What would you think if a stranger came up to you in the street and threw water on you? Under normal circumstances you probably wouldnt be best pleased, but thats exactly what happens all over Thailand on Thai New Year (Songkran), when cities across the country turn into one giant water fight.
Fortunately, Songkran occurs just when Thailand is at its hottest – around the 12th 16th April when Bangkok Flights are in high demand. In this period of the year, temperatures reach as high as 35 degrees during the day so a Songkran soaking is usually a welcome relief.
Why do Thais throw water to celebrate the New Year?
It symbolises cleansing or rejuvenating; that is, washing away the misfortunes and struggles of the previous year and symbolises refreshing the persons life for the year to come. Some Thais also mark the festival by smearing coloured powder on people in a similarly indiscriminate fashion.
Traditionally Songkran was about paying respects to elders and there are still a significant amount of people that make an early morning trip to the temples to make merit and bathe the monks. Anyone celebrating Songkran as a Buddhist festival will go to at least one wat (monastery) during the festival, with some making visits to as many as nine wats around Bangkok.
In the past, Songkran was held in accordance with the lunar calendar but its now celebrated within the aforementioned fixed dates. The exact dates will vary depending on what part of the country youre in – certain areas will extend the celebration to a full week.
Songkran in Bangkok
The Thai capital is usually a hive of activity but the start of Songkran marks a mass exodus from the city as many people return home to their families outside the city. Its estimated that around half of Bangkoks population will leave for Songkran. The citys big shopping malls remain open but many offices and banks will shut down for the week.
Despite almost half the population leaving, that doesnt mean Songkran in Bangkok is a let-down; after all, there are still over 3 million people in the city. Silom near Pat Pong is particularly lively with most of the 5km long street taken up with young Thais spraying water at each other. Even the local fire trucks have been known to join in with their powerful hoses.
Backpacker hotspot Khao San Road is another wild place to enjoy Songkran with DJs under waterproof screens lining the street. Meanwhile, the Wisutkasat area even holds its own Miss Songkran Beauty contest to mark the festival every year.
Globehunters Top Tips for Songkran
1) Keep your camera in a waterproof bag – or better yet, bring a waterproof camera
2) Bring a water pistol to defend yourself!
3) Cheaper public transport is not safe from the soakings. Tuk-tuks and regular buses with the windows down are still likely to get soaked
4) Be prepared to get soaked and dress accordingly!
5) Dont throw icy or dirty water