Songkran 2013 (Thai New Year) (13-16 April, 2013)
Songkran (สงกรานต์) marks the new year on the Thai calendar, and is a festive holiday going back hundreds of years. Derived from Sanskrit, the name literally means “astrological passage” and is now celebrated from 13-16 April on the Western calendar every year (historically, however, the Thai New Year was in fact calculated based on the solar calendar, and varied from year to year). In nearby countries, Songkran is also celebrated, but with a different name: Pbeemai (ປີໃໝ່) in Laos and Chaul Chnam Thmey (បុណ្យចូលឆ្នាំថ្មី) in Cambodia, etc.
In recent years, Songkran has become world famous because of the nation-wide “water fight” that takes place in Thailand, attracting thousands of tourists who readily take part in throwing water and talcum powder (or chalk) at each other and at Thai citizens alike. Among Thai citizens, though, it is largely a time for family reunions, temple trips, visiting friends, and cleaning house. Although the holiday is just a few days long, most students and employees get a week off from work, and most banks, offices, and shops close down during Songkran.
Warning to shy or easily-panicked travelers!
Songkran is celebrated absolutely everywhere in Thailand, and the party nearly always starts a week early (and sometimes earlier). Therefore, if you have no desire to be soaking wet 24/7, and stuck for long periods of time in between drinking, screaming, dancing, singing, good-timing people under the hot and humid spring weather of April’s stormy season, then re-consider visiting Thailand during this holiday!
Buddhist tradition that evolved into a party…
Traditionally, the first day of Songkran is considered National Elderly Day on which Thais will perform the Rod Nam Dum Hua ritual, pouring fragrant water into the palms of elders as a sign of humility and to ask for their blessing. The second day of Songkran is National Family Day, and many Thai families will wake up early to give alms to local Buddhist monks, and later will enjoy spending time with relatives.
Those who celebrate the Buddhist aspect of Songkran will pray and bring food to monks at Buddhist temples (wats) in Thailand. Typically, Thai Buddhists will also wash/clean images and statues of Buddha at their house with water, as a show of respect for the new year. Some families will collect the runoff of this “cleansing” water and gently pour it over the shoulders of relatives and friends as a sort of blessing.
After many years of this, however, younger generations began to enjoy the refreshing aspect of pouring water on each other during the warm April season, which is how the present-day “water fight” eventually came about and grew into a fun-filled party.
Common Thai language greetings for Songkran
“สวัสดีปีใหม่” (sawadee pai mai) is an extremely common greeting throughout the Songkran holiday, which basically means “Happy New Year” based on the word “สวัสดี” (sawadee) which is the famous Thai expression for communicating a friendly hello or goodbye. Alternatively, “สุขสันต์วันปีใหม่” (suk san wan pai mai) is a more precise translation from English, as “suk san” is a more literal reference to “happy.” However, because of the increasing internationalization of Western New Year (January 1st), the saying “สุขสันต์วันสงกรานต์” (suk san wan songkran) has also become quite popular compared to some other phrases in recent years, literally meaning “Happy Songkran Day.”
Where is the best place to celebrate Songkran?
While Songkran is celebrated in all areas of Thailand with great passion, it is perhaps most recognized in the northern areas, especially in the city of Chiang Mai. The north of Thailand is known to be quite in touch with traditional Thai culture and traditions, with strong Buddhist roots and a slow, friendly pace of life. Below you may find other regional festivities that have grown to become very well-known in Thailand.
Official Songkran festival locations:
- Chiang Mai Songkran Festival, Chiang Mai
- Sukhothai Songkran Festival
- Bangkok Songkran Splendours Festival
- Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Songkran Festival
- The Great Songkran Day Suphan Buri Province
- Phra Padaeng Songkran Festival, Samut Prakan
- Nakhon Si Thammarat Songkran Festival
- Songkran on the Beach & Phuket Bike Week
- Hat Yai Midnight Songkran Festival, Songkhla
- Chon Buri Songkran Festival
- Songkran Festival and Dok Khun Siang Khaen Festival on Khao Nieo Road
- Nakhon Phanom Songkran Festival
- Nong Khai Songkran Festival
Popular tourist (water fight) areas:
- Kao San Road or Silom area in Bangkok
- Beach Road or 2nd Road in Pattaya
- Patong area of Phuket island
Popular traditional (Buddhist) activities:
- Sanam Luang opposite the Grand Palace – the famous Buddha image “Buddhasihing” is brought out from the National Museum and escorted along the local streets
- Phetchabun – hosts a famous Queen Songkran contest, and there is also a water festival that happens at Khao Phod Road, also known as Burakomkowit Road
- Amphoe Chiang Saen – Nang Songkran procession and competition which features the bathing of the Buddha, along with a 22-men rowboat competition
- Wisutkasat – a Miss Songkran Beauty contest is held in this area, accompanied by merit-making, a local parade and other related activities
- Rattanokosin – building of sand stupas which are then decorated with colorful flags and flowers that can be seen around key local temples
- Phra Pradaeng – Thai-Raman communities show off ancient Songkran traditions about a week later than normal (flags, games, dances, boat races, parades)
- Chiang Mai – one of the biggest Songkran celebrations including a procession around the city and pouring blessed water on the face of Buddha
Safety warnings and cultural respect during Songkran
While Thais are known, for good reason, to be fun-loving people with hospitable charm, the country is still deeply Buddhist and takes great pride in its history and culture. If you are visiting Thailand for the first time, keep these words of caution in mind:
Good Ideas (DO’s)
- DO accept blessings from Buddhist monks and from other people when offered to you
- DO give alms and make merit by following the example of Thais (if you so wish)
- DO waterproof any valuable electronics or other items (or leave at home)
- DO watch your belongings as crowded places always attract thieves
- DO use public transportation whenever possible to avoid traffic
- DO use extreme caution when riding cars or motorbikes
- DO smile and wish others “สวัสดีปีใหม่” (sawadee pai mai)
Bad Ideas (DONT’s)
- Do NOT throw water on monks, babies, or the elderly
- Do NOT throw water that is dirty or contains ice cubes
- Do NOT throw water at cars or motorbikes which is very dangerous
- Do NOT drive after drinking alcohol, or with others who have been drinking
- Do NOT expect to arrive to destinations on time, including offices, hotels, or airports
Rental Costs & Tenant Concerns in Thailand
Thousands of foreigners travel to Thailand every year to visit for short-term or long-term periods. Finding a quality apartment or room to rent in a nice area can be challenging, but dealing with the prices, agreements, and associated terms are another matter entirely. The tenant laws in Thailand are known to rather heavily favor landlords in cases of legal dispute, so it is quite important that you live in a building owned and managed by reputable people who charge fair prices regardless of your nationality.
Identification (I.D.) – Legally speaking, all hotel and rental property managers in Thailand are supposed to ask you for a copy of your ID before renting you a room, even for a single night. Additionally, anytime a foreigner brings back a Thai citizen to their room for any reason, property management is supposed to ask the Thai visitor for a copy of their ID also. This is a national law in Thailand, meant to protect and regulate the safety of both tourists and citizens. At larger buildings, the local police will often stop in daily to check staff records to make sure that ID is being recorded for all guests and residents, so that the national police can keep their records updated. While most busy and/or upscale hotels will follow this strictly (some even charge a fee for any visitors you bring home), many lower level apartments will not. While some residents appreciate this extra bit of privacy, foreigners and Thais alike should keep in mind that properties that do not keep track of tenant identification may be less concerned with security, and should exercise caution.
Written Contracts – A vast number of landlords and apartment managers will not provide a written contract to their residents. Whether to hide from taxes, or out of pure laziness, the truth is that rental contracts are often not implemented in many areas of Thailand. As in many developing countries, verbal agreements and good faith are heavily relied upon in Thailand. Foreign residents should therefore do their best to choose a rental property that appears well maintained, and whose management is polite and up front about important information.
Choosing Your Room – There are various elements that affect how most Thai people choose their room. For starters, Thai culture has great respect for the human head, literally, and thus most Thai people are rather superstitious about living underneath other people. Therefore the top floors will often fill up more often than lower floors in Thailand. Additionally, Chinese influence on Thai culture means the belief in “feng shui” is very important to some Thais. However, while things like windows, balconies, and nice views are all enjoyed in Thailand, most Thai citizens will choose to disregard these things if it means saving a bit of money, however small a difference it might seem in price. As a foreigner, it’s usually better to choose a room that is not on the ground floor as it will be less likely to get broken into, and moreover, it will be much quieter at night as residents come home from the array of shift work that exists in Thailand. Many landlords will push you towards larger or more expensive rooms whenever possible, so keep this in mind when negotiating prices.
Electricity – By far, electric bills vary the most in cost and predictability across Thailand. If you are renting an apartment or house, make sure that you have a written contract between you (the tenant) and the owner/manager of the property that clearly states the cost per unit of electricity and water. While some rental opportunities may at first appear to be a good deal, you may be shocked at the end of the month when your landlord dishes out an invoice for an outrageously high electric bill. Unfortunately, with rising tourism in Thailand, many landlords have figured out they can double their profits each month by secretly charging tenants for electricity at very high costs per unit. Almost everywhere in Thailand, the cost per unit for electricity should never exceed 6-7 baht. Anytime a landlord claims their electricity bill is upwards of 10-15 baht per unit, you should probably ditch them and not come back.
Water – There are a few places in Thailand, believe it or not, that do suffer from water shortages due to fast growth and poor infrastructure. These include Koh Samui island, among other islands. It may sound surprising in a tropical country, but water supply is only as good as the local government’s ability to properly store and distribute it. In any case, even in places like these, the monthly cost of water stays generally the same as other regions. All in all the cost of water should not exceed around 150 baht per month for each individual living at a residence. For couples or families, the cost may be higher. While tap water is generally cleaner in Thailand than in other modernizing countries, it is still not a good idea to drink it. At certain times, landlords or the local government might also recommend you to temporarily use bottled water even for brushing your teeth, due to construction work or other reasons causing the water quality to be especially dirty or tainted with impurities. Hot water in sinks is not common, however showers usually do support hot water by way of European or Japanese made rapid-heating devices that attach directly into the water line above the shower faucet. To avoid water going cold, reduce water pressure and you should be good to go!
Riding & Renting Motorbikes in Thailand
Now well into the 21st century, motorbikes remain the most popular form of transportation within the kingdom of Thailand. The average cost of a brand new motorbike is anywhere from 30,000-60,000 Thai Baht or more, depending on the size of the engine and other optional upgrades. The RaiYai team has gathered some useful information and tips for riding, renting, and dealing with motorbikes in Thailand, so do yourself a favor and read on!
Rental prices: Car and motorbike rentals are a big business in Thailand, and choosing a reputable rental shop is important. Generally, shopping for a motorbike rental in a crowded tourist area is not the best idea, as the prices will be higher and the shop owners often trickier. A better idea is to ask the hotel or apartment you are staying at for a recommendation, or search on Google for a shop owner who offers stable pricing and friendly customer service. Prices should usually be between 150-250 baht per day, depending on the region. For monthly rentals, you can usually barter down to around 3,000 or even 2,500 baht if you are lucky and the shop owner trusts you (easier if you bring a Thai friend). Good signs to look for: motorbikes that have been recently washed, tires that have good tread left on them, polite shop owners who are willing to offer you a deal for longer periods, and so forth.
Motorbike manufacturers: Most newer motorbikes in Thailand are designed either by Honda or Yamaha. Both companies are extremely well known and manufacture reliable motorbikes. However, there are some differences. For example, the turn signals on Honda are a toggle design, while on Yamaha they are a click-unclick design. The mirrors are also shaped and angled differently, along with the seat cushions. Yamaha tends to implement cup holders on all of their newer bikes, along with a “turn to unlock” feature on the key ignition for opening the seat cover (and underlying gas cap). In general, Yamaha seems to have more user-friendly features across all their motorbikes, whereas Honda tends to strip down their cheaper models more.
Engine sizes: If possible, try to get a motorbike with at least a 125cc or 135cc engine, especially if you are riding around Phuket, Koh Chang, Chiang Rai, or other areas in Thailand filled with steep driveways and mountains. Simply put, a stronger engine keeps you safer by allowing you to quickly climb a hill without stopping, or by helping you get away from a crowd of obnoxious teenagers blocking the road.
Note: many foreigners who visit Thailand and approach rental shops in “popular” areas may be pushed to rent high-powered street motorcycles, such as Kawasaki, or the yakuza motorbikes, which are over-sized cruiser models. This is a bad idea for multiple reasons. Firstly, these shops are sometimes known to invent fake problems with the bikes upon customers returning them, in order to charge exorbitant fees to “fix” the bike. Furthermore, while it may be temping to look cooler than other tourists by renting one of these, it in fact will make you stand out like a sore thumb! In general, mostly Russians and Scandinavians are the ones who rent these types of motorcycles, and sadly, they are well-known around Thailand to crash them as well.
Gasoline (petrol): Most of the motorbikes in Thailand require “91” gasoline, referring to the octane content, which is always yellow in color. Some bikes will require or be recommended to use “95” gasoline, which is always dark orange in color. There are a few other types of fuel in Thailand such as gasohol and other “eco-friendly” mixes, but these are rarely designed for motorbikes and in most cases, 91 gasoline should take care of your needs.
Note: Almost everywhere in Thailand you can find roadside bottles of gas for sale, usually around 40 or 50 baht per bottle. These over-priced bottles are sold by private shop owners, mostly in the case of emergencies, or in areas where there are no gas stations nearby. It is always a better idea to fill up your gas tank at an established gas station in order to save money and ensure the quality of the petroleum is higher.
Locking motorbikes: It is important that you figure out how to lock the front wheel of your motorbike the first time you ride it. Too often, thieves around Thailand steal motorbikes that are not properly locked, easily rolling the bike down the street and throwing it into a truck or otherwise. Locking your front wheel, either by a simple key ignition method (on newer models) or a traditional wheel lock, is essential when parking your bike overnight or in less-than-trustworthy areas.
Helmet usage: The use of helmets while riding motorbikes in Thailand is extremely recommended. While the police in most of the larger cities love to use it as an excuse for fining tourists, the truth is that is really is for your own safety. Rather than grabbing the half-broken helmet you may be offered for free by a rental shop, it is a better idea to purchase (or borrow) a high quality (expensive) motorcycle helmet that fully covers your head and neck. These are the only helmets that have actually been proven to drastically improve your safety – and with the high risk of traffic accidents throughout Thailand, don’t risk ignoring this factor.
Thailand: The Best Place To Invest In The 21st Century
Anyone that has studied politics or economics since the 1960’s is likely keenly familiar with the Four Tigers, a symbolic reference to the economies of South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, all of which experienced rapid and massive growth in the latter half of the 20th century. These four nations defied typical economic growth expectations like never before in world history, even ignoring the advice of international bodies such as the International Monetary Fund who told them to focus on simple industries such as textiles and ship-building!
Instead, the Four Tigers decided to ambitiously develop export and finance based economies focused on high technology and banking. A few short decades later, and these countries are not only extremely wealthy, but are also home to some of the world’s largest and most successful corporations, and responsible for much of the world’s electronics manufacturing and design.
As far as investment goes, and more specifically, real estate investment, East Asia is the obvious choice for wise investors of the 21st century looking for cheaper markets outside of Europe and North America. While South America and Africa continue to play host to wars, drug cartels, and extremely unstable and corrupt governments, the nations of East Asia continually reaffirm their rapid economic growth and stable governance year after year since the turn of the century.
But why Thailand? For quite a few years now, Thailand’s economy has been growing – and fast. In fact, it is one of the fastest growing countries not only in Asia, but in the entire world. While Japan and the Four Tigers are mostly “old news” as far as investors are concerned, the region of Southeast Asia is captivating not only bankers and government insiders, but also millions of tourists and end consumers world-wide as the new hotspot of international travel.
Unlike its ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Thailand does not suffer from widespread religious-based uprisings or micro-terrorism. While considered the most Buddhist nation in the world by most experts, and impressively loyal to their king, the Thai people are not idealistic by any means when compared to the likes of some of their Communist or Muslim neighbors. In fact, the Thai economy is predicted to grow by 5.5% in 2012 (even after massive flooding in 2011) and by upwards of 7.5% in 2013, even in the face of continued international recessions. With Thailand government courting foreign investment and encouraging foreigners to form companies within Thailand to further boost the country…
5 Warnings Before You Buy Property In Pattaya, Thailand
The real estate market in Pattaya continues to meet and exceed growth expectations as Thailand’s fastest growing property investment market. With the recent opening of Suvarnabhumi Bangkok International Airport only an hour away from the province of Chonburi, the Pattaya area is sure to continue its explosive growth as foreign agencies and customers rapidly build and purchase new properties. Here are some valuable tips if you are looking to invest in the Pattaya real estate property market:
1. Choose your Pattaya neighborhood carefully – While experts predict a rich and prosperous future for the eastern seaboard of Thailand, there are still currently some areas around Pattaya that are not the safest or most promising places for foreign property ownership. While the downtown area is sure to increase in value over time, it is probably not the best place to purchase a house, for example. However, if you are in the Pattaya condos market, the downtown areas near Pattaya Beach are not only quite safe, but also high profile and nearby all the Pattaya “hot spots.” The sub-regions of North Pattaya and Jomtien Beach are also growing rapidly for condo development.
2. Research the property history and financial status – This is especially true for condominiums in Pattaya. Along with the explosive growth, the real estate market has been victim to various scammers from Europe and other places who create various investment schemes using Thai banks and interested customers, and run off with the money before the project is completed or out of debt. It is vitally important that you choose a building that is backed by a reputable investment/ownership company. At the very least, ask around!
3. Consider using real estate agency services – There are hundreds of real estate agencies in and around the Pattaya city limits. Most of them are a combination of foreign and Thai staff members, and often can speak English, Thai, Russian, and various Scandinavian languages. While a healthy dose of caution is wise when dealing with agencies, many of these companies have vast knowledge of the property history, reputation, and gossip all over the Pattaya area and are more than willing to spill it all to you.
4. Consider hiring a property lawyer – Consulting an attorney is wise any time you are making an important decision regarding property or investment. Especially in Thailand, where some laws are easily confusing, and foreigners can’t technically fully own more than 49% of a piece of property, it is almost mandatory that you receive legal advice and direction while investing your hard earned cash into the Thai real estate market.
5. Concern yourself with comfort and security – At the end of the day, your investment in Pattaya real estate might turn out to be one of the happiest decisions of your life, especially with property values predicted to continue their rise for decades into the future. Besides the financial benefits, however, it is important that your building or neighborhood is surrounded by the types of people you feel comfortable with. There are dozens of niche communities in Pattaya, including gay areas, Russian areas, Arab areas, Scandinavian areas, American areas, and more. Be sure that your neighborhood and building make you feel comfortable and safe. Always choose a place that has 24/7 security too!
Welcome to RaiYai, Thailand Real Estate Classifieds!
Welcome to RaiYai! It is very nice to have you here.
We want to take a moment to introduce the concept behind RaiYai in this first blog post on RaiYai.com.
RaiYai is a simple website with a simple idea – an easy to use online marketplace for people to buy, sell, and trade in Thailand.
For now, all listings will be free in all categories while our website grows. We welcome individuals, companies, and agencies to post their hearts away in all advertising sections of RaiYai whether it be cars for sale, houses, condos, job opportunities, or anything else.
We will continue to make improvements to RaiYai.com in the coming months, including better support for the Thai language.
For now, we just want to say “Sawadee” and we hope you like what we have created here.