Or "Happy New Year" in Thai.
It's Songkran (Buddhist New Year) and the best place to celebrate it has always been Chiang Mai, in the north of Thailand. Traditionally, people poured a little scented water over you as a kind of a blessing to bring in the new year but things have escalated somewhat to the full-on water fight that you see in the pictures 🙂
Chiang Mai has a moat that surrounds the old city that is over a kilometre long on each side and people line the streets, drawing out water and throwing it at anyone and everyone. Pickup truck parties are very popular where you all just pile into the back of a truck with an ample supply of Thai whiskey (yum!) and the biggest drum of water you can find and then just drive round and round the moat, hurling water at everyone 🙂 At least, until the water (or booze) runs out and you have to pull over and find a friendly face who will let you borrow their hose to reload.
A Kiwi friend of mine is over here for the first time so I get him to tag along as bait - foreigners are a favored target so everyone goes for him and leaves me alone 🙂 Nevertheless, it doesn't take long for everyone to get totally drenched and things can get quite wild - if you can imagine a nation of 60 million people stopping for a week to get drunk and have a water fight, well, that's pretty much what it's like 🙂 Moo-an mahk!
It's not all water and whiskey, though. Many people return to their home towns to be with family and visit a temple to pay respect to monks and receive a blessing for the coming year. The markets are full every morning with people buying food to give to the monks, something that happens every day of the year but Songkran is a particularly auspicious time to make merit. There are also vendors selling baby birds trapped in little bamboo cages, the idea being that you make merit by releasing them. Of course, there is the question of how much merit one makes by freeing an animal that was captured for the sole purpose of being released 🙂 and so many of my friends prefer to go to the market and buy a fish or frog or snake 🙂 which they release into the river.
So it's been a fun week but I'll be back in the dungeons shortly, slaving away on archiving, just as soon as I get all my clothes dried out and this hangover starts to clear...