Songkran marks the beginning of the new Thai year. The event itself takes place on April 13th every year, although the 14th and the 15th are also included in the festivities.
This is the big one. If you want to schedule your Thailand trip to take place at the most exciting possible time, book it in for mid-April!
Songkran is known to most foreigners as ‘the water festival’, and this is pretty accurate! On April 13th each year, the entire country basically breaks down into one enormous water fight, as the Thai people celebrate the beginning of the New Year in the most fun way possible. If you’re in Thailand at this time, prepare to get wet. In fact, be surprised if you can actually stay dry because it will be nee on impossible to do unless you stay inside or travel inside taxi’s.
With April being the hottest month of the year, you may actually be glad for the chance to cool off. Songkran is all about fun, so either getting wet or getting others wet, its all part of the fun!
Buckets, water guns, balloons, hoses, and anything else you can think of are put to use. What should you do while all this is going on? Get involved, of course! Water guns are available to purchase from stalls and stores around the country for days beforehand, so get locked and loaded then head on out there.
More somber celebrations do also take place at Songkran. In a similar way to the Christian Christmas, Songkran is a time for Thais who’ve moved away from their hometowns to return to their families. As you might expect, there’s also a religious side to the celebrations. Once reunited, families will often visit their nearby temples to pay their respects to the monks there, and to the Buddha.
Throwing a load of water around might seem like an odd way of celebrating the New Year, but there is actually a reason for it. Symbolically, it represents a washing away of the past year – a kind of cleansing – in preparation for the new one.
For a similar reason, Thais will also pour water over Buddha statues during Songkran. This is not only a mark of respect; it also represents a washing away of the person’s misdeeds. At the temples, monks will also bless the Thai people using water.
A general rule to follow is that if you’re out and about on the main streets in a city or town, you’re going to get wet. If this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, you should stick to the temples, and observe the more measured celebrations taking place there.
If having fun is your priority, and you want to see Songkran at its most intense, head to Silom in Bangkok. The celebrations there are incredibly busy and absolutely wild. The main hubs are the typical party centers, like Khao San Road and Royal City Avenue (known as RCA). Bangkok is also home to the official Songkran opening ceremony, which takes place at Wat Pho, making the city a great choice to observe both sides of the festivities.
Of course, if the normal period of time for Songkran is too short for you, you can always head down to Pattaya where the celebrations go for longer and any Soi dominated by bars (Soi 8 comes to mind) will be a crazy area with a frenzy of water activity going on with the bars supplying an almost endless supply of clean water to use.
If you’re in the north when Songkran falls, don’t panic; the festival is celebrated in style in Chiang Mai too! Water fights take place all around the city, but – as with most celebrations – the old city is definitely the center of activity. To get right into the middle of the action, start off at Thapae Gate. You’ll be in the heart of the crowds, and you can even join everyone else in using the moat around the old city as a refill station!
Songkran really is celebrated everywhere in Thailand, by pretty much everyone. The Thai people absolutely love to have fun, and Songkran is the most fun event on the calendar. Wherever you are in the country, you’re sure to have an amazing time.