It’s Thailand’s most famous festival – and one that Thai people hold nearest and dearest to their hearts. Songkran marks the beginning of Thai New Year, an important event on the Buddhist calendar, and one which is celebrated all over the country. The festival falls at the hottest time of the year, between 13-15 April (or 12-19 April depending on where you are), and has become a popular event for locals and tourists to participate together in celebrations with water fights, parades, live music and a general sense of liveliness that runs alongside traditional ceremonies. To help you get the most out of your time, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to Sonkran 2019 – so get ready for some fun this Thai New Year!
What is Songkran?
Songkran began as a Buddhist tradition that involved people going to temples to provide gifts and food for local monks. People would participate in holy cleansing, a process in which scented water was poured over the monks. They would then collect the water to bring back to their homes and sprinkle it over their loved ones and friends for good luck. The tradition focuses on appreciation of family, which is why many Thais head back to their hometowns during the festival. Songkran is also a time when locals go to temples to pour water over images of the Buddha and tip cups of water over the hands of monks as a way of paying their respect.
In the more populous locations in Thailand, alongside traditional ceremonies, Thais and visitors alike enjoy splashing water on each other and parading through the streets – which is why it has become a world famous festival.
What Can You Expect?
As a traveller to Thailand during Songkran, you can expect to get wet! We recommend going with the flow during this festival and taking measures to ensure your valuables are not damaged during the many water fights that take place around major cities and towns.
If you need to carry your phone, ensure it’s in a waterproof bag – 7-11’s and shops will be selling them everywhere. If you want to take your camera, be sure that you have a cover for it, otherwise it’s best to lock it in the safe at your resort.
Street stalls selling brightly coloured shirts (the ‘traditional’ Songkran costume) can be found in almost any Thai city so you’ll be able to dress for the occasion. You’ll also find a range of water pistols for sale leading up to the big event.
Despite the frivolity of the festival, tourists are asked to respect Thai culture and tradition – and that means covering up. It might seem like a good idea to wear your bikini for a water fight but this is not something that we recommend, as it can be seen as offensive.
The Best Places to Celebrate Songkran:
Many of Bangkok’s residents leave the city and head home for family reunions which means that things can be quiet. Office buildings and restaurants often shut over Songkran, with a few exceptions. One of the best places to experience the festival is Silom. The roads will be shut down, making way for a massive street party. You can expect loud music, wild water fights, foam flying through the air and you might even get a visit from the fire brigade with a truck full of water to spray over the crowd. You can take a taxi or tuk-tuk and walk right in, or hop on the BTS Skytrain to Sala Daeng station. Take note that this year, the infamous Khao San Road will not be hosting its annual Songkran festivities, as the city is preparing for the upcoming royal coronation.
The people of Pattaya love this festival so much that City Hall allows it to run for longer than any other location in Thailand. This year, you can expect water fights in Pattaya between 13-19 April, with most of the action going down on the final day. Bar staff and locals like to mix talcum powder with water and apply white hand marks over tourists, so be prepared for more than just a soaking. Sois 6 and 7 are usually bedlam, due to the number of bars and punters ready to ambush those who pass by.
Every man, woman, child and the family pickup truck takes part in Phuket’s Songkran festival. It’s common for there to be large tubs of water in the back of these utility vehicles – often containing chunks of ice so that water pistols can be loaded with freezing water. If you’ve never been squirted with ice water, you’re in for a shock, but given the daytime temperatures in Phuket, you will most likely welcome the chill factor. Patong is the centre of all of the action.
Is it possible to win the title of the ‘wettest’ Songkran festival? If so, Chiang Mai takes the prize. If you want to dance and party while you get wet, head over to Tha Phae Gate in the Old City on the eastern side. You’ll see several outdoor stages set up with DJ booths and live music as well as food stalls with tasty Thai snacks. Other parts of the city that come alive for the festival include Chiang Mai’s Walking Street and Huaykaew Road. It’s definitely one of our top picks for the ultimate Songkran party!
If you’re not interested in an all-out-water-war, Koh Samui is a great option for spending Songkran in Thailand. The vibes are certainly a bit more laid back, as you have the choice of joining the party in places like Chaweng, Bophut and Lamai – or staying in your resort. You’ll find that many locals on the island head to temples, particularly on the west coast, to take part in merit making ceremonies. For sure, the festivities in Koh Samui, are relatively less hectic than those of locations like Pattaya and Phuket.
Probably the quietest Songkran destination in terms of popular tourist resorts in Thailand, Hua Hin offers up a great family-friendly experience. There will be colourful shirts for sale and water pistols to purchase – as well as some lively water fights on the main street on April 13, but overall, Hua Hin is more subdued when it comes to celebrating Songkran. That being said, you still won’t want to leave your hotel without putting your belongings in a waterproof bag!
Have fun, be safe and enjoy!
Did you find our Ultimate Guide to Songkran 2019 helpful? Check out some of the other guides and travels tips available at blog.anantaravacationclub.com