newsletter  /  april '08

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Songkran: Get wet and wild for Thailand's New Year

Songkran: Get wet and wild for Thailand’s New Year

Known best as the water festival, Songkran is Thailand’s traditional New Year, falling on the 12-15 of April. Based on the belief that water cleanses and washes away bad luck, Songkran includes traditional ceremonies and also – as more commonly acknowledged – a fun, nationwide waterfight that is often welcome during Thailand’s hottest month of the year.

Traditionally Songkran is the time to seek the blessings of elders by sprinkling water on the hands. During the course of the 3 days, people visit temples and clean Buddha images with scented water, as it is believed that this will bring good luck and prosperity in the coming year. In Thai parlance, this process is referred to as merit-making.

In recent times however, the sprinkling of water has given way to drenching one another in water. Children and adults alike roam the streets with water guns and buckets of ice-cold water which are splashed on any passerby- regardless of age, gender or ethnicity. It is all in good cheer, and many visitors to Thailand often find it to be one of their most remarkable and entertaining cultural experiences abroad. But do be prepared to get wet – it is unavoidable!

Bangkok probably experiences the least amount of traffic at this time of the year with the activity concentrated in the city’s backpacking hub, Khao San Road. Here tourists and Thais arm themselves with water pistols and other vessels suitable for dousing and engage in some seriously wet warfare.

For those who would like to witness a more traditional celebration in Bangkok, Sanam Luang, which is opposite the Grand Palace, would be the best option. Here, the Phra Buddha Sihing image is brought out for a procession for people to pay their respects, and later set on the ground for the course of the festival. Also, an annual Ms. Songkran contest takes place at Wat Wisutkasat in addition to a parade, food fair and merit making ceremonies.

The city of Chiang Mai in Thailand’s north is probably the most popular destination to celebrate Songkran. The moats along the Ping River and around the Tha Phae Gate are popular and picturesque areas to enjoy the festivities. The water fights in Chiang Mai also generally extend longer than the rest of the country.

If you are looking for a celebration at one of the many beach towns in Thailand, be sure to check out Hua-Hin where festivities start on the 13th, including many local performances and concerts. Another popular resort town is Phuket, where visitors can enjoy a Songkran parade, concerts, and beauty contests. Join in the colorful and energetic water fights around the famous Patong beach. Or if you want to engage in a week long party, then Pattaya would perhaps be the best destination. Songkran is celebrated for an additional week after the official dates!

The festival is celebrated all over Thailand with the same level of fun and enthusiasm, so book early to partake in the festivities. For any visitor to the country, this will truly be an unforgettable experience.

Hoi An's Luminous Lanterns

Hoi An's Luminous Lanterns

If you're seeking a romantic, quaintly Asian experience, then you won’t find a town more appealing or authentic than Vietnam’s Hoi An. As the country’s oldest trading port, Hoi An has an illustrious history that is juxtaposed by an everyday rural charm. Listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, this charming ancient city has preserved much of its ornate Chinese architecture and a unique culture unlike any to be found in Asia.

One of the more fascinating aspects of Hoi An life are the lanterns that line the streets. Especially on the 15th day of every lunar month when fluorescent lights, television and motorcycles are barred from use, creating an antiquated atmosphere that allows you to imagine a time past. The lanterns, made from wooden fishing traps are adorned in marvelously rich patterns and hang from every rooftop cornice. They complement the ancient teak paneling and typically old Chinese tiling that characterize the aged buildings.

Poised between the Cua Dai beach and Thu Bon River, the Hoi An area is also punctuated by rice paddies and rural life. To experience the scenes and appreciate the town culture, it is best to bicycle around the ancient town. Visitors will find a wet market along the river, many retro-style cafes with mouthwatering pastry selections and coffee, lantern stalls and many, many art galleries and tailors. Take the time to stroll over the Chua Cau bridge and walk along the river. Let the old port charm you.

And don't forget the lanterns. The luminous lanterns, all shapes and sizes, lit up like rich baubles for an Emperor.

Travel Tip: Selection of plugs

Ever been told to put a plug it? Well, that could be sound advice for when you’re traveling. In an unfamiliar environment sleeping can be thwarted by simple distractions and noises, so it’s always good to have some earplugs handy. Check out this selection of plugs to soothe out the sounds with silence.

Review of the month: Pullman Bangkok King Power Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand

Posted By P.D.

The staff here are extremely friendly and willing to help you with whatever your needs. You can walk two minutes outside the hotel and will find plenty of shops offering business services to clothes. Gym service, restaurants, concierge service, tour desk, and outdoor swimming pool are all excellent at the hotel. Overall, we would highly recommend this hotel and stay again.

Shopping Tip: Always get a meter taxi and pay no more than 70 baht to go to Siam Center, if you would like to experience the skytrain which is five-minute walk from the hotel then catch this to Siam.

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