family in Laos. It just so happened that we would be there during the Thai (and also Laos) New Year. I had no idea what to expect, except for the fact that Google search told me there was a huge water fight! I’m so glad to have been able to join in this celebration! We were too busy getting soaked so we didn’t get as many great pictures as we wanted, I guess we will just have to go back again to celebrate.
What is Songkran?
Songkran is the Buddhist New Year celebrated across Southeast Asia and is celebrated for three consecutive days. Songkran started out as a Buddhist ritual to start the new year with purification. Monks attend temples, sprinkling Buddha statues in sacred water. This is believed to wash away the bad from the previous year and welcome the good for the new year. Over the years the holiday has turned into a ginormous water fight. The throwing of water is said to get rid of the bad. Now, Songkran is most widely known for the huge water fights. These are buckets and buckets of water being thrown in the street. We also saw hoses being used! Luckily the celebrations line up well with the hottest time of the year in Southeast Asia, as the cold water is actually welcoming.
When is Songkran?
The holiday lasts from April 13- April 15, although in our experience it’s basically a week long celebration. The date was originally set by astrological calculations, but now it is fixed on the 13th. The first day that is celebrated is the last day of the current year. The middle day of celebrations is actually between two years, and the final day is the first day of the new year. A day before the celebration, the house is cleaned to get rid of all the bad from the previous year.
Tips for surviving Songkran
- Nobody is safe
Just because you are a visitor, doesn’t mean they will let you slide by without getting wet. In fact, they probably want to soak you more. I know we were big targets as we were walking around the streets. If you step outside, you will get wet! The kids especially find it hilarious when they can hit you with their super soaker. There are some set up on the sides of the street with their hoses, while others drive around in their pickup trucks with huge buckets ready to attack.
- Where to celebrate?
Chiang Mai seems to be the most popular tourist destination, as well as Bangkok (particularly Khao San Road), Pattaya, Phuket, and even other countries in Southeast Asia such as Laos, have big parties. Although we had a great time celebrating in Laos with Tip’s family, I can’t imagine the craziness that ensues in Thailand, as Thailand is supposedly even more intense than the Laos celebrations.
- Book your accommodations early!
This is a serious party and people plan for this trip for a long time. Make sure you book your accommodation ahead of time as places will surely sell out quickly. Also, if you are traveling to Thailand right before the festival, know that transportation will be busier as well.
- Take precautions with your electronics
There is no way to avoid the water! Make sure that your phone is waterproofed! A waterproof bag and a waterproof camera are a good idea. Everywhere sells waterproof pouches for your phone, so don’t worry about needing one before you leave. We used our GoPro most of the time since its already waterproof, and it worked out well!
- We mean it when we say the celebration is at least 3 days long
There will be lots of alcohol consumed during these days so learn how to pace yourself. We spent all 3 days, and maybe even more, doing a lot of dancing, drinking, and getting soaked. It was awesome!
- Prepare yourself
You don’t want to be walking around town without anything to fight with. We ended up buying some small squirt guns in order to fight back. It wasn’t much compared to the buckets or the hose they had, but at least it was something!
- Be open-minded and welcoming to the idea of walking around soaking wet
It can be shocking at first, but it is actually really fun to celebrate in this huge festival, so don’t be a baby and embrace the wet clothes 🙂
If you haven’t been in Southeast Asia to celebrate Songkran we HIGHLY recommend going! It is such a fun festival to experience! We didn’t get as many great pictures as we wanted, so I guess we have to go back again soon!
What is the best festival you have participated in?