village will pass
in front of them showing their respect by gently pouring lustral
water on their hands. The elders thank them by calling blessings
down on those so offering this honor. Immediately following this
ceremony, the villagers pour (not throw) water on each other and
their Buddha – here too as a gesture of respect. Of course, this is
just another excuse to eat so the ladies have arrayed all sorts of
goodies for all to enjoy. The men then retire to get drunk, while
the ladies clean up.
In the most traditional of places, a similar ceremony is held for
the monks. At the very least, the monks are given their morning alms
by just about everyone on the village on Songkran.
Thus Songkan is a very respectful, civil day of respect and fun.
so in the modern Thai urban centers; here it is has become more like
civil war. In a complete reversal of Thai tradition and culture, it
has lost all respect for anyone. The gentle Thai-ness of the pouring
of lustral waters has given way to PVC cannons that can knock over a
small child. Drunkenness will abound. Some of the ladies treat it
more like a wet-t-shirt contest than a day of respect. Guys will use
it as an opportunity to gape and grope the ladies. Hoses and water
cannons are used to inundate innocent by-standers. Water is blasted
through the open windows of busses on the street. All respect for
people going to work, for their clothes or their possessions is
are the most vulnerable. With or without a helmet, having a few
liters of water hit you in the face causes a natural reflex to close
one’s eyes and swerve. Add the slippery wet streets to the mix and
accidents abound. Luckily, most of these are but a minor
inconvenience. Yet, the death toll will soar during this same period
mostly due to drunken antics.
Once again (see Loy Kratong), modern Thais have found a way to take
something gentle and beautiful and turn it into an excuse to maim
Suggestions for newcomers: Many farangs adopt a typhoon mentality
for the week of Songkran. They lay in a supply of food and water
(and abundant alcoholic beverages) and hunker down in front of the
TV. Should you brave the storm and venture forth, it is highly
advisable to place all items like your wallet, passport or any
electronics in plastic bags. YOU WILL GET WET!
Although, Thailand is a country the approximate size of a postage
stamp, some areas like Pattaya have decided that they can split an
astrologic hair and determine that here the sun isn’t directly over
head until a week after it happens in Bangkok – barely 150 kms away.
So the majority of the civil warfare here will not occur until 19-20
APR. To make matters even worse, the entire city will be enveloped
in grid lock as water-laden pick-up trucks full of fun-seeking teens
will clog the streets. Do NOT plan to drive anywhere. You simply
can’t move. Luckily, such mayhem subsides with the setting of the
sun, so a visit to your favorite source of alcohol and groping is
still in play.
A Return to Civility
April 2 2007 by jj
many other ole farts, I chose to hunker down for 'water week', but I did
venture as far as my favorite neighborhood bar to watch the festivities
on the main soi near my home. I was amazed how civility abounded!
Revelers from 6-60 were lined up enjoying the day. And being quite civil
about the process. Water was being arced over the road in the path of
vehicles rather than aimed at their faces. Bowls, not buckets and water
cannons, were the most common means of dispersing water. I nary saw a
PVC cannon all day! Powder was respectfully layered on the old and young
Motorcycles were being flagged down and the occupants dowsed and dusted
not drenched. Pick-ups were exchange broadsides as they passed but the
disinterested and street vendors were being spared.
A few hours later, those same pick-ups came lumbering back, riding a bit
higher with ammunition and energy expended. Unlike Soi 7, nary a boob
was flashed -- Oh darn!
All in all, it was more akin to the time-honored Thai day than the
recent civil wars.
The revelers, young and old, will sleep well tonight.
The Astrology of
From the Bangkok Post,
the Culture Ministry has its way, the next Songkran festival will not
necessarily start on April 13.
Wattana Boonchab, an expert at the Culture Ministry, said the ministry
is considering reviving a tradition in which Songkran Day is determined
with the help of an ancient calendar that is common in most Southeast
Asian countries, rather than fixing the date on April 13.
By tradition, Songkran Day is determined based on a suriya yatra sacred
book which describes the passing of the sun.
Songkran is a Sanskrit word, meaning the passing of the sun from one
zodiac to another. The passing happens every month, but the most
important passage is in April when the sun leaves Pisces to enter Aries,
which traditionally marks the beginning of the new year.
That Songkran is fixed on April 13 makes people forget the other two
important days during the traditional new year. They are wan nao and wan
thaloeng sok, which literally means celebration of the new year, on
April 15 or April 16, Wattana said.
Nao, he said, means stay in Thai. In this sense, it specifically means
the lapse of the sun passing: That's exactly the period when the sun
is between the two zodiacs. Nao when pronounced by people in the North
is a word that gives this particular date an inauspicious meaning. It
sounds like the word for rotten so people usually skip this day if they
are to hold an important event, to avoid bad luck.
But since we no longer recognise wan nao, we inadvertently conduct
auspicious ceremonies on an inauspicious day. The revival of the
tradition will help people know when to avoid this date,that is, a day
between Songkran and wan thaloeng sok.
Wattana said wan thaloeng sok this year falls on April 15 and it will
fall on April 16 for the next three years. In 2012, it falls again on
April 15. Thereafter, thaloeng sok will be on April 16 for the next 80
Out of Hand
April 2008, from Pattaya Secrets
wife has a salon near the beer bars of sois 7 and 8].
Yesterday most people were playing Songkran in that area so she decided
that she and her staff would join in. She came home about 8 p.m. and
reported that she never wanted to play Songkran again.
She said that there were roving gangs of up to 10 drunken farangs –
mainly Brits – who were abusive and very rough. The carried illegal
power water guns, and buckets of ice. When they reached her shop they
would physically grab her and her staff so that they couldn’t escape and
blast them with water and ice.
If they tried to resist, they were subjected to profanities and
abuse. She said that normally on that side of the street there would
only be a trickle of farangs wandering along, but yesterday the road was
full of farangs looking to make mayhem.
4 year old boy wasn’t spared. The more he cried the more they
taunted him and soaked him. They had to put him inside the shop for his
My wife’s arms are covered in bruises where these louts had grabbed her.