Greetings from the Year 2554

You may be thinking I’m a bit behind on blogging since I keep referencing all the fun I had celebrating New Year’s in Thailand and Laos, but I’m not! Totally by accident, I ended up in the midst of the massive celebration the second week of April. According to the Buddhist calendar, it’s now the year 2554. Sabadee Pi Mai! (Happy New Year in Laotian, for those keeping track)

Party supplies in Chiang Mai

Laos, Burma, Cambodia and Yunnan, China each celebrate the season in their own way during the second week of April, but it’s usually Songkran in Thailand that attracts the most attention and subsequent splashy (pun intended) photos in Western travel sections. The Water Festival commemorates the sun beginning its journey north and traditionally is marked with cultural performances and religious ceremonies. Homes, temples and images of Buddha are given a good scrubbing in a countrywide spring-cleaning event.

The act of watering came from the tale of King Kabinlaphom, who lost his head in a wager with an advisor. After decapitation, the seven princesses kept his head in a cave, visiting once a year to sprinkle it with water in the hopes of bringing prosperity and good weather to the land. (Ew.) Today, it’s customary for elders and monks to receive gentle sprinkles of flowered or perfumed water during the holiday to signify renewal and reverence.

That’s no gentle sprinkle

Once tradition is satisfied, the Water Festival becomes the wildest, wettest party of the year. This is great news for non-monks like me because now tradition has evolved so even “falangs” can join in.

Tips for visiting SE Asia during New Year

  • There’s no way around it, you’re going to get soaked to the core. Pack plastic bags to house anything you don’t want to get wet.
  • Bring a waterproof camera. You don’t want to forget the watergun fights with village kids or the huge daylong celebrations in towns like Luang Prabang, but you just might if you can’t take any photos.
  • Dress conservatively. Despite the wild atmosphere during the Water Festival, Laos is no place to be parading around in a bikini and booty shorts. Cover up in light fabrics that will dry easily.
  • Keep your mouth closed while reveling. I’m pretty sure I got a parasite at some point during the festival from taking in too much water from who-knows-where.

Up next… Shooting villagers and scaring old ladies half to death (it’s not what you think!)

COME AWAY WITH ME!
Get exclusive updates with all the latest news and posts delivered directly to your inbox
  • June 16, 2011
    Mom

    Looks like great fun!

  • June 16, 2011

    I’ve heard a lot of these water-fight New Year parties in Laos and Thailand. Looks like heaps of fun! Hoping to experience this sometime soon.

    • June 16, 2011

      It was a blast! There will be a few more posts on the best parts so stay tuned =)

  • June 16, 2011

    Looks like lots of fun! Definitely more exciting than many of the holidays in the US.

  • June 18, 2011

    Great to know the story behind the water throwing. To my shame, I had no idea where it came from. Thought it was just a standard purification ritual gone a bit crazy.

  • April 13, 2012

    One thing you must remember about Songkran, “give and take in the right spirit”.

    If you don’t want to partake you are best not leaving your house or hotel.

    • April 14, 2012

      Very true! Such a fun, wild celebration is no place for party poopers!

  • April 24, 2012

    That looks like so much fun!

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge