Making Up For Lost Time

Many things have been put on hold since the pandemic, but the pent-up energy that’s usually released on Songrkran has been boiling over in anticipation of its return. Now, after a three-year hiatus, the Thai New Year celebration returned to Bangkok in full force and got extra wild. “It was CRAZY, people were so excited to attend it again,” says photographer Thanakorn Treratanaboot, who’s been joining the festivities since he was a kid but brought his camera along for the very first time this year.

Songkran is an important festival for tradition and religion, where revelers show respect to their elders and to deities; mark the new year and move on from the last; and ward off bad luck and collect good karma. Water is central to much of this, used to wash icons and loved onesβ€”but once you get out into the street, it turns into a giant water fight with people firing off streams from water guns, tossing pales of it at anyone who walks (or drives) by, and swimming in little pools and big buckets.

It’s impossible to stay dry, with water coming from every direction, so keep your phone sealed or get a dry bowl of rice ready that probably won’t help. Treratanaboot wrapped his camera tight in plastic, covering the whole thing except for the front of the lens, which is already water proof. “I was right in the middle of it, a kid splashed my camera directly with a bucket! It made the shots extra special.”

Music is everywhere, with Thailand’s iconic mobile sound systems out in force, blasting a mix of homegrown 3cha beats and EDM. Everyone bumps their own selection, with a mix of DJs at the main spots and playlists at others. “It’s all this different music, but somehow they get along very well,” laughs Treratanaboot. He’s there to enjoy himself and be a part of the spectacle. “I dance, sing, and shoot. It’s surely not just about work. I was kinda popular because of my camera, so many people came up to me and told me to take their photo, which created more opportunities to get good photos.”

Songkran becomes a marathon party, it’s not for the weak of heart. “People start the water war at dawn and go on until the next morning,” says Treratanaboot. He got all his shots from Bangkok and Chonburi over the course of seven days, in the thick of it for five to eight hours a day. “I shot for over 10 hours on one particularly crazy day!” The aftermath is visible everywhere, with people taking a break wherever they can.