Songkran is the traditional Thai New Year. The true dates vary every year as they are set by the movement of the stars but are usually between 13th and 16th April. However, the Thai government have now fixed the start of Songkran as 13th April. This usually then lasts for three to five days depending on where you are in the country. The Mon people, in areas like Phra Pradaeng in Samut Prakan and Chonburi, celebrate Songkran a week later than the rest of the county. They had their celebrations this weekend. This afternoon I crossed the river to Phra Pradaeng to watch the Songkran parade. This picture above is of Nang Songkran, the winner of the beauty contest that I went to watch on Friday.
This was my second visit to watch the parade. This time I drove to Wat Protket Chettharam in Phra Pradaeng much earlier. Last time I did manage to arrive before the parade but they had already blocked the road. So I had to walk the remaining 800 metres. As a consequence I got a bit wet. This time I had a better plan of action. I arrived two hours before the parade and just relaxed by the canal in the relative safety of the temple. From here I could see the bridge and the passing pick-up trucks with the water throwers on the back. In the end the parade didn’t arrive for nearly three hours. At 4 p.m. I could hear the marching band faintly on the wind. As there was no longer any traffic on the road above me I decided to go and wait on the bridge. It was nearly another hour before they arrived. The parade started at the city hall which is a fair walk. Luckily I didn’t get wet while I was waiting. A few people did ask me if they could wipe wet powder on my face but I declined their offer. I knew from experience that this would then mark me out as fair game to anyone with a bucket of icy cold water.
It would be fair to say that the Phra Pradaeng Songkran Parade is quite a major event. Much larger than the one I went to watch at the Samut Prakan city hall last week. Actually, two of the floats from that parade were here today including Nang Songkran Samut Prakan. This is her picture above. In total there were about twenty major floats all of which were colourfully decorated. Many of them also had beautiful young Thai ladies on them.
As well as the floats, there were also various marching bands, both traditional and modern. Then there were the parades of people from each of the districts in Phra Pradaeng. Many of them were either carrying bowls of fish or birds in cages. It is a Mon tradition to release birds and fish during Songkran in order to make merit. Over the years, the Thai people have also adopted this tradition as their own.
The climax of the parade takes at Wat Protket Chettharam where I had parked my car. This is basically a photo opportunity as it is such a beautiful backdrop with people wearing traditional Thai costumes. However, they are indeed making merit by releasing the fish in the temple pond and also the birds into the air. In this picture is the governor of Samut Prakan (wearing the ghastly green sarong) and other local officials and representatives of government. In the front row you can see Nang Songkan wearing the red sash in the center together with the runner’s up.