Celebrations for Songkran, the Thai New Year, kick off this weekend (April 13 – 15) plunging the country into all-out chaos for three days of water fights, partying and general mayhem.
Thailand’s most popular annual festival centres on the theme of water, bucket-loads of water, whether it’s being doused on Buddhas or sprayed from a water pistol on passers-by from the back of a tuk-tuk.
The majority of Thais shut up shop for the duration and return home to join family, friends and loved ones to wash away the old year and welcome the new.
Folks, young and old, take to the streets armed with barrels of water, hoses, and water pistols (as well as beer and whiskey) to join in the soggy celebrations.
Street stalls line the roads selling a host of tasty treats from coconut curry to pad Thai and makeshift bars also pop up every few metres offering the infamous Thai buckets.
Even the very elderly enjoy their fair share of fun by walking the streets clutching silver bowls containing a white powder (said to help ward off evil spirits) ready to rub on people’s faces.
If you fancy opening fire with your super soaker on a crowd of unsuspecting revellers or even cooling off in the warm April temperatures, read on….
Where to go?
Some of Thailand’s larger cities, such as Chiang Mai and Bangkok, go all out for the holiday with a 3-day long water fest, kicked off by a colourful parade. Smaller towns, on the other hand, may only celebrate the public spring cleaning for one.
For a more traditional experience, Songkran celebrations will be held at various sites around the island city of Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya; the ancient capital of Ayutthaya. Visitors can take part in Buddhist merit-making (the presentation of rice and dry foodstuff to Buddhist monks and temples), seek blessings from elders or even splash elephants with water.
Head to the Koh Si Chang festival on the island of Koh Kaam Yai, to see a rarely seen (and rather-odd) courtship tradition. The men of the village invite eligible young ladies to join them for water-splashing in the sea. If consent is granted, the man carries the young lady down the beach to the sea and then carries her back to shore again, after which the couples take part in a traditional dance.
And finally for the king of water fights, Phuket’s where it’s at. The wet street parties kick off in Phuket Town around 10am, turning to water dogfights in the afternoon in Patong, Kata and Karon, and end in a hectic full scale wet war zone in Bangla Road until the wee hours.
A bit of advice…
- The locals won’t take pity on a gringo laden with a heavy backpack; if you’ve got anything valuable make sure it’s put in a waterproof bag.
- Avoid taking out your camera or phone but if you are planning on documenting the water fight investing in an underwater camera might be a wise move.
- Don’t wear thick clothes (if you’ve ever had wet jeans you’ll understand why) and steer clear of white; the water can be dirty at times and you don’t want to look like you’ve entered a wet T-shirt contest.
- Ladies, watch out. Some alcohol-fuelled Songkran revellers might become a little overly-friendly so be on your guard.
- Stock up in advance on ammunition, if you get soaked; make sure you can fight back.
Have you celebrated Songkran? Any other tips you have to survive the three day water fest?