Immersing yourself in a country’s culture comes in different places and experiences, but none of them are as spirited and colorful as the start of a new year. In Thailand, the new year celebrations fall on Songkran, which is taking place from April 12-15 this year.
During Songkran, all of Thailand gets soaked in what is considered the world’s biggest water fight. However, there is more to Songkran than just getting wild and wet. For the people of Thailand, splashing loads and buckets of water signifies a spiritual cleansing in time for a new beginning.
While the water parties rage on, different areas of Thailand put the spotlight on the country’s rich cultural heritage. In these places, you can join locals in wearing traditional wardrobe, watching colorful parades, or even visiting local temples. Wherever and whichever way you celebrate Songkran, you’re in for a summer you will never forget.
Where The Water Fights Are Fought
In Bangkok, the largest and wildest crowd are usually found at the five-kilometer stretch of Silom. In this road, you’ll meet thousands of young people who would aim at you with anything that can spray water. At the road’s intersections, you can find firetrucks with powerful water hoses ready to get you soaked from head to toe. This can be quite refreshing since the heat can reach up to 40 degrees Celsius.
If you don’t want to get wet at Silom, you can go up the BTS Skywalk, where you can watch the festivities in full swing. Khao San Road, another hotspot for Songkran celebrations in Bangkok, is scaling down its usual celebrations this year ahead of the new King’s coronation. Celebrations are in full swing instead at the open air-mall Asiatique The Riverfront and the shopping complex CentralWorld.
Outside the capital, other major cities have their own take on Songkran. If you want the wettest possible experience of the festival, Chiang Mai is the place for you to go. Here, you won’t encounter the normal water guns or sprays. The crowds will splash on you using buckets. At Chiang Mai, the splashing just won’t stop because the moat around the old city keeps everyone’s buckets full.
At the eastern side of Chiang Mai, the four-kilometer stretch of Tha Phae Gate is where you’ll find the biggest party. Here you’ll find large stages set up so you can revel in competitions and entertainment. Aside from the water fights, you can also join foam parties happening in this area.
If you want water fights by the beach, the 4.82-kilometer stretch of Beach Road in Pattaya is one of the places to get soaked in. Aside from the water fights, you can also listen to live music performances or indulge in traditional cuisine since stages and vendors are lined up along Beach Road.
You can also join pool parties in selected clubs and hotels in Pattaya. If you want to grab some drinks during or after the water fights, you can drop by at the bars in Soi 6, 7, 8 and Soi Bukkhao. You can also visit rooftop bars where you can enjoy excellent service and spectacular views.
Spotlight On Culture
While water parties are the norm in Songkran celebrations, you can join other activities where the cultural and spiritual aspect of the festival are in focus, some of them taking place after the official dates of Songkran.
In Chonburi, Pattaya, the Wan Lai Festival lets you participate in traditional activities like almsgiving to monks and a ritual of blessing elders. One of the biggest celebrations takes place at the Bang Saen Beach, where you can watch traditional dances and over-the-water greased pole boxing competitions called muay talay. Sand pagodas sculpted by talented Thai artists also line up the beach during the festival.
A highlight of the celebration in the city of Hat Yai is the Hat Yai Midnight Songkran, where you can participate in a Buddha image parade and purifying ritual. You can also catch local folk plays, beauty contests, and concerts should you choose to celebrate Songkran here.
Another must-try experience is the Songkran Festival at Phra Pradaeng in Samut Prakan Province, which is scheduled on April 19-21 this year. What you shouldn’t miss here is a grand procession of floral floats carrying young women in traditional costumes. These women hold a fish bowl and a bird cage. Later on, you can watch the women release the fish and birds as a way of warding off bad luck and attracting prosperity.
If you’re joining any of the Songkran festivities, it pays to take note of safety precautions so you can fully enjoy the festival. If you would insist on keeping your valuables during water fights, for example, it helps to invest in waterproof bags or protection.