The festival site was Wat Sorasak, a small temple inside the old town walls. The temple dates back to the year 1412. There is not much left of the original temple except for a Chedi & Viharn. The Chedi base features 24 elephant statues, a common feature of Sukhothai era temples where they represented temple guardians.
Over the three-day festival, there were many traditional old-style activities including cooking competitions, a beauty contest, folk theatre, traditional music, a parade, a sand pagoda building contest, a Muay Thai tournament & live music. There were also merit-making activities such as bathing Buddha images, paying respect to elders and giving alms to monks. All the local people participating wore traditional Thai costumes. A market area offered up some great local dishes, snacks, and desserts.
Giving Alms to Monks
On the first day of Songkran, it is traditional to offer alms to monks. Thai people do this to make merit and view it as a good way to start the new year. Just outside the historical park is Wat Traphang Thong, a temple on an island in the middle of a lake. The main entrance to the temple is a wooden bridge known as the Bridge of Virtue. At sunrise, people gather on the bridge to give alms to the temples monks. This is a daily event but is particularly popular at Songkran. The monks appear at 06.15 am walking down the line collecting the offerings. Their number included many young novice monks who looked about 7-10 years old. After collecting the alms the monks offer blessings to the merit makers before heading back to the temple. If you ever visit Sukhothai this is worth getting up early for.
The Somtam Making Competition
One of the highlights for us was the annual Somtam (Papaya Salad) making competition. Teams competed to make the best Somtam while performing a dance routine known as the “Somtam Dance”. There were twelve teams and the competition was serious with great local acclaim for the winner. The whole event was great fun and featured some comical dancing and colorful costumes.Each team made a plate of Somtam to music while their dancers performed in front of their stall. There was a team of judges who scored the team on the taste of the Somtam and the quality of the dance routine.
The Songkran Parade
For the local people, one of the most important events is the Songkran Parade. Songkran Day is the 13th of April and all over Thailand, there are Songkran parades. Nang Songkran is the Thai goddess of Songkran. There are seven Nang Songkran, one for each day of the week.The goddess of each day has a different name, dress color, ornament, likes a particular food and carries different objects in each hand. Each goddess rides in a vehicle featuring a different symbol, Garuda, Tiger, Pig, Donkey, Elephant, Buffalo & Peacock. Whichever day of the week falls on the 13th is the Nang Songkran for that year and gets to lead the parade. This year Songkran day was a Saturday so the goddess Mahotorntevee was the Nang Songkran. The Sukhothai Historical Park parade featured twelve floats, representing local communities. Each float carried the communities Songkran Queen. The communities competed to make the most beautiful, colorful float for which a prize was given. The floats were all immaculate and accompanied by members of each community wearing themed traditional costumes. The parade passed through the town ending up at Wat Sorasak. There is no water throwing during the parade.