Part of a trip through Southeast Asia encompassing Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia’s Sumatra, Brunei, Malaysian Borneo, the Philippines and Taiwan.

Songkran in Bangkok

– visited April 2015 –

I had already gotten my first taste of the Buddhist new year in Yangon, Myanmar. Celebrated in mid-April, the festivities last several days and bring many countries in South-East Asia to a halt. Traditionally, Songkran involved the sprinkling of scented water in a silver bowl but nowadays it has developed, at least for some people, into a free for all water battle. People walk around town with water pistols or guns, some people have installed hoses at their houses and put up big basins to have more water readily available. Passer-bys get soaked. Some people cruise around town with a pickup or truck with plenty of water, sometimes even ice, on the back. People are ready to help, if you have an empty water gun and you come to a source of water, there will be help. You might just not remain completely dry in the process but the moment you have filled up, you are free to retaliate.

It is warm and the moment you stop to care about getting wet, the whole thing is great fun. Thais come prepared. A waterproof bag for the phone and wallet and you are ready to enjoy. The mood is cheerful and if you make clear that you do not want to be soaked, it will be respected. I find a discarded gun for myself, joining the fray. I just have to be careful with my camera. It would not withstand a direct assault. Because of that, I have few good pictures. At night, I leave the camera at home.

An older lady is selling the tickets for the river ferry. She sits at a small table and below that table, resting on her legs, is a small but powerful water pistol. The moment you turn around, she will strike. But we are prepared.

In the Wat Pho Temple Songkran is celebrated as well. People bring sand to the temple to make up for all the grains they took with them in their clothes and soles over the year. They built small sand pyramids. Buddha statues are rinsed, and a monk sprinkles water over the faithful.

Outside, the battle rages on.