The traditional Thai new year celebrations have just ended. These festivities, taking place from April 13-15 every year, are a time of rebirth, renewal and cleansing, renowned throughout the world mostly for the opportunity to throw water at strangers. The tradition stems from a Buddhist custom of families washing their statues of The Buddha at this time of year, and collecting this holy water run off and gently pouring it over themselves as a blessing.
Many locals observe the tradition of Songkran by dusting themselves in chalk, dancing in the streets or visiting a wat (Thai monastery) to pray and give food to the monks, and gently pouring water scented with orchids over the monastery’s images of The Buddha and the monks themselves.
All over Thailand, especially in Chiang Mai where the festival often lasts 6 days, this tradition has evolved into a fun drench-fest in which travellers from around the world join the locals during the hottest time of the year for Songkran. It doesn’t matter where you hail from, you can fully expect to either be gently led aside by a sweet old lady who will gently pour a cup of water over your head, or a 5 year old grinning while he upends a bucket over your hat. In a period of incredibly high humidity and temperatures hovering around 40 degrees centigrade, young and old grab buckets, hose pipes, water pistols and balloons and go on the hunt. Whether you’re in the back of a traditional tuk tuk, on a scooter, a pedestrian or have the windows of your car open – nobody is safe.
Please enjoy this collection of images of Thailand during one of its most fun and traveller friendly festivals, and have a wonderful, warm weekend.
Roadblock, by SteveMcN
Featured image by apes_abroad
Christmas is coming and the geese are getting fat, please put a penny aside… so you can escape the cold and enjoy the festive season in one of these sunnier spot.
Admittedly not a city for a bikini holiday over Christmas, Rome is one European city where sunshine and blue skies are more likely to be unwrapped on Christmas morning than many others. From the Pope’s tour of the Vatican on Christmas Day to ice skating at the Auditorium and Christmas markets in many of Rome’s piazzas, enjoy a traditional Christmas while wearing you most stylish pair of sunglasses and perhaps only one layer of thermals.
Campo dei Fiori – Image © Giulia Mulè
St. Peter’s Square at Christmas – Image © Bruce McAdam
Heading slightly further south we find ourselves in Cyprus, an island where temperatures rarely drop below 18° centigrade in December. Find yourself a spot near the beach for a special stroll along the sand on Christmas morning and explore nearby villages displaying Christmas traditions like hanging crucifixes that are wrapped in basil leaves and eating Christopsomo (Christ Bread), a special sweet bread the baking of which is considered sacred.
Image © disparkys
The predominantly Catholic island of Malta celebrates Christmas in the sun with traditional nativity scenes on display outside churches and houses. The celebrations take place on Christmas Eve, beginning with processions through many neighbourhoods and with most people going to Midnight Mass. In addition to traditional turkey which is often served in a casserole, Maltese festive food include a treacle ring desert and the interesting sounding chestnut and cocoa soup.
Image © Bob Jagendorf
Expect as many as 11 hours of sunshine in Marrakech during December and early January, although temperatures can dip tobelow 10° at night. Mix the hustle and bustle of Marrakech’s key sights like the market at Place Jamma El Fna and the dramatic looking Koutoubia Mosque with some valuable downtime relaxing in traditional Moroccan souks. With Morocco being a predominantly Muslim country you can easily avoid turkey and traditions but still treat yourself to a beautiful meal at one of Marrakech’s finest restaurants.
Image © le calmar
One of Europe’s worst kept secrets for winter suns, Lanzarote is one of the Spanish Canary Islands, which promise year long sun and temperatures warm enough to sunbathe in during December so you could easily spend Christmas Day on the beach here. Lanzarote is more than just a beach bum’s holiday destination; this volcanic island also offers great routes for hiking, cycling and burning off those extra Christmas calories which you can accrue eating local delicacies including Canarian tapas, freshly caught fish and Bienmesable, almond syrup, poured over ice cream.
Image © Paul Holloway
While Florida residents treasure December temperatures for being slightly cooler than the rest of the year, holidaymakers from around the world flock there because they are considerably warmer than other parts of the world during Christmas. For warm seas and a Christmas on the beach, head to the Gulf of Mexico. To experience a multicultural Christmas with a Latino flavour try out Miami and to make every child’s Christmas wish come true, stay in Orlando within striking distance of Disney World.
Image © SpreadTheMagic
Of all the destinations we have listed, Thailand is where you can be most confident of both sunshine and hot temperatures. You can definitely leave the thermals and in fact any full length trousers and T-shirts at home if you’re lucky or wise enough to fly to Thailand to spend Christmas on one of the country’s idyllic islands, in the exciting city of Bangkok or near a beach on the mainland. Locals do their best to help you celebrate Christmas with festive takes on their own fabulous food – turkey green curry, anyone? – and lots of festive cheer brought by Santa hats on the beach and fairy lights keeping you company as you enjoy late, lazy, warm Thai evenings.
Image © jeffgunn