The Songkran festival will be celebrated in Phuket, and many other locations around Thailand, between April 13 and April 15. The festival is an annual event, and this year marks the beginning of the Thai New Year 2556. It is a joyful occasion centred on family, community and nature.
For Thai people it is a time of cleansing and renewal; for visitors it is an opportunity to learn about local customs. Songkran is great fun because the tradition of sprinkling water as a symbol of respect has evolved into one huge water fight, a wet and wild party for all ages.
In the week leading up to Songkran, Phuket residents collect water in buckets, inflatable swimming pools and 44 gallon drums. The first day of the festival is the big one. The masses head to the streets to throw and squirt water indiscriminately. Getting wet is unavoidable, but this is fine. It's hot in Phuket in April, incredibly hot.
Those who are keen to participate in the traditional aspects of Songkran should head to Wat Chalong, the most important of the Buddhist temples in Phuket. There, and at the other temples, people build sand pagodas, apply soft chalk powder to their faces and bodies, bath Buddha images with scented water, and gently wash the hands of monks and elders. Additionally, at various locations around Phuket, there are cultural performances, beauty pageants and processions.
The beauty pageant of the Songkran Queen is an interesting tradition. It derives from a legend about a king who cut off his head and directed his seven daughters to take turns carrying it -- the severed head that is -- clockwise around a mountain. The daughter who was holding the king's head on Songkran Day was honoured as that year's Songkran Queen. In modern times, folklore says each daughter represents a day of the week, and the daughter whose "day" on which Songkran falls becomes that year's Songkran Queen.
This year, because Songkran Day (April 13) falls on a Saturday, the daughter, Mahotorntevee, will be the Songkran Queen. Mahotorntevee wears a black dress adorned in onyx. She likes to eat hog deer. She holds a discus in her right hand and a three-pronged spear in her left hand. And she rides on a peacock.
Ms Mahotorntevee's characteristics are relevant because they will be used by prophets to predict the events of the coming year. Now I don't know about you, but this makes me curious: Onyx? Hog deer? Three-pronged spear? Peacock? What will the new year bring?
Regardless, Phuket is the perfect place to enjoy the festivities of Songkran 2013 while you holiday at the beach. Is it time to plan an autumn escape?