Translated from Sanskrit, ‘Songkran’ means “to move into”. In Thailand, this festival in April marks the traditional New Year when the Sun moves into the sign of Aries, signalling another life cycle. An import from Brahmanism, Songkran is also celebrated in Laos, Burma, Southern China, and Golden Mile Complex.
The idea that you can cleanse yourself of sins is fascinating to me. When I was a travel photographer, I used to go to Thailand until somebody mentioned that Thai festivals were celebrated here too. In 2008, I made my first trip to Golden Mile for Songkran.
Grown men were dancing in the flooded lobby. Battles were going on with Super Soakers, talcum powder, and pails of icy water. The makeshift stage was on a balcony without barriers. The Singaporean in me thought, “What happens if someone falls over and dies?”
Four years later, I find most of the crowd confined to the third floor. The people I speak to are mostly Singaporeans or Malaysians who had been informed of the event by beer promoters. Other than some kids, a group of expats are there because their friend's Thai wife had told them about it. “Where’s the party?” I ask the shop owners. “No budget lah,” they say.
It's a joy to me that within this mixed-use development is a space for foreign fun, still. Not the sort of celebration that requires streets to be shut down – neither a festivity that is free of commerciality. Taking place indoors for a largely invisible community, Songkran in Singapore is small, spontaneous, and as spicy as chilli padi not watered down for the Singaporean's taste buds