The opening ceremony of Songkran 2008 at Thapae
Gate at 08:09 Sunday morning.
The annual Songkran New Year celebrations in Chiang Mai coincided with the
hottest days so far this season, giving even more reasons than usual to be
generous with the amount of water thrown! Local people either working or
living in distant provinces returned to their home town and their families
from all over the Kingdom, and the city was crowded with visitors and
tourists all eager to experience the very special flavour of a Lanna Chiang
(PhD ) Dr Mom Chao Duangduen na Chiengmai, the President of Chiang Mai
Provincial Culture Council.
The official celebrations began on April 13, although various events had
been taking place during the previous week, much enjoyed by residents and
early arrivals. Restaurants and hotels were busy, particularly in the areas
around Loy Kroh, Rachadamnoen and Thapae roads, areas popular with foreign
tourists. Operators had prepared the areas in advance, with hosepipes and
water tanks placed at intervals making it easy to indulge in the favourite
Songkran activity - throwing water at all and sundry! The Provincial
Waterworks Authority also installed 17 coin operated water dispensers where,
for the sum of 1 baht, water could be thrown everywhere! Parades and events
of every kind were organized every day, and took place almost everywhere.
From the top hotels to the local family restaurants, everyone took pains to
make this year’s celebrations a success. Traditional music and dance, drum
competitions, a “Miss Songkran” beauty contest, displays of traditional
local arts and handicrafts, and processions of revered and ancient Buddha
images from the many temples - truly something for everyone to enjoy,
whatever their tastes.
In a contrasting new addition to previous years’ festivities, the city’s
mayor, Dr. Duentemduang na Chiengmai, had arranged for 20 “polite” areas
around the moat, staffed with both Thai and foreign volunteers, to be set up
in order that people might experience a more traditional and quieter version
of the celebrations. In talks given to various organizations, both Thai and
farang, before the festivities began, the mayor had stressed that she would
like to see Chiang Mai’s Songkran festivities return to the older and more
traditionally spiritual format of merit making and respect to ancestors,
elders in the family, monks, and persons of authority. This, she felt, would
help to discourage the drunkenness, accidents and violence which had marred
the festivities in the past, and help people to understand and appreciate
the true meaning of the festival.
The massive celebrations were enjoyed by people from all walks of society,
from the Governor of Chiang Mai, the Mayor, and the administration to the
“man on the street”. Everyone, including the huge number of visitors and
tourists, had worked hard throughout the previous year, and were happy to
have the chance to welcome the New Year in Chiang Mai with ceremonies,
festivities, making merit and showing respect, visits to their temples, and,
of course, throwing a great deal of water!