Did you miss this past New Year’s Eve? Don’t worry, just celebrate another one! Songkran is the Buddhist New Year celebration that takes place annually in Southeast Asia across Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, and most famously, Thailand. It is called the 'Water Festival' by Westerners because people splash / pour water at one another as part of the cleansing ritual to welcome the New Year. The Songkran festival will happen this year from 13 to 15 April across the Land of Smiles. That’s right, three days of celebration where locals and tourists from all around the world gather together for Thailand’s most important annual event. And you are invited to come take part.
The word Songkran derives from the Pali language of the Buddhist scriptures and refers to the movement of the sun from one sign of the Zodiac to another, here from Aries to Taurus. Traditionally the celebration was broken up into four days. On Day 1 people cleaned their houses and prepared for the New Year festival. On Day 2 they prepared food to be used in Buddhist merit making ceremonies. On Day 3, the first day of the New Year, they gathered at the temple in the early morning to offer food, fruit, new robes and other goods to the monks. Traditionally this was the day when subdued water play started, but this has devolved to the exuberant water throwing that stretches over all the days of the festival nowadays. This is more than just good-natured fun; it also contains a religious element: water is regarded by participants as a symbol, firstly, of religious purity, but also of goodwill among people. Therefore, splashing a fellow human being with water, be it a close relative or stranger, is an expression of the desire for good luck and prosperity to that person. On the final day, people pay respect to their ancestors, elders, or people worthy of respect due to advanced age or senior position. Scented water is poured over the hands of the individuals being paid respect who in turn bless the participants in the ceremony. The act of pouring water is also a show of blessings and good wishes. It is believed during Songkran that everything old must be thrown away or it will bring the owner bad luck in the coming year.
Songkran is celebrated in every city in Thailand but you may want to go to the main ones to truly experience the full force of this nationwide party. We recommend Bangkok, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, Hua in, Khon Kaen and Phuket. If you decide upon the City of Angels, don’t miss special events between 10:00am and midnight daily at two main areas: bustling Khao San Road and downtown Silom Road. Chiang Mai actually holds the biggest, most recognized Thailand Water Festival parade, which includes statues from local temples being carried out and paraded through the streets in celebration of this very special time of the year.
Cars, motorbikes and pedestrians are easy targets to throw water at. Whether you use a big bucket, water hose or a squirt gun, watch your back, as revenge is probably around the next corner! Be careful too, pickup trucks going by every road will be filled with people splashing you as they speed by. And the reverse is also true; if you’re traveling by bus, tuk-tuk or train, make sure the windows are shut. As part of the water sprinkling, you may also encounter a person with a small silver bowl filled with a white powder or pasty substance. This is one of the oldest Songkran traditions. The white paste is a sign of protection and promises to ward off evil. So don’t be surprised to see people or yourself liberally covered in it.
Make sure to leave your valuables and gadgets at home or keep them snug in a waterproof bag. And don’t forget to protect your wallet too. Leave your gladrags at home as well; everybody wears old clothes they are not afraid to dirty during this country-wide celebration. And especially for women, try not to dress too provocatively, avoid spaghetti straps, tiny shorts and anything that will become transparent when wet. Our last piece of advice: always wear a smile. This traditional Thai festival is about community and fun, so don’t take it too seriously if you get all wet; just enjoy the momentary relief from April’s stifling heat and humidity.
Most of our hotels around Thailand will have special events between Sunday 12th and Wednesday 15th April 2015 where you can participate in Songkran by taking part in various ceremonies, such as pouring scented water over the shoulders of a Buddha statue to foster good luck in the coming year. Not to mention a plethora of in-house dining specials. And up north in Chiang Mai, the ibis Styles Chiang Mai Hotel is giving away free waterproof bags to guests who check-in and tag the hotel on Facebook. And down south in Phuket, the Pullman Phuket Arcadia Naithon Beach hotel is getting in the spirit with a ‘get wet’ local tour of the island by song-taew, tug-of-war, sea boxing, boat relay, monk alms offering, long drum procession and more.
Ever tried a Genevan chocolate?
Always keep within easy reach knowledge on what to do and see in future destination's: bars, restaurants, museums and cultural events.
Meet the “Uncovered” side of our destinations