Tomorrow is the start of Songkran (Thai New Year), an annual festival that brings tourists from all over the globe to Thailand. What’s so great about Songkran? Well, for one thing it’s hot in Thailand, and Songkran is the water festival so you’ll get pretty wet and stay that way for at least three full days.
Thai’s love Songkran, and look forward to it. It’s a long break from work and many go home, away from the big cities to reconnect with families and friends, eat and enjoy themselves. Foreigners seem to love it too and congregate in places like Koh San Road, Pattaya, Koh Sumui, and especially Chiang Mai where the festival seems to go on forever. Alcohol is usually involved and so are water canons, buckets, hoses, and squirt guns (those big ones). After a day of this (and hanging out with backpackers) it gets a bit too much, and if you’re a long timer in Thailand you’ll spend a lot of time in doors with a few good books and a dozen or so cheap DVD’s, or go somewhere else (Vietnam doesn’t have Songkran, but Cambodia and Laos do).
I’m not a huge fan of Songkran and prefer the more low-key and less published festivals of Thailand, having stumbled upon a real amazing one a few years back. Poy Sang Long, of the Festival of the Crystal Sons, is a yearly festival where young boys between the ages of 7-14 take novice monastic vows and participate in temple life that can last for a period of a few weeks to several months. You’ll find Poy Sang Long mostly in the northwest of Thailand, usual close to the border with Myanmar, the best place to see it is Mae Hong Son, around the first week of April depending on the cycle of the moon that month. Smaller versions are held in Chiang Mai, and Chiang Rai and in most northern towns since the tradition was brought form Myanmar by the Shan people.
Bring your camera, several, and you’ll get a front row seat for something really special, few foreigners and no water fights, up close and personal with the Thai’s. One year I even got to play the drums with a few locals, who were happy to indulge the curious foreigner.
Rich and vibrant colors, tradition, and the clothes worn by the boys—a recreation of the princely grab worn by the young Buddha—makes this a must see.