musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Wet Wet Wet

It’s Songkran weekend here in Thailand, the annual water festival that’s held to celebrate the Thai New Year. Similar watery celebrations are also going on this week in the neighboring countries of Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia. The basic goal of them all: the wetter the better!


I attended my very first Songkran in Thailand exactly 20 years ago. I spent the festival days up in Chiang Mai that year, immersing myself in the water mayhem and Thai culture. I had a blast. One of the most enjoyable cultural festivals I had ever attended. I was hooked and returned for Songkran again the following year, and the year after, and again. In 1996 I finally moved here for good. I don’t go out and do it in the road like in the “old days,” but I still enjoy the Songkran spirit, celebrating it nowadays as more of an observer. It’s the biggest holiday of the year in Thailand and Thais are always in a happy, buoyant mood. And despite all the trucks and motorcycles you see on the streets, actively engaged in water warfare, there is still more to the holiday than squirting water at other people.


While I get a kick of Songkran, many foreign residents here seem to feel the opposite; they are annoyed — or even angered — by the constant water silliness, and do their best to either stay indoors or leave town during the holiday. But for those that do hang around town, Songkran week in Bangkok is blissful and peaceful. I won’t say that Bangkok is exactly a ghost town, but because so many locals and expats leave town, the streets are virtually free of traffic jams and the resultant chaos.  

The photos today are NOT from any Songkran celebrations, but were taken two weeks ago at Kbal Spean in Cambodia. My Cambodian friends were apparently eager to get a head start on the water festival and dashed in and out of the small waterfall at Kbal Spean for a good half hour. I hadn’t been to Kbal Spean in about six years, but it remains my favorite side trip in the Siem Reap area near Angkor. I always enjoy the trek up the mountain, climbing over huge rocks and boulders, being one with nature, and marveling at the rock carvings near the top — or at least the ones that haven’t been defaced or stolen by temple bandits. And that waterfall can make for a very welcome and refreshing break after the long, hard climb, especially in the toasty weather we have at this time of year.


Happy New Year — again — to you all!


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