The reason I first went to Thailand was to experience the Songkran Water Festival. And, I had no idea what I was getting into. I thought it was the greatest festival ever the first day I experienced it. I joined with many others in the water fights and absolutely love getting drenched and drenching others. By the third day, I knew I would never come back to experience Songkran again. And, I was over it.
It had poured rain all day in Chiang Mai, where the temperatures weren’t so balmy, and, yet, that didn’t stop anyone from drenching you in freezing ice-cold water. I was really glad that I headed to Koh Lipe soon after and warmed up on the beach. However, I do believe that Songkran is great for everyone to experience at least once in their lifetime, so here’s my advice to help you have the best Songkran possible.
The Songkran Water Festival is Thailand’s New Year’s Day festival and is celebrated from April 13-15. (In Chiang Mai, though, they celebrate all week-long.) The water is a symbol of purification of bad luck and the washing away of sins. The streets are closed and huge water fights happen everywhere. Songkran is also a very special time for families, as they reunite with each other for this celebration.
2. How Much Water?
A lot! You will get soaked. Much more than you can even imagine. And, it doesn’t just happen outdoors, either. I got sprayed in restaurants and even in a shopping mall! People shoot you with giant Super Soaker water guns. They will spray you with hoses. They douse you with buckets of freezing water. Water that has ice blocks floating in it, that’s how cold it is. I even had some kids all grab me and hold me in a headlock, while they drenched me in water. My advice? Buy the biggest water gun you can find (or two), and join in the fun. This is not a time to lose your sense of humor!
3. What About My Camera?
Seriously, unless you have a waterproof one, just don’t. It will get ruined. A Ziploc bag is not enough to keep it dry. I’d also recommend not carrying your wallet or anything else. Vendors do sell some waterproof bags that you can get and maybe put a few baht in. Otherwise, leave your valuables in the hotel.
4. Where Should I Celebrate Songkran?
I celebrated in Chiang Mai, which puts on one of the country’s largest celebrations. If you do celebrate in Chiang Mai, I’d recommend staying away from the moat, as some were using water from it, and it can make you very sick if it gets in your mouth. Every area celebrates a little differently. Other good areas to celebrate are Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Pattaya, and Phuket. Songkran is also celebrated in parts of Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and Yunnan. Make sure you book your hotel and flights early, as the hotels will get booked fast.
5. What Should I Wear?
White talc is also thrown, so don’t wear your best clothes. Also, do keep in mind that it is custom for the Thai people to dress modestly, so if you do wear a bathing suit, you should still wear a cover up. Some people wear ponchos over their clothes to stay a little drier. Check out this shopping guide to Bangkok for great places to shop for clothes during your visit to Thailand.
Actually, the Songkran festival is about so much more than just the water fights. It is a time of offering food to the Buddhist monks and visiting the temples with family. People also pour water and perfume on the Buddha statues during this time. Parades of cars are held, and the “Miss Songkran” pageant is made up of contestants dressed in Thai traditional clothing. Some people prepare food for the elder members of the family, and they also pour water on the elder’s hands and ask for their blessing.
7. What About The Food?
Thailand does have some dishes which it considers lucky to eat during Songkran, and many restaurants will serve special Songkran menus, so I would try to seek one out. For a guide of what to eat in Thailand, check out my other site, Eating The Globe and A Foodie’s Guide To Bangkok.