Songkran Festival in Thailand: All You Need to Know

Songkran Festival Thailand is a New Year celebration held April annually. The festival holds both traditional and modern elements that reflecting Thai culture really well, where locals and travelers can participate in unique activities.

Take a glimpse at our Songkran travel guide to make the most of your experience!

 

WHAT IS SONGKRAN?

Songkran or Water Festival is one of Thailand’s most important celebrations in accordance to Buddhism, marking the start of traditional Thai New Year and taking place every April. The name Songkran comes from a Sanskrit word for ‘astrological passage’, which refers to ‘passing’, ‘approaching’ or ‘transformation’.

The traditional water festival involves Thai people splashing water on their elders, family members, close friends, and neighbors as a way of seeking good fortune. On the first day of Songkran, an exuberant celebration with Buddha images procession takes place throughout the country. Many other rituals are held on the streets and around local temples.


WHEN DOES SONGKRAN OCCUR?

The official holiday runs from the 13th up to the 15th of April but the festivities may last a week or more. Before Thailand adopted the international New Year’s Day in 1940, Songkran was dependent on the Lunar Calendar of Thailand. Now, it is fixed mid-April anually. The festivities vary depending on which part of the country you are in.

 

SONGKRAN FESTIVAL IN MODERN DAYS

Evolved over the years, nowadays, Songkran Festival is characterized by flux of crowds, roaming around and soaking each other. People gather along the streets, using water pistols, water hoses, and super soakers, throwing buckets of water, and basically water-attacking anyone around.

Although the celebration of Songkran may have changed, Thai people still treasure this holiday and find a great opportunity to return to their hometowns and spend time with their families. Still, Buddhists maintain everlasting traditions to pray at the temples, then to pour water on the images of Buddha and on the hands of Buddhist monks as a sign of respect.

 

BEST PLACES TO JOIN SONGKRAN

1. Bangkok

Urban Bangkok districts filled with crowds and water guns

The Thai capital celebrates Songkran at many districts and calls it ‘Bangkok Songkran Splendors Festival’. The official opening ceremony is held at Wat Pho, one of the most important Buddhist temples in Thailand, housing symbolic gold-plated Reclining Buddha with participations of thousand pilgrims. On the first day of the festival, ‘Buddhasihing’, a Buddha image, is brought out from the National Museum and brought along the streets to Sanam Luang (located at the opposite of the Grand Palace) so that people can sprinkle water on it. The image is placed there for three days.

The crowds parade through Bangkok streets. From Khao San Road, a popular area for backpackers, to Silom, the street known for Patpong, all are packed water parties. There are lots of beer, food, and liquor within those areas.

For more traditional and peaceful way of celebrating Songkran, Thai people build sand stupas and decorate them with colorful flowers and flags which can be seen around key temples within Rattanokosin . In Phra Phradaeng District, the Thai Raman communities carry on with their traditional Songkran traditions which take place a week later than the celebration in Central Bangkok and enjoy an array of cultural activities such as floral floats parade, Raman dances, ‘saba’ game, Thai-Raman flag ceremony, boat races, etc.

Beauty pageants and food fairs are held in Wisutkasat area.

 

2. Chiang Mai

 

Photo Credit: Le Trung Kien

Chiang Mai holds Thailand’s biggest Songkran celebration, kicking off early from the 12th of April around the city.

There are cultural celebrations, traditional performances, street food, and water throwing all throughout the city. The most popular places for the water throwing are the Chiang Mai Gate and the Thapae Gate although there are also celebrations around the canals, the Ping River and the moat.

 

3. Pattaya

Be prepared for sudden downpours

The famous water festival in Pattaya lasts for weeks, followed by long battles even before the actual Songkran and several days after that.

While celebrating Songkran, beach road is filled with foam parties, buckets of ice water, and high-pressure soakers. During the week, there are infrequent ambush points on the streets which are usually around bars and they gradually develop to a full-blown water war.

The main celebration of Songkran in Pattaya falls on the 19th of April which is also known as ‘Wan Lai’. There is a big splashing event every 19th of April to celebrate Pattaya Songkran Festival. The ‘Kong Khao’ parade takes place during the day in appreciation of the Goddess of Rice. There are also beauty pageants being held where ladyboys are allowed to join the contest.

After the parade, they run cultural shows and showcase authentic crafts and Thailand’s rich culture. Thais create amazing sculptures and sand castles at Bang Saen beach.

The traditional celebrations such as spring cleaning at home, spending time with the family, venerating the elderly, and lightly sprinkling or gently pouring warm water on relatives, neighbors, and close friends to wash away the bad luck of the previous year and to give a fresh start for the future.

 

4. Ayutthaya

Photo Credit: Luke Hoyland

People in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya ancient capital do have a unique experience of Songkran Festival. Elephants are painted with colors as they join in the water fights as well as the festivities and given drums of water to soak passersby.

Fantastic traditional ethnic activities like offering donations at 7.00 AM to 999 monks dressed in saffron robe in front of Vihara Phra Mongkhon Bophit and freeing fish and birds into the wild and bathing the Buddha with water from a bamboo pipe occur under witness of hundreds.

The ritual water splashing occurs in the afternoon daily in front of the old city hall.

 

5. Koh Samui

Visit iconic beaches and splash to the festival

Koh Samui offers two different experiences for Songkran events.

If you want to experience the traditional Songkran, head over to Nathon or in the towns on the West Coast, where there are only a few resorts, gatherings and focused on age-old customs. Travelers can still see water splashing on the streets, yet, much calmer and tamer.

In the East Coast such as Chaweng and Lamai where reside vibrant beaches, pool and foam parties take place during Songkran. So do the clubs and bars in town, where nightlife streets become a gauntlet of water gun crossfire.

Bophut Beach and Maenam Beach on the North Coast are composed between crazy and calm elements, which allow families and visitors good and sound atmosphere. Still, you can join some splashing activity on streets.

 

TIPS FOR SONGKRAN FESTIVAL

  • Plan everything ahead and book rooms in advance. Hotels, especially in Bangkok are packed during Songkran.
  • Play nice, fight with clean water and water only. Do not use ice cubes or other things that can injure other people. Water guns, cups, buckets, garden hoses, water balloons are useful.
  • Be careful not to hit others on the eyes or other sensitive parts of the body. The celebration still holds sacred meanings to religion.
  • Dress appropriately to avoid wardrobe malfunction situation, even you intend to approach the beach. We recommend not to wear white or see-through items.
  • Bring waterproof bags or necessities. Remember to put valuables as well as electric gadgets to where they cannot get wet!
  • Use a waterproof camera or leave electric devices at your stay. You might want to capture these interesting parties but only with waterproof camera.
  • Be prepared to be targeted. Once you step outside, all fun awaits.Just be cool, be prepared and be a fair player. Avoid swallowing the water since you might get some stomach problems.
  • Go around on foot or by public transportation, especially in big cities. Accidents by motorbikes or cars at Songkran can be a matter.

For summer travel plan, check-out our latest Bangkok tours or contact our journey planners via yourtrip@sensasia.com

Recent Posts

Top 5 Glamping Experiences in Southeast Asia

15 Aug 2019
If you love nature but do not really fall for roughing expeditions, try glamping (luxury camping) with Sens Asia. This new concept lets you camp outdoor but with pleasant comforts. We are listing out top 5 glamping experiences in Southeast Asia!

Hoi An – World’s Best City in the 24th Annual Travel & Leisure Awards

16 Jul 2019
US travel Magazine Travel & Leisure has announced the list of 15 most recognized travel hubs and Hoi An is the world's best city in 2019. The ancient town offers heavenly walks, fantastic fusion cuisines and marvelous culture traits to travelers visiting Vietnam.

Vietnam Ultimate Packing List

11 Jul 2019
Heading to Vietnam in 2019 – 2020 and looking around for big suitcase to start packing? Wait until you go through this Vietnam Packing List with a local expert from Sens Asia Travel.
Popular Destinations
Main Categories
Explore Further