Wet. Fun. Wild.
Thai New Year (Songkran Festival) is almost upon up! Dated yearly in April around 13th-15th, this huge country-wide water festival is one to experience.
But what are the best ways to celebrate? Below are the tips and tricks to have the best Songkran yet!
What is Songkran?
It is a Buddhists tradition so it is also celebrated in neighboring countries, such as Cambodia, Laos, and Burma.
Day 1 – National Elderly Day
The first day of Songkran is Rod Nam Dum Hua ritual day. During this day, young people would pour fragrant water into the elders’ palms as a gesture of humility and to ask for their blessings.
Day 2 – National Family Day
The second day is to be spent sharing quality family time together. You start with waking up early and give alms (food and offerings) to the monks. An important religious ritual on Songkran is ‘Bathing the Buddha image’, in which devout Buddhists pour fragrant water over Buddha statues both at the temple and at home. More religious Thais would engage themselves in Buddhist ceremonies and merit-making activities throughout the holidays.
At this present date, Songkran has evolved into one massive water festival celebrated all over Thailand. Massed of people gather in the streets, armed with their water guns and buckets of water, in order to spray their rivals.
However the real meaning behind the splashes is to symbolically wash off all misfortunes in the past year, welcoming the new year with a fresh new start.
April is the hottest part of the year in Thailand, so being soaked is a refreshing escape from the heat and humidity.
When is it?
Before Thailand adopted the international New Year’s Day in 1940, Songkran was calculated based on the solar calendar, which varied from one year to the next. Now Songkran in Bangkok is from 13 to 15 April of every year.
However different regions of Thailand can celebrate this festival up to 7 days!
Chiang Mai – 7 days
Bangkok – 3 days
Koh Phangan – 1/2 days
Koh Samui – 2/3 days
Where to be for Songkran?
The area to be in is Thong Sala, the main town, where the bulk of the water fights will be happening. However if you are driving around you should expect kids (and adults) on the side of the road waiting for you to get a soaking.
A great idea is to hire a truck and have your store of water in the back of the truck, ready to spray everyone.
In Samui, they celebrate the full 3 days, 13-15th April.
The most popular road is Chaweng Road, the main party and food strip. Around 1km long, it is over crowded with people spilling out onto the road. Where the slow moving trucks and vehicles have their supply of water spray everyone as they pass. Also prepare to be blasted from any angle as people are hiding in bars and the restaurants, either side.
Khao San Road:
Well known as one of the most popular road for night clubs, cheap drinks and tourist souvenirs; this road gets transformed into a huge, wild, water fight, down the whole street.
The challenge – Khao San is less than 1km in length, but it’s guaranteed you wont make it from one end to the other dry. If you do you are a ninja!
Many bars will be staying open throughout the festival, some with DJs set up inside plastic shelters and podiums for dancing.
Probably the largest and wildest crowd in Bangkok; The entire 5 km length of this street – mostly known for Patpong – is packed on two levels with thousands of young Thais carrying anything that can spray water.
The best part is that you can enjoy the party in relatively dry surroundings by staying on the BTS sky walk that runs above the street.
From up there you can witness the full extent of the game: a huge colorful crowd of smiling young Thais slowly walking between two rows of stalls selling water guns, food, soft drinks and of course, lots of beer. The highlight is to spot the firetrucks ambushed at each intersection with their incredibly powerful water hoses.
Where do I get the water?
There are usually water stations (a big tub of water with a refillable hose), at every bar, where you can stock back up. However, these areas are target zones, and people with full water guns, hang around for those poor people who have run out, being defenseless.
What is the Chalk?
You may also get covered in chalk, a custom originating from the chalk used by monks to mark blessings. This combination of water and powder is almost identical to the celebrations of Holi, and indeed, it maybe that the customs originated in India as certainly Songkran is celebrated more widely and longer in the Northern part of Thailand.
Top Tip – Be careful with this, as some nasty people mix this with Tiger Balm, for a warming sensation. Avoid at all costs.
Prepare to get very wet!
Tips on how to do Songkran right
1. Get a Good Water-Gun
There is nothing worse then having a water pistol that only squirts a pathetic trickle of water, while you are getting blasts from a powerful hose across the road. Get prepped!
2. Go all out!
Just face it, you’re going to get wet! So just roll with this and get stuck into the action. You’ll have more fun when you fully commit and embrace people going around spraying you with water. And don’t forget this is a tradition, where the water is meant to be a blessing. So the more water you get, the more blessed you will be.
3. Dont Drive
Driving bikes is NOT advised, as the roads are very slippy due to the water and many accidents happen. So if you want a good Songkran to remember, stick to walking.
4. Carry any valuable items in a plastic bag
Everything, and I mean everything, will get wet, so make sure you travel with a waterproof case, or wrap everything in a plastic bag. Or best still, don’t take your valuables in the first place.
5. Avoid the ice-y buckets
Some evil people, will not just fill their buckets with water, there will be some lovely ice cubes in their too. So have an eye out on who has a cheeky grin on their face who might be doing this.
6. Watch from Above
Buildings with balconies, are likely to have people on them, preparing to target their prey below. So be ready to run!
7. Get a Truck
Getting a truck and throwing buckets out from the back, from your big bucket with water, is the best way to make Songkran. You will feel the power if this high advantage point. However through large crowds of people it is not easy to make a quick escape.
8. Go with a group
Nothing is better than spraying people you know. However strangers will also be pointing the gun your way. You will be getting into the swing of things when you realize it is all against all.