Songkran in the Sun

Of the many seasons, summer is one of the best to visit Bangkok, especially when the Thai people celebrate their new year in April. Songkran is usually a four-day celebration, but in northern cities it’s celebrated for a week. This Buddhist festival is the kingdom’s most important public holiday, and marks the time when the country literally goes to water.
Images and idols of the Buddha are bathed, and young Thais seek the blessings of their elders. After that, they follow a water-throwing tradition; a free-for-all as they gently pour water on other people. However, it has evolved into little more than a water fight, in which even tourists participate.
Namita Singhvee took her husband and two kids to visit Thailand, to soak in the water and be part of the festivities. They went for two reasons, as Namita tell us. “One is that we wanted to have a family holiday just with the four of us: Anaisha, Ansh, Abhish and me. Secondly, we wanted our kids to experience Songkran, the Thai festival, which is one of the most beautiful things we have ever experienced.
“It’s a bit like our Holi festival, but without colours. For about four days, you can see people splashing water at each other on the streets. The lanes adorn a festive look, and there are street performances and live food counters. They also clean Buddha statues with clean water.”
Because Songkran takes place in a hot season, visitors can witness water balloon fights. Water guns are fired at people on bicycles and motorbikes, and even the pedestrians; no one is spared. “And unless you stay put in the hotel, it’s impossible to stay dry,” mentions Namita.
“The best time I had was riding a bike on the streets with my son behind me. It was the most memorable moment of the trip. People were throwing water at us, and we were just riding through it. All four of us had fun, as it’s one of those things that we cannot do in India.”
water wars 
In addition to the water wars, Songkran is also a time for replica sand stupas to be built in the courtyards of monasteries. Birds and fish are also set free. The family stayed at the Hilton in Pattaya, and soaked in the sun and beaches. “They have a very beautiful property facing the beach, and the good thing about the hotel is it has a mall attached to it. The view from the property was amazing, and the lavish food spread was to die for,” Namita reveals.
“My idea of a holiday is to be at leisure, not rush through a place or have a nine-to-five schedule constantly reminding you to be at a place at a certain time. I like to surf through, getting to know the local culture and enjoying the food. Holidays are for unwinding, not to do 16 things together. That’s why I just take it easy and relax,” she adds.
The only time the family participated in activities was when they visited Coral Island. These are a group of islands near Pattaya, locally known as Koh Hae. It’s a beautiful getaway destination that has two main beaches, as well as loads of watersports activities.
“We took a motorboat to the island and spent an entire day there. Be it banana boats, canoes or snorkelling, the kids had fun,” Namita said, adding that it’s not called Coral Island for nothing. The snorkelling off Banana Beach is thrilling, and if you go out far enough from Long Beach, you will also have a lot to discover at its impressive coral reef.
Connectivity across the country is also simple. Namita says, “Bangkok is a well-connected place and has easy access. In three hours, you are actually abroad on a beach, on a vacation. It takes far less time to reach when compared to some of the holiday destination in India.”
Namita wanted to spend time with her children, and she definitely got to do that in Pattaya, enjoying the local festival and Thai food. But she cautions, if you are to come to Songkran, be prepared to get very wet. Better yet, arm yourself with a water gun or bucket to get the most out of it!                                                                                                                                                                ..... Rahul