Above: Water fights on the streets of Chiang Mai. The weapons range from small buckets with tiny bowls meant for polite sprinkling of water on one's left shoulder, to water guns that release a reasonably strong well-targeted stream, to pneumatic pipes that can shoot a load to reach bypassers on the other side of the street, to large buckets filled to the brim for a personal shower, to actual water hoses drawing their seemingly unlimited supply from oversized barrels and bathtubs. Rightmost picture: our faces were ritually painted by a stranger on the street to welcome in the New Year.
Below: sights of Chiang Mai during Songkran. Leftmost: don't go near there if you don't want to be drenched to the bone. With easy water supply at hand, people line up along the moat, reach in with buckets tied to long ropes, and empty out their buckets over your head -- all in good fun! This treatment is to be expected... on the other hand, we were quite surprised by the dunking we received from two young monks at the beautiful wat (Buddhist temple in the rightmost picture). You see, we were under impression that monks are exempt from water play (they always looked dry, unlike everyone else on the streets), but apparently they partake of the wet fun as well!
Below: procession to pay homage to Buddha images from the city temples. Since Songkran is not just a new year holiday, but an event of religious significance to Thai Buddhists, the festivities include ritual washing of Buddha idols with scented oil and water and carrying them through town on beautifully decorated platforms so public could pay their respects. Other ritual activities include building of chedi-shaped sand piles near wats and decorating them with bright banners, and letting out caged birds for good luck (yes, the birds are captured for the specific purpose of being set free later for a small fee).
Below: Songkran parade on April 15th.The water fights do not stop for the duration of the parade, and indeed the participants get just as drenched as the spectators! Even the ladies dressed up in traditional costumes with elaborate hairstyles and makeup get their generous share of the water blessings.