First and foremost, to all my Thai friends, I wish you all a very merry, happy, splendid Thai New Year!
Yesterday, I went along with GRCC’s Thai Student Association (TSA) to Wat Washington Buddhavanaram to celebrate an event known as the Songkran Festival, a.k.a. the Thai New Year. It is celebrated every year, beginning on 13th April and ending on 15th April. We gathered at the GRCC bus circle, and by 9am, we headed to the Thai Temple, a mere twenty minutes away from campus. I’ve actually been here before to celebrate the Loy Krathong Festival in early December, but I was completely shocked when I saw the temple yesterday—it was packed like sardines! I guess this isn’t too shocking though, considering the fact that Wat Washington Buddhavanaram is actually the biggest Thai temple in Washington State. There were Thai people from all over Washington, and there were even some people all the way from Portland!
The first thing we did was give the monks rice. “We paid respect to the Buddha and got on the line to pass food to the monks. It is impossible to have everyone passing the food to the monks directly so what we did was to have someone passing the food and others touching that person so that it will bring merit and fortune to everyone,” said Akapat, president of TSA. I thought this was very interesting!
Up to about noon, we went around the temple grounds, as there were rows of booths selling authentic Thai food. The awesome thing is that Thai food is pretty similar to Indonesian food, and so, for me, it was like heaven on earth! Where else would you get delicious food like that in Auburn? The sad thing was that I didn’t have a lot of cash on me—in fact, I only had $6 to spend. Luckily, I had already had a very fulfilling breakfast, and I ended up spending the money on a glass of Thai tea and satay. Yum yum!
Lunchtime came, and then we all gathered in the temple to pray. After that, people stood up and formed a line—it’s time for the free food! There weren’t enough food to satisfy everyone though, so my friends and I didn’t grab anything. We just chatted, and after some time, we decided to watch the performances happening outside the temple. Although the dances weren’t performed by professional dancers, I still thought they were pretty cool. There was this one dance performed by four Thai women, and they had burning candles on their hands. As they twirled their hands around, the wax was dripping and they had to make sure it didn’t drip on them and ruin their dress.
After the performances were finished, the water fight commenced! For most of the children and teenagers there, the water fight is probably the part they were most looking forward to. As Akapat said, the purpose of this water fight is to “wash away the sins, dirtiness, and all the bad things according to the belief of the Thai people.” To sum it in one word, the water fight was AWESOME. After the performances, I went over to the booths to get some satay. I was a tad bit hungry so I thought I’ll go and grab some food before the water fight begins. Five minutes later, I came back to see my friends’ faces all white and covered up in powder! Karen then came up to me and smudged my face and hair with powder too! Then, people started grabbing water bottles and throwing it to other people. Some even took the hoses and just hosed anyone who dared walk in front of them. It was pretty scary yet fun! I was quite lucky to stay 90% dry until suddenly, while I was standing by the sidelines, watching out just in case anyone came to me with water, Sal (TSA’s advisor) lifted me up from behind and brought me over to the hose. People then started splashing me with water and I was suddenly soaking wet from head to toe. Jeez, thanks guys, I’m now shivering cold! All in all, it was a really fun experience, though. I remember when I was younger, I would always want to have water fights with my cousins, but my parents would never let me do it. In Thailand, however, they have water fights every year…how cool is that? Even though my hair was white with the powder and my body was still wet with the water, I’m really happy that I came to the Thai temple to celebrate the Thai New Year. Therefore, a big thank you to TSA for holding such an awesome event! “It was such an enjoyable trip, and I believe that the students who participated learned something from this event,” said Akapat. I’m definitely going to take part in other TSA events. For more information on TSA, you can join their group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ThaiStudent/.
Cheers, everyone! -Indira