Songkran 2011 Celebrations in Thailand Will Usher in Wet New Year

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Water has universal symbolism, appearing in nearly all cultures' observances and celebrations. "Rather enigmatically, but with constant consistency, water is associated with life, death, birth, reproduction, power or even resurrection," says Mohamed Larbi Bouguerra, author of a report on the symbolism of water for the Institut Veolia Environnement. Such significances still play out today in Thailand and other countries, where the New Year brings Songkran, a water festival of great exuberance.

Plans for Songkran 2011 in Thailand include festivities across the entire country. These celebrations often vary greatly in length and activity. However, most celebrations do have at least one thing in common: a grand water-launching party on April 13. Originally Songkran was observed based upon astrological calculations, thus varying from year to year. But times have changed – now it's generally observed April 13–15 using the Western calendar. However, this observance time is far from being set in stone, varying significantly depending on location.

Songkran means many different things to the people who celebrate it. Traditionally the New Year is a time of renewal. Water is gently poured over statues of Buddha, houses are cleaned, and old grievances are forgiven. But the festivities have evolved over time to include mass drenching by buckets of water or with water guns. No one is exempt from this water sport, including tourists. If you plan on traveling to Thailand during the Songkran Festival, you will get wet. Be prepared.

Finding flights to Thailand for Songkran 2011 is relatively easy using online tools. Know that once you arrive, you'll have several options for getting around the country. Using Thai Airways is probably the easiest way to move around the country, though trains and buses are also viable options. (The trains are safe but tend to be a little slow.) As for accommodations, there are numerous hotels around the country, especially in larger cities like Bangkok.

Here are some additional things to keep in mind if you want to celebrate the Songkran Festival in Thailand:

• April 13 is typically the busiest and wettest day. April 14 is slightly more reserved, with locals spending time with their families.
• Some locations are going to be more intense than others. The busiest celebrations occur in Chiang Mai in the northern part of Thailand.
• One of grandest versions of this water festival occurs in Phra Pradaeng. Festivities tend to begin a bit later than other parts of the country, and Songkran is celebrated in the style of the Raman.
• For a more tame celebration, try the northern city of Phayao or hop over to one of Thailand's islands. The island of Phuket is popular with international travelers.
• Most major tourist attractions and restaurants remain open during Songkran. Smaller shops and businesses may close so employees may be closer to family.
• Keep your valuables (wallet, passport, electronics) in sealable waterproof bags to avoid having them damaged by water.
• If you take a taxi or tuk-tuk to your accommodations, attempt to get dropped off as close as possible to avoid a random splash on your luggage. If you're backpacking it through a city during the festivities, remember to put on your backpack's rain cover.

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