Songkran Festival 2023

Today is the Thai New Year celebration which can be considered the World’s Largest Water Fight. I have written about this holiday numerous times over the years including a brief account of my first Songkran in 2006 and a report on the recent stamps released to commemorate the festival. I only took a few photos today as it is smarter to keep one’s phone/camera in a plastic protector when water can come from any direction at any time.

This was my first time to celebrate Songkran in Kata Beach, my new home on the south-eastern part of Phuket island. Most years have found me braving the mass crowds in Patong, the main party place on the west coast but decided I wanted a bit more calm in BY 2566. The Patong water battles see mostly very drunk tourists who think that the holiday’s reputation grants them permission to behave rudely. Still, it is the primary place to go if you desire to see full-on Songkran.

My apartment lies on the main highway through town just a stone’s throw from the Buddhist temple in which I work. I could hear the banging of gongs and chanting of the monks starting very early in the morning but ultimately I couldn’t drag myself out of bed to take a look. I finally went out in the early afternoon and my first dowsing of water came from one of the little girls I taught during the last school term. It felt refreshing as it was a very hot day (April is Thailand’s hottest month).

In fact, I welcome the water in all its forms — warm (and most of it here was indeed nicely warm today), ice cold (only a few added ice cubes to their water supplies along my route), flung from a small bowl, shot from a powerful water cannon, or dunked over my head. I walk slowly towards each gathering of Songkran-minded people and invite them to do what they will to me. I have seen other foreigners cross streets to avoid getting wet, some who run past and some who actually get angry when they get soaked! Not me! Bring it on! It feels good on a roasting hot day.

When I started out, the gatherings of people with buckets, barrels or guns was well spaced out so I often came close to being completely dry when I encountered a new group ready to attack me with their water weapons. The street consisting of a non-stop row of massage parlors was the wettest as all of the girls were out in their brightly colored flower-print shirts ready to dunk any foreigners that came into range. One thing that I do not like is the powder or paste that many of these ladies will smear on your face while someone else is pouring water over your head. Most of the time, I say “no powder” and they will find another victim. I gave up today as so many had the small bowls containing this substance. I attempted to wash it offer after each occurrence at the next water barrel up the road.

In Kata, I would estimate that 90 to 90 percent of the foreigners are Russian. I saw a lot of families walking together as well as older couples. All seemed in very good spirits. I only saw a few of the crazy twenty-something men who ride at high speed — shirtless — on motorbikes whooping and hollering. I am sure Patong was absolutely full of these types of foreigners which made the day in Kata all the more pleasant with their absence.

One unfortunate consequence of the water battles is that most streetside restaurants are closed during Songkran Day. This is so people don’t shoot water guns into the eateries (the temptation being too great to resist dowsing sitting targets). I found a large market that was open but didn’t feel like sitting in there to eat. I just squelched along down the roads (my sandals were VERY squeaky!).

I walked all the way to Kata Yai Beach but didn’t go out onto the sand. There was a foam party going on nearby so I stood and watched that for a while. As I mentioned, everyone I saw — without exception — were smiling and having a good time without any sign of drunkenness or craziness that I have observed at least a bit during every other Songkran I have participated in. I don’t think I have missed any since 2006 other then the pandemic years; this was the first one in Phuket without ANY restrictions since 2019.

All in all, I spent around three hours walking up and down streets in the Kata Beach area enjoying the day. I saw many of my Kindergarten students and their parents, several of whom invited me to stay and eat with them. I am not a big fan of eating in a group while dripping wet so I declined all of their offers. By the time I started heading home, I was starving and so stopped at one of the 7-Elevens to buy a couple of microwave items and cold drinks. Someone poured water over my head just before I went inside and froze when the air-conditioning hit me! Luckily, nobody dunked me while I carried my food home (I lifted the bags high so they could see them when I encountered each group along the way).

Now that the holiday is past, I will start working on school-prep in earnest. I still don’t know if I will return to the same school I was at last term (I expect the agency will bid on the contract within the next couple of weeks) but am creating material on the hopes that I won’t have to change schools. I also hope to finish moving out of my apartment in Phuket Town by the end of the month. There is much to do and so little time to do it!

Happy Songkran!

One thought on “Songkran Festival 2023

  1. Pingback: Sunday Summary #34 | Mark Joseph Jochim

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