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Feature: Young Chinese enjoy Thailand's first water festival in 4 years

by Song Yu

BANGKOK, April 14 (Xinhua) -- After three years of a "dry" Songkran or water festival, Thailand has finally seen a complete revival of its traditional New Year celebration activities, including the most popular water fight enjoyed by tourists worldwide.

From Thursday through Saturday, Thailand transforms into a massive playground for both locals and visitors, as people flood the streets armed with water guns and buckets, soaking everyone in their path.

On the first day of Songkran, the famous shopping district of Siam Square in Bangkok was packed with people, including many Chinese tourists.

"Compared to my visit in 2017, this year has been a lot more fun!" said Zhu Di, a student from Guangxi, who had just wrapped up an exhilarating water battle.

Enthusiastic about the unique celebrations throughout the country, she and her friends have already planned to attend a music festival in Chiang Mai soon.

Meanwhile, Shi Bin, traveling with Zhu Di, has not yet had his fill of water fights and intends to explore different water battlefields in Bangkok, hoping to visit a new one each day.

Dressed in bright floral shirts, Chinese tourists are immersing themselves in the festive atmosphere of this Southeast Asian country by chasing and frolicking around in the crowds.

The country has seen a significant increase in Chinese tourist arrivals, with 269,745 in March alone, a 70-percent increase from February, and over 8,000 per day in the first four days of April, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

For tourists, there is nothing quite like a vigorous and exhilarating water fight and splashing around to cool down during the scorching Thai summer heat.

The battlefield is more of a place for young people, but occasionally you can see toddlers being carried on their father's shoulders, holding small water guns, eagerly trying to join in the fight.

Unfortunate as it may seem, they become easy and obvious targets and end up getting drenched along with their fathers.

Silom Road, not far from Siam Square, has always been one of the main battlefields of the Songkran festival. By midday, the area was already jammed with people, and the cheers and screams could be heard from hundreds of meters away.

As soon as Lixue, who preferred to be identified by her given name, and her friends arrived, they were bombarded with a barrage of water-gun shots. She then overheard their "enemies" saying in Chinese, "Hey, check it out! Those two still have dry clothes. Let's drench them!"

Lixue, who was experiencing the Songkran festival for the first time, told Xinhua that she was surprised to encounter so many Chinese-speaking tourists. After engaging in water battles for nearly four hours, she noted that what impressed her most was how incredibly friendly everyone was.

"Despite occasionally getting cold water poured directly on our clothes, everyone happily embraced this 'ritual' of the festival," she said.

Due to the growing demand from the Chinese market, the Thai tourism authority has revamped its target for Chinese tourist arrivals from 5 million to 9 million for this year.

As part of the Songkran festival, the tourism authority arranged a special caravan tour for Chinese tourists. According to TAT Deputy Governor Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, 1,200 Chinese tourists drove 400 caravans from the north into Thailand to participate in the festival celebrations.

Aminta, a general manager of Spring Airlines in Southeast Asia, has observed a notable surge in flights between China and Thailand before and after the Songkran festival. She added that the trend among tourists visiting Thailand is shifting toward a younger demographic that prefers independent and personalized travel experiences.

"It was incredibly fun!" said 24-year-old Cheng Yuxin, an international student at Dhurakij Pundit University. She was thrilled to finally experience the Songkran festival in Thailand, saying, "It's the perfect way to cap off our journey of study abroad."