2016 Songkran Festival
I did not exactly attend the Songkran Festival in the standard tourist way, but in a more authentic and enjoyable way. Let me tell you about it!
All photos by Timo Kozlowski.
Songkran is the Thai new year. It is based on the Buddhist solar calendar and is always held April 13th to 15th. Coincidentally it coincides with the rising of Aries on the astrological chart (I’m Aries). Songkran is a time for people to take time off from work and visit relatives. This becomes very obvious in Bangkok as there is a rare but serious break in the heavy traffic as so many people leave the city to go to their home towns. However, it is more known as a time for water fights. Shooting each other with water guns or splashing/throwing water on one another is said to wash away bad things from the old year and bring good luck in the new year. Other traditions include parades, Songkran beauty pageants, and making offerings to Buddhist monks at various temples.
For me the day started off with being bodypainted with traditional Thai colors and patterns. The paint colors and patterns partially blended me into the background of a chosen Thai fabric. The work took a few hours and the shoot was done in an open area on the 25th floor of my building.
After the photoshoot I was ready to go out into the streets. We chose Graffiti Park nearby as an outdoor location to shoot then moved on to some areas where kids were playing. This was an amazing experience for me. The first group of children was very young. The kids were fascinated, yet afraid of me. Eventually they got up enough nerve to touch my painted skin and the reactions were priceless. After the first touch they took turns running up, touching me, then running away giggling. This continued for some time until we convinced them to shoot me with the water-gun which made for some interesting shots.
After about 30 minutes we headed on the the impoverished area around the railroad tracks. I’ve been through this area many times and have found the families to be very friendly and the children are quite playful with foreigners. This is in contrast to children in other areas who seem more reclusive around strangers. I felt very welcome as several parents watched on while I sprayed water on their kids and vice versa. The parents gladly refilled my water gun from large cans of water set up just for this purpose. The most moving moment was when a little girl poured perfumed water over me, another Songkran tradition.
Western tourists generally go to Silom or Khao San Road for the water fights, get drunk and make fools of themselves. I am very thankful to have been a part of a more intimate and sincere way of celebrating the Thai new year!