Governor Wichit Chatpaisit performs the rod nam dam hua ceremony on an image
Pattaya Mail Reporters
From Sattahip to Chonburi, Rayong to Pattaya, Thais and
guests celebrated the start of their New Year with Songkran celebrations
that mixed traditional Buddhist ritual with modern water-gun combat.
Both loved and dreaded by millions, Songkran is
celebrated to its fullest in Pattaya. Not content for the placid three-day
holiday, the Thai New Year is observed for a full week - and longer in some
places. Citywide water fights and all-night parties draw thousands of
tourists each year but old timers and grizzled expats yearn for the
traditional Songkran observances of yesteryear.
Tradition still can be found, however, particularly at
the start of the festival. At the Banglamung Home for the Elderly, Assistant
Director Kwanmuang Bowornakarakul led a “rod nam dam hua” ceremony
where elderly residents are blessed by having blessed water gently sprinkled
on their heads. The ceremony coincides with national Seniors Day.
Elderly residents enjoyed a tom-tom drum show, folk
dancing and a stage show put on by the Apakorn Kiatwong Elderly Club.
Members also donated essential supplies to 60 families with elderly people
In Chonburi, a seven-day festival also harkened back to
the old days, with merit-making, a Buddha Sihing worship service and
exhibit of religious relics. The festival also included a parade, Miss
Songkran pageant, traditional sports competitions, sales of locally-made
goods, a Thai cultural show, Thai music and Chinese films and entertainment.
Thirteen organizations participated in the parade
competition, which offered prizes for the most beautiful and creative
floats. Phanat Nikhom District won the HRH Princess Sirindhorn Trophy and
50,000 baht for the its beautiful float and Panthong District won the same
for having the most creative entry. Banglamung District finished second and
Nongyai Sub-district in the most-beautiful category.
Deputy Gov. Pakathorn Tienchai said Songkran has been
celebrated annually since the Ayutthaya period and is one of the
most-important Thai traditions left. It is valuable for helping people clean
their minds, as well as their bodies, he said.
In Sattahip, about 500 people attended a merit-making
ceremony at Sattahip Temple. They gave alms to more than 100 monks,
including Woravej Munee - better known as “Luang Poo Ee” - one of the most
revered monks in the east.
People also received blessings from Wiboon Thammaban,
Sattahip Temple’s abbot before engaging in the rod nam dam hua
ceremony for the elderly.
Of course, once the pomp and circumstance was finished,
Sattahip residents did what Thais across the country were doing: throwing
water. The tradition might have begun with gentle washing and sprinkling,
but in the 21st century, water throwing has evolved into a raucous melee
that too often leads to injuries, death and police involvement.
Pattaya Police confiscated up to 5,000 illegal,
high-pressure PVC water cannons. Sprayed at moving motorbikes, the guns can
cause accidents and injury and have been banned for several years. However,
the slender blue pipes were readily available for sale along the warzone
known as Beach Road throughout the April 11-19 period.
Pattaya Police Chief Col. Nanthawut Suwanla-ong took
steps this year to reduce the threat to motorists and pedestrians by zoning
off Beach Road at sois 7-8 - the worst area for non-stop water play by
foreigners - with metal barricades. Revelers were urged to stay behind the
fences, both to protect them and to keep traffic moving.
The plan proved only partially successful, as throngs of
older farangs and young Thai bar girls flooded the area. “We only had about
50 barricades, so we could not line the entire street like we’d hoped to,”
one Pattaya Police volunteer said.
Police had a bigger challenge keeping major roads safe
and clear of drunk drivers, the main cause of accidents that killed scores
of people and injured thousands nationwide.
Area police set up checkpoints throughout the area to
check for drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Commercial drivers were also under scrutiny. Chonburi
police established checkpoints near Banglamung Police Station, the entrance
of Khao Chee Chan Temple and in front of the Rung Ruang Tour transportation
company where bus drivers were checked for alcohol use. With tens of
thousands of Thais fleeing the cities for upcountry comes, the last thing
officials wanted was another deadly bus crash.
Songkran reached its finale in the Pattaya area April
18-19 with the same mix of past and present.
In Naklua, the giving of alms to local monks at 7 a.m.
April 18 at Larn Pho Public Park, was followed by a colorful parade that
started at around 10 a.m. Monks from different local temples sprinkled holy
water on devotees who were standing along the Pattaya-Naklua Road. Shortly
after, Larn Pho Public Park was turned into the main venue for water wars,
complete with a foam party, a noon concert by pop idols the Sincharoen
Brothers, Mocca Garden and 10 others, along with food and drink booths and a
Yamaha motorcycle show.
April 19 in Pattaya began with alms being given to monks
and the rod nam dam hua being performed for the elderly at Wat
Chaimongkol in South Pattaya early in the morning.
A major storm “blessed” the area with a heavy downpour,
thunder and lightning beginning around 9 a.m. and lasting until 10 a.m.,
showing that Mother Nature could have a little fun on this day, too.
The annual parade started shortly after the rain, at
about 10 a.m., starting at Wat Chaimongkol, then proceeding down Second Road
to Central Road, turning left down Beach Road and returning to the temple.
An estimated 10,000 people lined the route to receive holy water blessings
from the monks.
Once the parade had passed, Beach Road was closed to
traffic for the remainder of the day and into the evening, and once again
turned into the major site of the water wars in Pattaya.
“Wan lai” water day warriors could take time out
to enjoy 18 stages of entertainment and shopping between the Dolphin
Roundabout and Walking Street. The main stages were at the Hard Rock Cafe,
featuring 10 rock bands, and at Central Festival Beach where famous singers
like Zeal, Burin, and Joey Boy were the featured entertainment.
As usual, traffic was horrid in Pattaya throughout April
19th, and was especially bad later in the day. Traffic
police, however, did a remarkable job considering the circumstances.
Finally, millions of baht was generated for the local economy, making the
year for many local merchants.
revered monk sprinkles holy water on the crowd, who gratefully receive it in
hopes of a better future.
revered monk sits in a parade vehicle,
blessing residents and tourists with holy water.
and foreigners alike flock to get
a close look at the parade along Beach Road.
Banglamung Social Welfare treats its older citizens to a rod nam dam hua
ceremony on National Seniors’ Day.
dance in the Naklua parade.
make their way to the concerts at Larn Pho Public Park in Naklua.
annual Songkran parade in Chonburi
always brings out the best in the local populace.
people didn’t wait for April 18 or 19, and began the revelry early,
as they did here on Beach Road the week before.
it wasn’t always used, the “safety zone” set up by police was nonetheless a
numbers of people make their way
to Naklua Larn Pho by every means they have.
Youngsters have a great time during Songkran at the Pattaya Floating Market.
bigger the water hose, the more fun it is,
and the bigger the crowd can be splashed.
couple wears colorful outfits on the wettest day of the year.
Colonel Nanthawut Suwanla-Ong, Superintendent of Pattaya City Police Station
points to a pile of confiscated PVC water cannons.
drivers are checked for alcohol before being allowed to transport the many
holiday revelers who return to their homes for Songkran.
parties this time of year, like this one at Lan Pho,
are a big hit with everyone.
Sukhumvit was once again a veritable parking lot.
the new trend for Songkran grooming?
little closer so I can spray you!
foreign guest poses with a drenched, but happy policeman.
performers in front of the Hard Rock draw huge crowds of rock fans from
morning till late evening.
rock stars entertain the audience who arrived at Larn Pho Public Park in the
morning of April 18.
Thousands of Thais and foreigners want to share in the fun on Beach Road.