A couple booked to travel to Thailand next month want to make sure they don't miss out on the country's Songkran celebrations.
Join the festivities for Thai New Year in Bangkok
My wife and I have timed our two-week holiday in Bangkok next month to coincide with Songkran. Are there special events scheduled during this time that we can participate in? I know there's plenty of revelry in the streets, but we'd also like to attend a few of the temple ceremonies.
Thai New Year, or Songkran, falls between April 13 to 15, but the Thais get nearly a week of holidays, so you'll have plenty of time to enjoy the festivities and to participate in temple rituals. This year, there are lots of events being coordinated all over the city, including Khao San Road, Banglumphu district and Phra Artit Road, under the theme "love Songkran in your home town".
At 5pm on April 9, head to Nakaraphirom Park on the banks of the Chao Phraya for the "official opening" of the festival. There'll be politicians and celebrities, spectacular light-and-sound extravaganzas, dancing water features and a special performance called "the Legend of Songkran". Stick around for the speech the governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand is scheduled to make - it's only afterwards that all the sanook (fun) begins.
Whatever you do, don't miss the main event: on April 12, the National Museum will bring out the "Phra Puttha Sihing" Buddha image for a colourful procession through the streets of Bangkok, which ends at Santichaiprakarn Park. Here, it will be kept on display and "bathed" in scented water. After the merit-making ceremonies, settle down to watch the dances and other cultural shows in the itinerary.
Or join the Thais in a merit-making pilgrimage to nine royal temples on Rattanakosin Island, or the "old city": nine is considered an auspicious number among the Thais. Some of the sites you'll visit include the famous Temple of Dawn and Wat Pho (temple of the reclining Buddha). Traditional customs include elaborate monk-led bathing ceremonies for the main Buddha images, and building and decorating sand stupas with flags and flowers.
Some say Khao San Road is the best place to enjoy the celebrations - even elephants join in the merrymaking - but the rest of Bangkok participates with lots of energy, too - every soi (lane) in the city will have small groups of revellers dancing to Thai pop music and throwing water around, while the main roads are patrolled by pickup trucks with people in the back squirting a paste of water and talcum powder from powerful guns. Since getting drenched is kind of inevitable, make sure your travel documents and any electronics equipment are in heavy-duty waterproof bags. Remember to carry spare clothing and towels, and invest in a pair of sturdy rubber sandals. For more information, visit www.tat.or.th.