Thailand is home to mouth-watering food, abundant shopping and rich culture. But when it comes to its best-known events, Songkran wins hands down. The festival marks the start of the Thai New Year and runs from Apr 13-15, with celebrations in some places lasting a week or more.
Traditionally, the main activity is Song Nam Phra, a ceremony where scented water is poured on sacred Buddha images in local temples as a form of spiritual cleansing. The holy water is then collected and gently poured over the hands of senior family members for luck, in a ritual called Rot Nam Dam Hua.
The ritual has become the basis for the Songkran we know and love today. It may seem a tad overwhelming if you’re a first-timer to the festival, but just make the right preparations and you’ll be set to enjoy a day (or days) of water fights.
First things first, prepare to get wet. There’s no avoiding it, so take it in stride or stay inside if you want to stay dry. Just remember to get a waterproof case for your phone, camera and bag. Sunscreen is a must as well. To join in the fun, you can buy water pistols and super soakers, which will be on sale everywhere.
Then get ready for the water fight of your life! In between splashing other festival-goers with water and doing battle with water guns, you can shout “Sawadee Pee Mai” (Happy New Year in Thai) to really get into the spirit.
While it’s fine to have fun, do keep in mind that you should not be throwing water on monks, who are highly respected in Thailand. If you’re wondering where to go for Songkran this year – we’ve got you covered.
In Bangkok, there are many options to go for, including Khao San Road, Silom, Siam Square and Royal City Avenue (RCA). The historical centre of the tourist area, Khao San Road, is turned into a water battleground among travellers and locals during Songkran.
Among Thais, the most popular spot is Silom, where the highlight is to spot red fire trucks with powerful water hoses. Siam Square is also a good bet for dance lovers, as there are always various events and electronic dance music festivals during the festive period.
For night-time celebrations, head over to designated party street RCA if you want to experience the unique combination of clubbing and water fights.
If you’re in the mood for a music festival, the S20 Songkran Music Festival will be taking place from Apr 13-15 at Live Park on Rama 9 Road, where you can bop to the pulsating beats of top DJs from around the world – including big names such as Steve Aoki, Tiësto and Fatboy Slim – and cool off with blasts of water.
Chiang Mai, on the other hand, hosts the Chiang Mai Songkran Festival. Touted as Thailand’s biggest Songkran celebration, it kicks off on Apr 12 with a procession around the city.
You can take in the sights and sounds of the cultural celebrations, including traditional performances, street food and water throwing throughout the city. The most popular areas for water fights are the Chiang Mai Gate and the Thapae Gate.
If you prefer celebrating Songkran on an island paradise, Phuket starts off Songkran around 10am with lighthearted wet street party in Phuket Town that turn into water dogfights in the afternoon in Kata, Karon and Patong. This then evolves into a full-scale wet war zone on Bangla road lasting deep into the night.
Unlike in other locations, the crowd is divided into two camps. There are festival-goers who splash water onto passersby from pickup trucks lined at the side of the roads, with their beds filled with ice-cold water, or the crowd at the roadside using a lot of water ammunition to fight back against those in the trucks.
For a longer celebration, head to Pattaya for a week-long water battle that starts one week before the actual Songkran and lasts a few days after that.
The main celebration is on a day known as Wan Lai on Apr 19 that celebrates the Pattaya Songkran Festival. The Kong Khao parade takes place during the day, in appreciation of the Goddess of Rice. Go over to Bang Saen beach to admire amazing sculptures and sand castles created by locals.
In north-east Thailand, the ‘Sticky Rice’ capital Khon Kaen also celebrates Songkran with water splashing festivities that take place alongside food fairs, decorated ox carts and Petanque sport competitions.
Mainly, the festival is celebrated on Khao Niew Road, where there is a parade of flora carts, beauty pageants and other entertainments such as Thai dance demonstrations and folk plays. For water fights, make your way to Khao Nieo Road and the area around Kaen Nakorn Lake.
Home to one of the biggest and liveliest Songkran events in Southern Thailand, the city celebrates the Hat Yai Midnight Songkran, where you can join in the night-time water splashing event in the city’s downtown area.
A foam party, concert, beauty concert and other late-night fun will make this an experience not-to-be-missed.
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Do remember to stay safe, hydrated and above all else, have fun celebrating Songkran in Thailand!