Amid summer heat, smiling Thailand celebrates its New Year

Respect and revelry marked celebrations of the Buddhist New Year in Thailand, known as Songkran, a favorite among tourists and locals for its raucous water splashing and water-gun fights, and also for visits to temples and honoring elders with water purification rites.
Songkran typically takes place during the peak of Thailand’s hot season in April and lasts three days. The Buddhist New Year is also celebrated in Thailand’s neighboring countries around the Southeast Asian region. Thailand’s Songkran is the most well-known globally of the festivals.
Many families visit Buddhist temples, where they clean or pour scented water over statues of Buddha to represent purification and good fortune. Younger people also pour water on the hands of older relatives and colleagues to show their respect and ask for blessings in the coming year.
Outside of temples and homes, young and old alike enjoy throwing buckets of water at each other in the blistering heat. Water guns are very popular to use in playful battles everywhere. Tourists love to join in the fun, especially in the “free-fire zones” at Khao San Road in Bangkok and Bangla Road in Phuket where tens of thousands of people take part.
To accommodate the surge of travelers, airlines increased flights by over 60 percent, the government estimated that five million people hit Thailand’s roads during the extended holiday.
The surge in travel was also an opportunity for hotels, restaurants and other tourist venues and attractions to reap in as much revenue as possible before the start of the monsoon season in May. Various research centers have estimated the national celebration will generate anywhere from $525 to $675 million.
Songkran is one of three New Years that Thais celebrate, along with the universal New Year on January 1, and the Chinese or lunar New Year that usually falls in February or March.