Water-spraying elephants, raves and boisterous, street-blocking water fights -- Thailand’s Buddhist New Year arrived with a splash Saturday, a once calm festival now celebrated with a more raucous edge.
Paying respects to elders and sprinkling water over figures of Buddha at local temples are some of the traditions of the three-day New Year celebration, known as Songkran.
Thais and foreigners sporting floral shirts arm themselves with colorful water pistols and protective goggles, engaging in water fights that bring entire streets to a standstill.
In the Bangkok tourist hotspot Khao San road, two young men dressed in school uniforms get doused by passersby wielding high-powered water pistols and buckets of water.
And in Ayutthaya, elephants painted in colorful floral designs lift their trunks and spray water on delighted tourists, with the town’s ancient temples serving as a backdrop.
Neighboring Laos and Myanmar celebrate the same festival with young and old throwing buckets of water over each other as music thuds from loudspeakers.
In Yangon, where the festival is known as Thingyan, children blow bubbles and play with soap suds at street foam parties, while women dressed in traditional costumes perform dances near the famed Sule Pagoda.
Songkran is also the most perilous time to travel in Thailand, and the week beginning from April 11 is dubbed “seven dangerous days” as millions of Thais make the journey back to their hometowns by bus, vans or motorbikes.