Happy New Year

Thailand comes to the valley with the Songkran Festival

Thai sword dance

Thai sword dance

Andrea Gomez

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Close your eyes and you're in Bangkok: The air is filled with the lyrical sounds of the Thai language and with the aromas of barbecuing satay.

In fact, you're at the Songkran Festival at North Hollywood's Wat Thai temple. Songkran, the Thai New Year, is officially celebrated every April 13. "It's a day of gratitude and love, and a day for family reunions, like the American Thanksgiving," explains Phra Sumana, a monk at the temple.

Buddha statues are ritually bathed and draped with new cloth robes, and the Thai community gathers to enjoy music, dance, and a parking lot bazaar with handicrafts and food. If you prefer quiet ― and easier parking ― time your visit for a nonfestival weekday or weekend: Food vendors are here every Saturday and Sunday.

Celebrate Songkran

Festival at Wat Thai (8225 Coldwater Canyon Ave., North Hollywood; 818/780-4200) 8-6 Apr 9-10. A food market runs 8-6 Sat-Sun year-round.

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