The Songkran festival (from the Sanskrit word sa?kr?nti, literally meaning "astrological passage") is celebrated in Thailand as the traditional New Year's from the 13th to 15th of April.
It coincides with the New Year of other calendars of Southeast Asian countries such as Myanmar and Laos.
Arguably the most famous Songkran celebration is in the northern city of Chiang Mai, where celebrations typically run for six days and sometimes even longer.
Traditionally the celebration was a time to visit and pay respects to elders, including family, friends, neighbors, and monks. Buddhists (the main religion in Thailand) often celebrate Songkran with visits to monasteries as well as "ritually cleansing" images and statues of Buddha with water.
Over the years, the ritual cleansing with water, has turned into somewhat of a citywide multi-day water fight free-for-all.
Here are some tips to help you enjoy the festival:
- The unofficial rule is from sunrise to sunset, anyone and everyone is free game. So keep this in mind if you have electronics or anything else you don’t want to get wet. Plastic bags are your friends! Asking nicely might save you once or twice, but being out on the street during daylight hours pretty much guarantees you will be soaked. Even if one or two kind souls are willing to spare you, chances are the other couple hundred people you come across won't. Don't get angry, remember it is a city wide festival, so you have to play by the festivals rules. Don't want to get wet? Then stay home!
- You will have no trouble finding a variety of water guns or buckets that you can buy from Thai merchants selling them all along the streets. They are also usually happy to supply you with water to fill your newly acquired weapon of choice. The city also sets up water stations all over, so there is no shortage of amunition. The entire city really gets involved, young and old, rich and poor, Farang (foreigners) and locals.
- Transportation and accommodation fill up very quick around this time of the year. I don’t usually book many things in advance when I travel as I prefer the go-with-the-flow style, but you may very well be out of luck trying to find a train or bus last minute and similarly may have difficulties finding a room (especially if you are trying to find budget accommodation) as they fill up quick.
- Drinking alcohol on the streets during the festival is somewhat frowned upon (if not outright banned), so if you do wish to drink, find a bar or patio.
- Remember it is all in good fun. Don’t be a knob and shoot people in the face. Aim for the shoulders down if you're not a jerk.
- Don’t forget to watch out for pick-up trucks; they usually have a huge barrel filled with ice water in the back and I don’t think there is anything quite as shocking as being drenched with a bucket of ice water unexpectedly.
- Lastly Enjoy!
Travel tip shared by The Hippie Van Man
*All photos credited to and courtesy of, Aaron Neilson-Belman Photography