Songkran (Thai New Year), from Sanskrit meaning “to move forward”, is a celebration signifying transformation and change. It is known as the “water festival”, as massive water fights occur throughout Thailand. This is symbolic of washing away bad luck and misfortune and entering the New Year with good luck and blessings.
It is usually celebrated between the 13th and the 15th of April each year, although some parts of Thailand celebrate for up to a week. The dates may vary, depending on which part of the country you celebrate it.
Originally Songkran was based on the solar calendar and the date would change annually until 1940 when it became a set date. Thailand isn’t the only country to celebrate Songkran; Laos, Burma and Cambodia also take part in the festivities.
Many Thai people go home to see their families in the New Year period. Other common practices during this time include cleaning the house and getting rid of any possessions that may have caused bad luck during the year. People also bath Buddha images, give alms to monks and pray for blessings for the New Year. Out of respect, younger people pour fragrant water over the hands of their elders.
If you are traveling to Thailand, April is a great time to come. It is the hottest month of the year, so celebrating Songkran with huge water fights is one way to cool down, as temperatures can reach up to 40°C in the sun. There are many places to enjoy the celebrations.
One of the largest gatherings of Songkran happens in Bangkok, celebrated from the 13th – 15th April. Thousands of people line the streets with water guns, hoses and buckets to take part in showering each other. Khao San Road is closed to traffic (along with other roads in Bangkok, so try to avoid driving around during this time.
Tuk-Tuks are a much easier way of getting around to all the festivities. If you fancy a quieter experience for Songkran, there are many Temples to visit in Bangkok.
Songkran originates in Chiang Mai. It is the epicenter of the festival. It is also celebrated between the 13th and 15th of April every year. Some of the most popular places to enjoy the festival are around the moat, canals, the Ping River, Thapae Gate or Chiang Mai Gate.
Songkran is celebrated on the 19th of April. The celebration lasts all week (the extended days of festivities are called “Wan Lai”). The beach road becomes a walking street only, but everywhere else in the town is paraded with pickup trucks and people soaking each other with super soakers, water balloons and buckets of water.
Here on Koh Tao we celebrate Songkran today – the 13th April – and everything is back to normal tomorrow. At Crystal Dive, we don’t dive on the 13th afternoon or the 14th morning as it gives our Thai staff some time off to celebrate.
There are various Songkran parties at beach bars dotted around the island and lots of people throwing water but things quieten down again after sunset.
Songkran Dos and Don’ts
- Use a water proof bag. Everything is bound to get soaked so unless you have a dry bag to protect any valuables, leave them at home and be prepared to be drenched.
- Dress appropriately. Don’t wear your best clothes, or heavy material e.g. jeans, which will become heavy and uncomfortable. A swim suit, shorts t-shirts and flip flops are acceptable.
- Bring along a waterproof camera to catch all the madness.
- Keep a bottle of fresh water to keep hydrated. Don’t drink water from the water pistols as this is most likely tap water, which is not safe for drinking, and could give you an upset stomach.
- Protect your eyes (goggles have been advised on a few websites) as water may be dirty and result in eye infections. Also the high pressure guns may also damage or irritate your eyes.
- Don’t soak babies/toddlers, monks or elderly people. They get a free pass, but everyone else is fair game.
- Don’t spray people driving motorbikes as this may result in road accidents.
- Don’t use dirty or hot water. Clean room temperature water is advised but some people do add ice to their water.
- Don’t complain about getting sprayed. It is a water festival that symbolizes washing away of bad luck, so enjoy it. If getting wet is not for you, then do not venture outside at all.
Author: Crystal Dive