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Southeast Asia celebrates Songkran

Thousands of tourists and locals across the region took to the streets last week to celebrate the Buddhist New Year.


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Updated: April 16, 2018

The annual festival is celebrated in many Asian countries including Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. In addition to being a time for family reunions and traditional ceremonies, the festival is widely known for its wild water fights and street parties. From a plus size beauty pageant to a massive festival at Cambodia’s Angkor Archaeological Park, here is how Songkran was celebrated across Southeast Asia this year.

Thailand

Neither locals nor foreigners were put off by scorching temperatures during this year’s Songkran as they participated in water fights in all the country’s major cities, The Nation reported. Though temperatures reached as high as 40.2 degrees in the northeast on April 13, the second day of the festival, celebration venues reported more participants than usual as people attempted to beat the heat by getting soaked.

Thais and tourists also flocked to the nation’s northern provinces to experience the area’s unique traditions, according to The Nation. Visitors to Chiang Mai got to experience a specially prepared event, where they got to pour water on Buddha statues for blessings. Also on offer was the opportunity to experience building pagodas out of sand. Participants were encouraged to celebrate in style by donning traditional Thai costumes and submitting pictures of themselves to the TAT Chiang Mai Facebook page. Those with the most likes by Sunday received special prizes.

Chiang Mai festival-goers were not the only ones looking good. The authorities of Bang Nam Phueng district organised a special transgender beauty pageant on Thursday (April 12) to celebrate Songkran, where each participant was required to weigh at least 120kg.

Even the National Museum Bangkok participated in Songkran celebrations by opening a special temporary exhibition on Thursday, The Nation reported.

Laos

The Laos New Year, also known as Pi Mai Lao, began on April 14, and will end on April 16. Main activities include pouring water on Buddha images in temples, tying threads on wrists for blessings and pouring water on one another the Vientiane Times reported.

Vientiane and big provinces such as Luang Prabang, Khammuan, Savannakhet and Champassak, are running special activities such as a contest of Nang Sangkharn or Miss Pi Mai Lao, beach sports competitions, cultural performances and more, according to the Vientiane Times.

The Royal Thai Embassy in Vientiane also celebrated the event ahead of time on April 4 by hosting “Songkran Thai-Pi Mai Lao.” The festivities kicked off with opening remarks by Mr Chatchawan Sakornsin, Chargé d Affairs of the Royal Thai Embassy, followed by a baci ceremony and water blessing ceremony. Visitors were also treated to traditional food and drinks, performances by cultural teams from the Bunditpatanasilpa Institute of Thailand and games, according to the Vientiane Times.

Myanmar

Myanmar’s Thingyan began on April 13, marking the start of four days of wild celebrations.

Visitors can expect booming music, intense water fights and street food in addition to traditional ceremonies, according to AFP.

Partygoers may also take to padals, or stages where they can rain water down on dancers below, AFP reported.

In an April 6 article outlining the preparations for the festival, The Myanmar Times highlighted Pyay Road as the location of some of the most popular pavilions, with famous artistes and vocalists expected to perform.

Cambodia

Angkor Sankranta, a four-day festival celebrating the Khmer New Year, began at Cambodia’s famous Angkor Archaeological Park on Friday (April 13), according to Siem Reap magazine.

Held for the sixth time, this year’s Angkor Sankranta is bigger and better than before, featuring some 33 interesting programmes including art performances, popular Khmer games, an exhibition on Sambor Prey Kuk Temple and more, the Khmer Times reported.

According to Siem Reap magazine, the festival attracted 1.6 million visitors last year, and organizers are expecting an even greater turnout this year.



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Nadia Chevroulet
About the Author: Nadia is an Associate Editor at Asia News Network.

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