Songkran, Thai New Year, in Penang, Malaysia

When asked how our day was, the resounding answer was... BEST HOLIDAY EVER!!

Pouring water over the Buddha statues as a symbol of washing away the bad to start a fresh new year
As we travel around the world one of the things we really enjoy are all the amazing festivals and celebrations, most of which we had never even heard of before.

Penang is an absolute hotbed of these celebrations as, here more than anyplace I have been. the intertwining of religions leads to what seems like one excellent celebration after another!

We have been here a while now and because of that this is the 3rd New Year we will be celebrating!  First was New Year as we ll know it.  Since Penang has a huge Chinese population we also got to celebrate Chinese New Year, complete with lights, amazing fireworks, and multiple nights of get togethers and great food.

April 13th is the Thai new year, also known as Songkran, otherwise known as the biggest water fight on the planet!  Now the best spot to be in is Thailand in either Bangkok or Chiang Mai but since there are many Burmese and Thai workers in and around Penang and beautiful Buddhist temples strategically placed across the street from one another, Penang is also a great spot to celebrate.

We left later than expected, I know big shocker there, but still were out the door and at the taxi stand by 1pm.  I had read that the temples have a more somber or religious tone earlier in the morning so I did not want to crash that party.  As we approached the taxi area though here in Batu Ferringhi there were already loads of buses full of people that had obviously already been water fighting.

Oh crap, had our penchant for sleeping in cost us the big celebration??

As we approached the entrance to the Burma road offshoot that houses both temples I was relieved to see some people still there.  As we rounded the corner we realized it wasn't just few.  The kids immediately stopped and looked to me for our next move.  It was packed, water flying everywhere, dance music a word CHAOS!  I loved it, the kids were not so sure.  I think C was looking for an escape immediately but we pushed through to try and find a dry spot to gather our thoughts.
On the prowl

To say we stood out is a serious understatement.  I think we only saw about 7 other farangs (foreigners) the entire day between both temples.  We were celebrities again.  We were hugged, photographed, drenched, powdered, and even kissed...more than once!  Trepidation filled us in the first few moments but as soon as we figured out where the water was for refilling our guns it was just a blast!

Love how Dylan towers over everyone!

The Thai side was more about water while the Burmese side seemed to be more about lady boys, drinking, and dance music.  There was even a stage set up in the backdrop of statues being blessed by monks.  It was a bit odd but we loved it.  Interesting how the Western view of Buddhism has just been shot to hell after being around it for over a year...more on that for a different post I think!

Because nothing says Buddhism like...lady boys and hip thrusting??
The Burmese side was nuts and totally filthy, that will be one crazy clean up next week
All the single ladies...oh wait..
All in all this was seriously the best holiday celebration I have ever been to, so much fun, camaraderie, and downright insanity!  If you are ever in the Thailand or Malaysia area mid April be sure to check out the celebrations.  Just beware the water can be freezing and the chalk is doused in menthol, both a welcome respite from the crazy heat of April, most times!

The day came to an end when T, my 5 year old, got some of this powder in his eyes, "a minty burning", he called it!  I could have stayed all day but after 3 hours playing it was time to head home!  Taxis were available for a slightly higher charge with plastic bags covering all the seats and the continued booming music to feed the soul on the journey home...

Dylan and I will be returning tomorrow...what a way to celebrate my birthday!

Suk San Wan Songkran!

Tips: The best guns were the ones with a backpack filler to refill on your own.  There were many buckets available but they emptied quickly and having more water would have been even better than it already was.  They also sell large bottles of water and will hammer a couple holes in the top, we found this to be the best method.  Take the top off all together for an even better soaking!

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  1. Sounds like you had a great time! Last year's celebration was on Friday, so perhaps a slightly smaller crowd. BTW, my friend happened to go jogging by the temples at 7:30a.m. and got totally sprayed, so the partying starts early.

    1. That would explain why people were so totally wasted by 1:)

  2. That looks like so much fun, Im adding that to my list for next April - love a good water fight!

    1. It was amazing! I know you guys would totally love it. Thailand is a better place for it I think, with Bangkok and Chiang Mai being the best spots but honestly for us I thought this was great as it was not so overwhelming. Easier with small kids I would guess here in Penang!

  3. What a blast! We did La Tomatina in Spain (the big tomato fight)last august. Perhaps we need to make our way over there next spring. Hmmmm... my gears are now spinning....

    1. Heidi, it was sooo much fun, I truly cannot express that enough. I wish this happened in every country! I think Thailand is way better but Penang was great too. I thought it was actually nicer here for smaller kids as it was not near as overwhelming as some of the pics from Bangkok or Chiang Mai looked:) Thailand would be a perfect spot for Novemnber (for Yi Peng) to April (for Songkran). You can head into Penang for Chinese New Year and Thaipusam in the middle (jan-Feb). If you wanted to do the cultural festivities tour:)

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