Songkhran, the Thai New Year, is a time when Thai families get together, celebrate the New Year and visit the Wat to honour relatives who are now dead.
Many Isaans people work away all year just travelling home for Songkhran, and the wish to be with their families and to honour their late relatives overides the severe discomfort of a 250 or 350 mile journey home in an overloaded pickup truck.
Two or three years ago a survey of pickups travelling home to Isaans from Bangkok gave the AVERAGE occupancy as 11. With some pickups carrying only the driver you can imagine how uncomfortable the journey must be with 15 or 16 people in a 1 ton pickup, in addition to food and presents that were being taken home.
The photo alongside (taken about 200 miles North of Bangkok from the comfort of a spacious air conditioned coach) will show just how important getting back home for Songkhran is to Isaans people working in Bangkok. They may be uncomfortable but all are still smiling. There appear to be 20 or 21 people in one pickup if you assume 4 or 5 in the cab
It is also a festival of day-long water fights and immense enjoyment. The water fights derive from the custom of pouring water over the Buddha to cleanse away the bad spirits. Nowadays ever participant is 'cleansed of bad spirits' a thousand times over on each day of the festival.
The road around the large lake, Bung Khon Nakhon, is the battleground for Khon Kaen with a one-way system in force around the lake. At times there are 4 parallel lanes of pickups full of happy people and icey water. Well we all put a big block of ice in our water tanks .......... don't we??