Visitors from all over the world come to Thailand to experience Songkran, the traditional Thai New Year which boasts everything from water fights to spectacular processions.
Songkran is Thailand’s most famous festival. An important event on the Buddhist calendar, this water festival marks the beginning of the traditional Thai New Year. The name Songkran comes from a Sanskrit word meaning ‘passing’ or ‘approaching’.
During this time, employees and students are given almost a week off to extend the celebration. Thai New Year’s Day is the final day of Songkran celebrations in many parts of Thailand.
As one could easily observe, water is an important element of Songkran, especially in more recent times when the throwing of water has become a huge part of the annual celebrations. Therefore if you’re visiting Thailand during this period don’t be surprised if you get splashed. April is generally a hot month in Thailand, so it’s not a big surprise that Songkran celebration takes place during this month. While you can immerse in a “complementary bath” from others, you too can give others a bath!
Water pistols are a common sight and rather more playful way to celebrate this famous festival. Appreciation of family is another important aspect of the festival, with many Thai people making their way to their hometowns to spend time with older relatives. Buddhists also visit temples throughout Songkran where water is poured on Buddha images and on the hands of Buddhist monks as a mark of respect.
The first day of the Songkran festival is an exuberant celebration with processions of Buddha images taking place throughout the country. The Thai people also prepare themselves for the beginning of the new year with lots of house cleaning, just the same with Chinese people preparing for the Chinese New Year celebration.
If you wish to celebrate the grandest of Songkran celebrations, go to Chiang Mai, the second largest city in Thailand. Street food, cultural celebrations, traditional performances and procession around the city is observed in this part of northern Thailand. To experience the essence of the Songkran Festival 2013, try to pour blessed water on the face of Buddha himself. For more fun, you can immerse your senses in many cultural performances and enjoy Thai street food right after.
If you’re in Bangkok, you’ll get to experience the Bangkok Songkran Splendours Festival which is taking place this year from April 9th to 17th.
The official opening ceremony is held at Wat Pho, one of the most important Buddhist temples in Thailand and home to a spectacular, giant gold-plated reclining Buddha (as well as a popular venue for Thai massage).
If you’re in Phuket, Songkran is also celebrated with plenty of activities, especially in the Patong Beach area. Streets are filled with pickup trucks carrying young people throwing water at locals and tourists alike, making traffic. At Patong’s Bangla Road, Songkran celebrations continue well into the wee hours of the morning. Saphan Hin Park is the main focus of the festivities in Phuket Town. Live music and traditional performances make up part of these hugely enjoyable celebrations.
Although Songkran is celebrated only in Thailand and an important festival to the Thai people, tourists and visitors are welcome, often encouraged, to join. So when you travel to Thailand during this period, be prepared to get soaked and plan ahead on clothes to wear, extra dry wardrobe and it won’t hurt to secure your plastic water gun!
But while everyone should celebrate it with much fun, each one needs to be careful and safety should be a huge priority. We mention this because in the past Songkran celebrations accidents happen. To put it in real perspective, during Songkran in 2010, 3,802 people were injured in road accidents and 361 people died, according to Bangkok Post. So be careful when boarding buses or taxis whose drivers may have been intoxicated. If you are driving, lock the doors and windows of your car as revelers may open them during red light and splash water into you!
On top of personal safety, your wallets, passports or cameras must be kept dry even you pour water with each other. 7-Eleven sells plastic purses where you can safely tuck in your valuables and keep them from getting wet.
Celebrating a festival in Thailand is a great way to spend your holidays. Reliving your childhood days playing with water, along with locals and tourists doesn’t happen very often and it’s perfectly normal here; others may think you need to see a psychiatrist. But with all other travel activities, we encourage safety so your holiday becomes a fulfilling and memorable one — in a good way.