Instead of wet flesh fest, Khaosan Road to debut ‘holy water tunnel’

Songkran’s past, at left, its future as conceived, at right. Images: CMU Club, Alex Hewitt
Songkran’s past, at left, its future as conceived, at right. Images: CMU Club, Alex Hewitt

Anyone expecting to celebrate Songkran on Khaosan Road amid the usual bodies undulating to the beat in wet, clinging clothing will be in for a more wholesome surprise next month.

A “holy water tunnel” will greet visitors at the middle of the iconic road as the spirit-soaking highlight of an otherwise dry Songkran to take place, as well as the comeback of some vendors after the always-busy road, shut off from its supply of backpackers, turned into a ghost town for the past year . 

After health officials worried of a potential third COVID-19 wave ordered water splashing banned – meaning no watery fights that are the core celebration for many for a third year – revelers can still be blasted with some fluids – holy water and sanitizing agents, to be exact. After entering the venue through sanitizing gates (like the original, but hopefully not as useless) visitors can bathe in a tunnel of water consecrated by local monks, Sa-nga Ruangwattanakul of the vendors’ association told Coconuts Bangkok today.

But that will be the only water that ain’t for drinking. Sa-nga said all super soakers or buckets will be confiscated at the entrances, and no refill locations will be available to those who sneak one in.

Songkran may also be celebrated there in the traditional way – pouring water over Buddha images – though it is less clear why anyone would travel to Khaosan for that. Each morning and evening of the festival’s three days, flower-festooned vehicles will parade down the kite-festooned road to the royally festooned Wat Bowonniwet.

Desperate to restock on elephant pants? Sa-nga said vendors, who’ve been yoked with strict City Hall regulations,  will open earlier at noon instead of 3pm and sell until about 7pm.

There will also be more vendors than usual to lure upward of 10,000 visitors, which the association will generate a much-needed THB10 million (US$323,000) each day. He said a lot of the regulars have departed due to the year-long absence of foreign travelers who made the short road a global destination – and gold mine for sellers.

The association president worries that last week’s uptick of cases in Bangkok might keep some people home.

“I don’t think that many Thais will come either, because they are still in fear with a new cluster emerging and warnings made by health officials,” he said. 

The celebration kicks off with a morning merit-making ceremony on April 13 and runs through April 15.

Related

Songkran to return to Khaosan for first time since 2018

Songkran should happen this year: tourism, culture ministries

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