Elephants soak passers-by ahead of boisterous Thai holiday

Frolicsome elephants sprung a huge surprise on motorists and passers-by in Thailand on Tuesday, when they lined streets and doused them in gallons of water.

The jumbos from an elephant camp in the old capital Ayutthaya were brought out to welcome the Buddhist New Year, known here as "Songkran." The elephants raked passing traffic, soaked passengers in open vehicles and sprayed anyone foolish or brave enough to venture within range.

The holiday, the longest in the Thai calendar, starts later this week and runs officially for three days. Cities empty out as workers head home to see family and celebrate by cleansing images of the Buddha, washing the hands and feet of elders, and throwing water on each other in what is sometimes called the world's biggest water-fight.

The festival -- which is also celebrated in neighboring Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos -- falls at the hottest time of the year, when temperatures often creep above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).