Songkran in Nong Khai

Songkran in Nong Khai

Songkran in Nong Khai

Songkran in Nong Khai:
Alor Setar, Malaysia, September 2013

I was standing in the back of the running pickup truck when I saw the pistols. They were just kids, they yelled “foreigners” and came running to shoot us. I had my gun ready, aimed, and splashed plenty of cold water onto the children. Two of them were armed with powerful water pistols full of ice water, the other two carried buckets full of normal water.

Songkran in Nong Khai

Out of the way!

They came closer and closer. I turned around to see that most of my 13 team members were busy laughing, being powdered and fighting their own fights. I waited for them to come even a little closer when I found out that my gun was empty. We carried two big tubs of water in the truck, but we were running out of ice cubes. I hurried up with the refill, but the kids were faster. First they shot me and some of my teammates, and then they came closer with a tube of baby powder.

Songkran in Nong Khai

Get them!

Loud pop music was everywhere. Our pickup truck moved in walking speed. Roberto was armed with a small Angry Birds water gun. His face and hair were full of powder and just like me he could not stop laughing. The other eleven were new and old friends from Nong Khai as well as other tourists and volunteers.

Songkran in Nong Khai

Baby powder everywhere

We were on the road for three straight hours now, and I had not stopped laughing ever since we got in. We were constantly shooting, getting shot, splashing, getting splashed at, singing, dancing and shouting “sook-san wan song-graan” or “Sawasdee Pee Mai”Happy Songkran day. Locals, Thais from other parts of the country and foreigners celebrated happily in the center of Nong Khai and we were a part of it all. I was having the time of my life.

Songkran in Nong Khai

Our Songkran Team

Our friend Mei Ling traveled from Nong Khai further north to Chiang Mai on the third day of Songkran. Officially the festival was over by then, but Chiang Mai is famous for its crazy water throwing. Mei Ling said “It is madness and really spread out around town. Very big scale. There was a big crowd like a rave party with loud music and people just splashing massive amounts of water and stuff from the stage, so it was mental! And people were still splashing water until 1am.” In Chiang Mai even old people, women in gowns, and bus travelers who left the windows open were drenched by the party people.

Songkran in Nong Khai

Everybody fights against …

Songkran in Nong Khai

… poor Roberto

But the Thai New year’s celebration Songkran is much more than a crazy water fight. In essence it is a day of cleaning and forgiving. The Buddha statues are removed from the temples and the dust is gently washed off from them. Nowadays everybody wants to take part in the ritual washing and big crowds of people wait in front of the temple for their turn to throw water with flowers over the crowd’s head towards the statue.

Songkran in Nong Khai

Songkran in Nong Khai. Thanks Kirk for the pictures!

We were a part of that same tradition in the morning and we were surrounded by the smell of many flowers. Even though the entire floor was wet and we were all squeezed together and loud, the vibe was ceremonial and festive. The Buddha statue was only carried around the temple in the morning but later that day there was a parade through town allowing all inhabitants to throw water on it.

Songkran in Nong Khai

The kids are the most dangerous. They would not ever get tired

Not only the temples were cleaned properly at Songkran, also private houses, gardens, schools and other buildings are brightly polished during these days. Since the Thai New Year took part in the hottest month of the year it was natural that simple and short water fights between siblings and friends started during the cleaning. Those fights got bigger and bigger with the years and now plenty of tourists come to Bangkok and Chiang Mai only to be part of the biggest water fights in the country. In my opinion Nong Khai was a great spot for Songkran since it was big enough for a parade and a party but yet small enough to be surrounded by more Thais than foreigners.

Songkran in Nong Khai

Songkran in a less wild way

Songkran is also a time for respect and forgiving. The younger family member ask the elders to forgive them misbehavior and inappropriate attitude. If the elder accept their apology they take some from the aromatic water and rub in to their face.

Etwas später schütteten wir Eiswürfel zum Wasser.

Little later we would mix the water with ice cubes

We met some young girls who carried small bowls of fragrant water and asked us permission to sprinkle some of it over our shoulders. While they sprinkled they muttered some good wishes for the New Year. They then wished us a happy Songkran day and continued their stroll.

Ich habe noch nie so lange ununterbrochen gelacht

I have never been laughing nonstop for so long before

Two teenage boys walked through the party area armed with nothing but baby powder. They got closer to the wet people, took some of the powder and gently rubbed it to stranger’s faces. The white paste is a sign of protection and promises to ward off evil. It was supposed to stay in the face until it was washed off on its own. Nobody attacked the two boys directly and only few poured some drops of fragrant water on them.

Songkran in Nong Khai

Roberto was the victim again

Monks were generally excluded of the splashing ceremony as people respected them far too much. But the few policemen were all soaking wet.

We did not have the chance to ask an elder person for a respect ceremony but we had the chance to splash water with the locals, see the Buddha statue and even ride in one of the pickup trucks full of party makers. If we come back to Thailand it will definitely be around Songkran again.


Our brave friends Kirk and Mei Link risked their cameras’ lifes in the water fights. Thanks to them we were able to upload these pictures. The ones above are Annika’s and Kirk’s and the following pictures come from Mei Ling.

car_babypowder Roberto_wet Roberto_wet2 Group weapons Streetfight boy_throws_water Annika_babypowder Street_party Roberto_hugs_stranger

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