Songkran, also known as the Thai Water Festival, is a traditional Thai Festival to mark the New Year. Is also celebrated in Penang, notably along Lorong Burma in Pulau Tikus, where both the Thai Reclining Buddha temple and the Burmese Temple celebrate with gusto. The now almost-destroyed historic hamlet of Kampong Siam (Thai Village) is nearby; this was once the heart of the Thai and Burmese communities of Penang. Both temples are worth visiting at any time, the Thai one for its long reclining Buddha, and the Burmese one for its intricate gilding and lattice work. Normally oases of calm lying between two busy roads, Songkran brings an entirely different atmosphere, one of noise, gaiety and playfulness.
Buddhist devotees head for a decorated section of the temple complex which is set aside for visitors to bathe the Buddhist statues with scented floral water as a mark of homage. But in addition, traditionally, at this New Year celebration, devotees wash away bad luck (and cool themselves down in the usual hot weather) by splashing water on each other. Over the course of the day, this becomes a riotous attempt to soak everyone in the vicinity, though not usually as riotous as in Thailand. At Penang Songkran everyone is in high spirits, and no attacks are malicious, but you will most definitely get wet, so dress appropriately. Bring only waterproof cameras with you, put your phone in a sealed plastic bag, but be sure to bring some money to buy a “super soaker” water pistol to join in the fun, and to buy a few beers and restorative Thai snacks. Soft drinks and fruit are often provided free of charge. As the afternoon draws on and the crowds build up, you can expect music, stage shows, dancing, and more merriment.
The festivities begin at 10am and continue officially until 4pm (although unoffically often later), at the Wat Chayamangkalaran Thai Buddhist Temple and Dharmikara Burmese Buddhist Temple (Lorong Burma, Pulau Tikus). Contact 016 – 410 5115 for more information.