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Songkran in the Sticks

My first trip to Sakhon Nakhon was a real eye opener. It was April 2000, and I was going to spend the Songkran festival with Penh and her family. Songkran is the Thai New Year. It officially lasts for 3 days, but in Sakhon Nakhon it goes on for almost 2 weeks. The purists will tell you that it is a time for merit making and thoughtful reflection as the Thai New Year approaches. It is a time to respect families, elders, teachers, monks and Buddha images through making offerings and gently cleansing them with scented water. These days, it mostly involves getting drunk and having mad water fights. I suppose it was inevitable really. Just look at what happened to Christmas!!!

Songkran is a lot of fun, especially as it’s during the hottest part of the year. Thais love fun and can always find a reason to celebrate something. They have 3 new years every year. First, there is the international New Year. Next comes Chinese New Year, and finally there is Songkran. In fact, with the King and Queen’s birthdays, other royal holidays, Loy Kratong, National Labour Day, various Buddhist holy days, Halloween and Christmas, there’s always an excuse to get the fairy lights out and have a party. It’s a pity they don’t know about Papua New Guinea’s Independence and Constitution Day, because September gets a bit boring.

The next morning I bought a large box of Chang beer from the village store, and Penh’s dear ma proved what a wizard of fermentation she was by bringing out a huge bucket of satho she had prepared. It was Songkran. Actually, it was still a few days away, but hey, who’s going to know the difference this far from civilization. We all sat around on the floor in the living room drinking beer and satho and eating sticky rice with grilled chicken. The garage-sized front door was wide open, and everyone from the village who walked past saw the farang and decided to come and say hello. When they saw the food and drinks, they decided to stay. Word soon got around and by mid morning, the house was full and most of the village was drunk.

By the early afternoon, all the beer, satho and food was gone, as were many of the guests. It was time for the rest of us to gather as many water-dispensing vessels as we could find, pile into the box pick up truck and head off in search of Songkran. Most of us sat in the back cabin with the back doors open. As we headed into town, we got a few soakings from roadside revellers. We tried in vain to return the favour, but failed miserably due to the cramped conditions and the fact that all we had were some shallow bowls and two buckets of water.

When we arrived in Pankorn, we headed straight for the market. I bought several water pistols for the kids and some heavy-duty looking water guns for the adults. Everyone was decidedly unimpressed. All they wanted were the pump guns that looked like bicycle pumps. These could suck up a decent amount of water that could then be sprayed back out at high speed. I bought a load of those and, while Penh filled up our buckets from a hosepipe, I made a quick diversion to a shop to buy some more beer. Now we were ready!

We drove around, now giving as good as we were getting. Occasionally, Noi’s boyfriend would just pull up in the middle of town, and we would all jump out and attack another group of revellers. Being one of very few farangs in the area, I was a prime target for every single pump gun in the province. It was mayhem. I loved it.

After driving around town for a while, we headed out into the surrounding countryside. There were three main assembly points for Songkran activities. One was next to, and in, a river. The other two were at irrigation canals. All the sites had people selling food and beer, and everyone was in party mood.
We’d swim and play (fully-clothed, of course) in the river or canals, have water fights with other groups and eat and drink to excess. This would go on until late afternoon when we’d head home drunk, exhausted and sun burnt.

For the three Songkrans that I spent in Sakhon Nakhon, the same routine was repeated on a daily basis for almost two weeks: first, breakfast and alcohol, and then all into a pick up to find some action before returning home to recover our strength for the next day

Paul Snowdon

Have your say...

04 May 2011, 08:37
you rock!
30 Jul 2014, 03:26
We were in Pai and it was like Naam all over again But the night before we Loy Krathong by the river near Mae Rim and it was so paceeful, later on sending hundreds of fiery krothongs into the air, together with our close family and other villagers. Actually I don't mind all the noise, after 3 days it reminds you to be thankful for the quietness again.And wouldnt you say it's actually a good time to make offerings to the goddess of water? Sivan
01 Aug 2014, 11:31
Being part of a crowd united in quiet cototmplanien is a rare and almost magical experience in our busy modern age but those stupid banger-throwers are increasingly ruining it for everyone. I hope that people can resist the songkranization of this, the most charming and poignant of Thailand's special days. Three Wheeler [url=]hlutqdbltj[/url] [link=]nddwszf[/link]
03 Aug 2014, 18:06
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