Songkran is one of Thailand’s biggest celebrations and more than half a million tourists join the water fights. We present some tips on how to get the most out of the event, what not to do, and other activities if you prefer to stay dry.
Cheers roar through the air as the packed crowds hurl water at one another. People in vehicles pour buckets of water over the masses, business owners aim hoses at the crowds and fun seekers fire giant fluorescent water guns at each other.
This is a common sight across Thailand for the annual Songkran celebration, which is dubbed the ultimate water fight and this year takes place as one of the country’s largest celebrations, the public holiday has become Thailand’s busiest time, attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists.
“The annual Songkran festival marks the Thai new year and the whole country will be celebrating days off work, time with family, trips to the temple, partying and water fights.
In Bangkok foreigners flock to popular backpacker haunt Khao San Road and tourist hotspot Silom Road.
“These are great places to go if you’re in the mood to party throughout the day and night, and don’t mind being thrown around in the crowds
“You’ll be wet for days in a row, there’s almost no escaping it, if you’re visiting one of the more touristy areas, like Patong Beach in Phuket, the minute you leave your hotel you’ll be drenched in water. It’s a crazy party.”
Chiang Mai is another popular Songkran spot, with crowds gathering at Thapae Gate, which is situated by the network of canals that run through the city. During Songkran, Chiang Mai transforms into one huge water fight.
Travelling to Chonburi Province, where Songkran stretches across five days. In Pattaya, it lasts for one week.
For those who want to celebrate Songkran without the tourist crowds, Sutton says peace can still be found in many corners of the capital.
Visiting a temple is a wonderfully peaceful experience at this time of the year.” recommending Wat Ratchabophit and Wat Prayoon.
Tourism of Thailand is hoping to encourage some tourists to celebrate in outlying destinations, and is promoting a series of lesser-known provinces under a Go Local campaign, these include Kamphaeng Phet, Nakhon Sri Thammarat, Kalasin, Chanthaburi and Sing Buri.
Here, more traditional Songkran celebrations can be observed, including the Nang Songkran parade where images of Buddha are carried on floats through the streets, so passers-by can throw water to cleanse them and wash away bad luck in the coming year.
How to behave
With all the water slinging, alcohol and partying involved in today’s tourist-oriented Songkran celebrations, it’s easy to forget this is a religious festival.
“Visitors must remember to respect our culture and traditions when celebrating Songkran,
Despite April’s stifling heat and the inevitable wet clothes, visitors should dress appropriately and remain covered up. So, no bikini-clad women waltzing down the street or shirtless men.
“While it’s tempting for guys to take their shirts off, it’s not well-regarded in Thailand, we always recommend wearing a shirt everywhere except the beach itself.”
If you absolutely cannot leave your hotel without your phone or are hoping to catch the action with your camera, then invest in some waterproof protection.
If you’re in popular tourist hubs, expect heavy traffic with many roads pedestrianized for the celebrations. Public transport, such as the BTS Skytrain and MRT operate as usual during the public holidays. Accommodation also fills up quickly so book ahead.
While water fights sound like fun, it can get tiring, so tailor your trip with this in mind.
“It’s huge fun on the first day, but can get a bit much after three days. You just want to stay dry by then. Plan no more than two days of it and add a few extra days before or after to see whichever part of Thailand in a different light.
Hazards Songkran in Pattaya is generally not actively dangerous, but there are those who do get hurt. With so much water flying around, it is only to be expected. Take particular care if you are driving a motorbike as revellers (more so the drunken ones) will have no qualms about throwing freezing water at you as you drive past. Avoid driving – take a songteaw or walk instead. Avoid wearing or carrying anything expensive, particularly if it is electrical. Not only is it likely to get soaking wet, but pickpockets are known to work the crowd. Waterproof wallets to hang around your neck are widely available. You should carry an ample supply of sunscreen with you as, with the constant soaking, it will get washed off and will need reapplying. Finally, be careful of who you target. The vast majority of people out and about during Songkran in Pattaya are up for fun and don’t mind complete strangers hosing them down. Just be mindful of giving small children and elderly people a bucket of ice water down the neck and avoid shooting people in the face. Be sure that you’re happy to take it and dish it out in equal measure, and if you are hoping to stay dry, do not leave your hotel. P1 -EP