11 July 2024

Thais have braved surging COVID-19 infections to celebrate the annual Songkran festival, the traditional Thai New Year, in a joyful yet subdued manner and without the normal excited water splashing and powder smearing.

In the north-eastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima, the province’s chief monk led a group of 60 senior monks on a boat trip, the first such in the province, to receive alms from members of the public, who lined both banks of the Lam Takhong Canal.

The revellers also poured water at and asked for blessings from the Thao Suranari Monument, a famous landmark in the province. A religious procession, carrying a 554-metre long sheet of gold and silver cloth marking the 554th anniversary of the founding of Korat township, moved through the Chumphol Gate towards a Buddhist stupa in the district. The cloth will be wrapped around the stupa.

All the activities were conducted in strict compliance with anti-COVID-19 safety measures.

In the Sangkhla Buri district of the western province of Kanchanaburi, Thais and ethnic Mon people packed the famous Mon wooden bridge for a merit-making ceremony, to mark the traditional New Year for both Thai and Mon people.

Another important merit-making ceremony is scheduled to be held at Ban Sanaefong village on Saturday, when an alms presentation will be conducted underneath a large Bodhi tree, or a sacred fig tree, to be followed by the watering of the tree, the release of fish into a stream and the cleaning of the Mon wooden bridge.

In Chiang Mai today, locals and tourists participated in the presentation of alms to 117 monks. Phra Phuttha Sihing, a famous Buddha statue, was placed at the Tha Phae Gate to which people could pay respect by pouring water over the image. Nine more Buddha statues were displayed at Tha Phae Gate for public worship.

The celebration also featured an unusual contest of beauty queens riding bicycles and the Miss Chiang Mai pageant.