Happy New Year 2011!
Although Thailand now uses the western calendar, traditionally Thai New Year, known as Songkran, falls on 13,14 & 15 April annually. It is celebrated across the country with a mix of tradition and manic water throwing. Koh Chang is no exception. On these days you will see tourists out celebrating the holiday and the island will be welcoming thousands of visitors from elsewhere in Thailand and abroad. There will be water throwing during 13-15 April but it will mainly be the preserve of schoolkids, bar girls and middle aged single blokes wearing Hawaiian print shirts.
However, as this is a very busy period for locals and hotels, Koh Changâ€™s official Songkran celebrations wonâ€™t take place until the 22-23 April. This is a great idea as it allows the local community and workers on the island a chance to enjoy themselves and celebrate New Year, albeit belatedly. In addition, it sets Koh Chang apart from other islands and the event is quickly becoming one of the highlights of the year on Koh Chang.
The ‘must see’ event for any visitors to the island will undoubtedly the parade of floats that will make its way from White Sand beach to the southern end of Klong Prao beach on the the morning of 23 April. Hotels and businesses sponsor and decorate themed floats and this year the theme is reducing global warming. The route will be lined with people cheering and hurling water as the parade passes.
The Trat Tourism Association has organised this two day celebration in order to stimulate the local economy and travel in Trat province after the national Songkran holiday has finished; promote tourism on Koh Chang; raise awareness of the importance of protecting the islandâ€™s environment; and showcase some of the traditional Songkran activities and local crafts that are in danger of dying out.
The celebrations kick off at 0730 on 22 April with the offering of alms to local monks. During the day an exhibition on this history of the island will be held and a fair will be held in Klong Prao where local food and souvenir vendors will ply their exotic wares. After dark, there will be live music for visitors to enjoy / endure.
The parade will begin at 0900 on 23 April and will snake its way down from White Sand Beach to the far southern end of Klong Prao beach. Various categories of prizes will be awarded for the best decorated floats. In the evening a traditional â€™Rad Nam Dum Huaâ€™ ceremony will be performed. This is the original Songkran celebration in which families and villagers gently pour water on the hands of their elders and in return for a blessing. There will also be demonstrations of traditional crafts, such as making Thai snacks, products made from coconut and woven hats and basketware. Plus of course Thai dancing shows and live music â€“ some traditional, some modern but all guaranteed to be loud.
The theme for this years events is pretty much the same as last year ie, Stop Global Warming & Keep the Island Green. As event themes go, it tends to be either that or seafood related here on Koh Chang and Songkran / Loy Krathong / New Year / Summer / Rainy Season and Seafood festivals have been done to death already.
If you havenâ€™t yet made plans for 22-23 April, this is a great way to spend the weekend. Hope to see you there!
(The above is a rewrite of the exceptionally dull press release from Trat Tourism Association that was emailed to their members in early March.)
A few photos from the 2010 parade