Pre-Thai New Year Celebrations

Mon-style Songkran in Pathum Thani. Photo: Pongpat Wongyala

Songkran is a centuries-old festival that marks the beginning of the traditional Thai New Year and is a joyful event in which Thais sprinkle scented water on one another.

During this holiday, which is from Thursday to Saturday, Thais spend their time performing various rites paying respect to their ancestors and senior members of the family. Highlights include pouring scented water onto the hands of their elders as well as Buddha statues, making merit and attending family reunions.

Maha Songkran Day falls on Thursday and the Songkran goddess is Kirinee Dhevi, who lies on the back of an elephant, wears emerald necklaces and bracelets, and has a Magnolia coco flower behind an ear. She also carries a sword in her right hand and a gun in her left. She eats nuts and sesame. Much rainwater and flooding is predicted.

Certain provinces, however, celebrate Songkran a week or two before or after Thursday.

In Sukhothai, there will be special celebrations at Ban Hat Sieo and Si Satchanalai Historical Park in Si Satchanalai district earlier than anywhere in this northern province. Tomorrow, the Thai Phuan at Ban Hat Sieo in Si Satchanalai will host a procession of men on elephants' backs to Wat Hat Sieo for the mass ordination of monks amid the sound of music and local dances. The tradition is 173 years old.

Call Tambon Hat Sieo Municipality on 055-671-122.

From Saturday to Wednesday, the Songnam Ouaythan religious ceremony will be performed around the statue of King Lithai of Sukhothai Kingdom and at Si Satchanalai Historical Park.

Buddhists will make merit by presenting religious objects to monks and will pay respect to King Lithai and other Sukhothai monarchs. There will be the procession of elephants and cultural parades by 10 local communities, a food fair and a beauty contest.

Call Muang Si Satchanalai Municipality on 055-679-198.

In Chiang Mai, the "Songkran Festival, A Romantic Touch Of Orchids" will take place at Royal Park Rajapruek from Wednesday to Sunday.

More than 100 kinds of Thai orchids will be on display around the orchid pavilion and visitors can pour scented water onto a Buddha statue to seek blessings, ride tricycles in a garden, take photos amid traditional northern settings, see local food being cooked, enjoy cultural performances and buy local goods.

Call the park on 053-114-110--5.

In Pathum Thani province, Songkran will be held on Khao Chae Road and in front of the old provincial hall in Muang district.

Call the organiser on 02-276-2720/1.

Free bus tours to temples

Until May 14, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) will provide free bus trips around Rattanakosin Island to 11 Buddhist temples, which currently house and used to house the Thai supreme patriarches.

The service will run from 9am-5pm on Saturdays, Sundays and official holidays as part of the TAT's "Thailand: Anyone Can Travel" campaign to promote tourism as social welfare for the underprivileged, those with disabilities and families.

The 11 temples on the list are Wat Maha That, Wat Pho, Wat Ratchapradit, Wat Ratchabophit, Wat Suthas, Wat Ratchaburana, Wat Bowon Niwet, Wat Saket, the Marble Temple, Wat Makut Kasat and Wat Rakhang.

Call the TAT Contact Centre 1672.

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