Songkran is the traditional celebration of New Year’s Day in Thailand, and the festival in Chiang Mai will carry on through April 15th this year. The main theme of the festival: water, lots of water, whether it’s being splashed on Buddhas or being sprayed from a water pistol on passers-by from the back of a tuk-tuk.

All photos by the author

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Songkran

Traditionally, people visit wats (temples) during Songkran to cleanse Buddha images by pouring scented water over them. It is believed this will bring good luck and prosperity for the New Year.

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Songkran

Many cultural events and traditional dances are performed around the city.

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Songkran

The Wat Phra Singh Buddha image is paraded on decorated floats pulled by locals through the streets of Chiang Mai so that people can toss water at it.

Intermission
6

Photo essay: Light and shadow in Chiang Mai, Thailand

by Kimberly Bryant

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by Tom Gates
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Songkran

Nowadays, the emphasis is more on fun and massive water-fights than the festival's spiritual and religious aspects.

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Songkran

Stalls selling buckets are installed all around the old city’s moat.

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Songkran

Water pistols are weapons of choice for young people participating in the massive water-fight.

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Songkran

People use buckets with strings to draw water directly from the moat.

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Songkran

Big blocks of ice are purchased to throw icy water.

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Songkran

Young Thai people hire trucks and tuk-tuks to circle around the moat, loaded with guns and buckets.

Intermission
2

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A US festival for every month of the year

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Songkran

Vendors hold signs to sell icy water to passing trucks and refill the buckets.

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Songkran

A kid tries to escape the chilly wind by jumping in a bucket full of warm water from the moat.

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Songkran

Here you see some moped riders getting soaked on the road. Many accidents occur due to water being thrown in the faces of traveling motorcyclists.

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Songkran

While the party goes on, some prefer to stay dry and watch the festival from afar.

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Songkran

Chalk mixed with water is used to cover faces. The tradition originated from the use of chalk by Buddhist monks to mark blessings.

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Songkran

Nobody escapes getting wet during Songkran, even with a camera in hand.