How to do Songkran right

Posted By : Katie Monsell/ 63 0

What are the best ways to celebrate? Here are the tips and tricks to have the best Songkran yet!

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?

The Songkran festival is the traditional Thai New Year’s Day and is most know to be the biggest water festival in the world, consisting of huge water parties all over the country.

It is a Buddhists tradition so it is also celebrated in neighboring countries, such as Cambodia, Laos, and Burma.

Traditions

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.

Songkran Today

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?

Koh Phangan

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.

Koh Samui

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.

Bangkok

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.

Silom:

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.

Stay safe, enjoy and hope you have the best Songkran from all at Phangan Explorer!


Thai Holidays thailand holidays festivals

Thai Holidays you should know

Posted By : Katie Monsell/ 155 0

All Thai holidays are very colorful, eventful and bring the whole community together. Definitely a great way to get culturally educated.

All Thai holidays are very colorful, eventful and bring the whole community together. Definitely a great way to get culturally educated.

It is to be noted that Thais have these days off, so not many businesses are in action. Therefore transport, banks, shops will not be open.

(It is recommended not to travel during these holidays).

Also on a few events, especially to do with the Royal family, there will be no alcohol served.

New Year’s Day – 1st Jan

New Year’s Day was originally observed on 15th March in the old Roman Calendar. However despite the different religions and calendars, this is still celebrated.

On Koh Phangan

Full Moon Beach (Haad Rin Beach) is the place to be for the countdown. Replicating the Full Moon Parties there are usually more then 30,000 people of this beach, dancing and drinking, waiting for the New Year to begin.

Full Moon Beach (Haad Rin Beach) is the place to be for the countdown. Replicating the Full Moon Parties there are usually more then 30,000 people of this beach, dancing and drinking, waiting for the New Year to begin.

Beach bars play music from different genres; hip-hop, trance, house, dance …

Fit with a beautiful display of fireworks and a huge crowd counting down in unison, this will be a hard place to beat on this date.

Click here – For more info on what it will be like, visit our Full Moon Party page.

Top Tip – Book you accommodation in advance as the prices rocket around this high season.

Feb 05: Chinese New Year – 5th February 2019

Chinese New Year is celebrated by a quarter of the world’s population. It will be a public holiday in several countries in East Asia.

There is no set date, (it changes every year). Chinese New Year ranges from January 21 to February 20

There is a small population of Chinese heritage, here on Koh Penang. A few Chinese Buddhist temples around the island. Not to mention Chinese walking street with the local small shops. So you will see the traditional yellow and red decorations and festive events over the dates.

Traditions

The origin of the Chinese New Year is itself ancient and obscured by the amount of time. It is popularly recognised as the Spring Festival and celebrations last 15 days.

On the day itself, an ancient custom called Hong Bao, meaning Red Packet, takes place. This involves married couples giving children and unmarried adults money in red envelopes. Then the family begins to say greetings from door to door, first to their relatives and then their neighbours.

Fun Fact – The Chinese decorate everything red for Chinese New Year

Chinese houses are cleaned from top to bottom, to sweep away any traces of bad luck, and doors and windowpanes are given a new coat of paint, usually red.

In traditional Chinese culture, firecrackers were originally used to scare away evil spirits. (This can be set off as early as 7am! So wear the ear plugs).

As the legend goes, a monster called Nian would come out to eat villagers and destroy their houses on each New Year’s Eve. The villagers discovered that burning dry bamboo to produce an explosive sound scared away the monster.

Food

Traditional foods eaten during the Spring festival are fish (the Chinese word for ‘fish’ sounds like the word for ‘surplus,’ so the eating of fish is supposed to bring a surplus of money and good luck); Chinese dumplings (as their shape is said to be like that of silver ingots, which were used as money in ancient Chinese); spring rolls; rice cakes and rice balls.


Fun Fact – You eat dumplings for every meal, every day

Songkran Festival – 13th-15th April

The Songkran festival is the traditional Thai New Year’s Day and is most know to be the biggest water festival in the world, consisting of huge water parties all over the country.

It is a Buddhists tradition so it is also celebrated in neighboring countries, such as Cambodia, Laos, and Burma.

Traditions

Songkran is often known as the Thai Water Festival. The custom originates from spring cleaning aspect of Songkran. Part of the ritual was the cleaning of images of Buddha. Using the ‘blessed’ water that cleaned the images to soak other people is seen as a way of paying respect and bring good fortune.

April is the hottest part of the year in Thailand, so being soaked is a refreshing escape from the heat and humidity.

Nowadays Thais will walk the streets having ‘water fights’ using containers of water or water guns, or stand at the side of roads with a hose and soak any one who passes by.

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.

Here on Koh Phangan

The area to be in is Thong Sala 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.

Driving

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.

Prepare to get very wet!

Yi Peng – 11th November 2019

Yi Peng, (known as Lantern Festival) another light festival, is celebrated on the same day alongside Loy Krathong in Northern Thailand, especially in Chiang Mai. It is different in that lights are placed into sky lanterns. Swarms of sky lanterns, decorated with good luck wishes and prayers are released to the sky. Yi Peng usually starts 2 days earlier than Loy Krathong.

Loy Krathong – 13th November 2019

What is Loy Krathong?

In the Thai language, ’loy’ means to float, while ’krathong’ is a small container, traditionally made from a piece of banana-tree trunk, containing a candle, incense and flowers.

The krathong floating on the water symbolizes one’s willingness to let go of hatred and anger.

Loy Krathong is one of Thailand’s best-loved festivals, occurring at the November full moon to mark the end of the rainy season. On the night of the festival, Thai people make a wish as they launch their krathongs on the rivers. Some people place hair and fingernails inside the krathong: by doing so, they want to float away their past mistakes and negative thoughts. It is a purification ceremony to enlighten the mind.

Where to go?

Chiang Mai, Sukhothai and Bangkok are the best places to celebrate the festival while visiting the country.

However there are still some bars/restaurants still celebrating this when you are join in with the traditions. E.g. Sunset Walk Bar, Ban Tai, Koh Phnagan.

Holidays Related to the Royal Family

May 06: H.M. King’s Coronation

Jul 29: H.M. King’s Birthday

If 28 July falls on a weekend, the holiday will be observed on the following Monday.

The day commemorates the birthday of the King of Thailand, Vajiralongkorn, also known as Rama X.

Known as Rama X, King Vajiralongkorn has reigned Thailand since 13 October 2016, following the death of his father, King Bhumibol.

Vajiralongkorn was 64 when he became king, making him the oldest Thai monarch to ascend to the throne.

Aug 12: H.M. Queens Birthday Holiday

This holiday marks the birthday of the current queen mother of Thailand, Queen Sirikit.

Sirikit was born on 12 August 1932. Sirkit met Rama IX in France in 1946 when he had already become ruler of Thailand. The royal couple were married on 28 April 1950, a week before the King’s official coronation.

Across Thailand, buildings are decorated to honour their queen, with the most splendid are in Bangkok, where many buildings and streets are festooned with coloured lights, flowers and portraits of the queen.

Oct 14: The passing of King Bhumibol (observed)

Dec 05: King Bhumibol’s Birthday

The day commemorates the birthday of the late King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej. It is also Thailand’s National Day and is the day when Father’s Day is celebrated in Thailand.

Known as Rama IX, he reigned Thailand since 9 June 1946 until his death on 13 October 2016, making him the longest-reigning monarch ever in Thailand’s history, ruling Thailand for over 70 years.

Despite being a constitutional monarch, and not legally being allowed a role in politics, Bhumibol made several decisive interventions in the Thai political sphere and has been credited with helping facilitate Thailand’s transition to democracy in the 1990s.

The holiday itself is a colourful affair. Buildings across Thailand will display flags, bunting and portraits of the late King, while around the Grand Palace area of Bangkok, the streets are decorated with thousands of marigolds.

Thailand, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, King Rama X, His Majesty, King, Bhumibol Adulyadej, Thailand, Rama IX, Peoples King, Thailand, King, Kingdom of Siam

Marigolds are chosen for their colour, as yellow is the predominant colour of the celebrations; as the King was born on a Monday and in Thailand, yellow is the colour for Monday.

Chulalongkorn Day – 23rd October

The day commemorates King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) who passed away on 23 October 1910.

He was the fifth monarch of Siam from the House of Chakri and is considered one of the greatest kings of Siam (now Thailand).

He is remembered as the king who introduced many social and political reforms that helped to modernize Siam including to abolish slavery.

He succeeded to the throne in 1868 when he was 15 years old and was crowned king in 1873. He ruled until his death in 1910. He was known to the Siamese people as Phra Phuttha Chao Luang.

Makha Bucha Day – 19th Feb

Maka Bucha is a public holiday in several Mekong region countries such as Cambodia and Thailand.

The date of this important Buddhist festival depends on Lunar cycle. The holiday may also be known as Magha Puja.

On this day, the full moon of the third lunar month (called Tabodwe); seven months after Buddha began his teachings, over a thousand monks gathered to hear Buddha preach.

Buddha ordained these monks and spread the principles of Buddhism. This marked a key event in the development of the religion.

45 years later, on the same full moon in the third lunar month, Buddha again delivered his teachings shortly before his death.

This third lunar month on which both events occurred is known in Buddhist Pali language as ‘Makha’. ‘Bucha’, means to honour.

How is Maka Bucha Day celebrated?

In the morning many Thai people wake up early to give alms to monks. In the evening, temples are full of people listening to sermons. They often perform a ritual known as the candle ceremony where they walk clockwise three times around the temple. holding flowers, incense and a lighted candle. Each of the three circuits represents one of the three jewels (ideas at the heart of Buddhism) – Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

Other Thai Holidays to note

May 20: Visakha Bucha Day (observed)

May 22: Royal Ploughing Ceremony

Jul 16: Asahna Bucha Day

Jul 17: Buddhist Lent

Dec 10: Constitution Day