It might just be the world’s wettest festival – here’s everything you need to know about Songkran: Thailand’s New Year celebration
Everyone knows about Chinese New Year. It’s celebrated the world over: from a 23-day festival in the country itself, to fireworks in Las Vegas and a parade through London’s Trafalgar Square. But little is said about Songkran – the equally exciting Thai equivalent. Aquaphobes, avert your attention now…
Songkran – also known as the Water Splashing Festival – is a celebration to mark the start of the Buddhist New Year. Buddha images are bathed, and younger Thais show respect to monks and elders by sprinkled water over their hands. Parades, dancing and folk entertainment mark the lunar change too, although getting wet is what Songkran is most famed for. Over the years the festival has morphed into all-out water war, with unsuspecting victims and eager participants being blasted by high powered super-soakers!
Songkran is the epitome of fun. In a nutshell: vast quantities of water are stored in whatever vessels take your fancy (squirt guns, buckets and water balloons are all acceptable), before being used to saturate your nearest and dearest. It’s a welcome reprieve from the intense heat but has a serious side too, the original focus being on enriching religious intentions and building family bonds.
Songkran runs 13-15 April. Festivities can be found countrywide: in Khon Kaen, in eastern Thailand, there are parades of flower-laden floats; in Bangkok, waterfights are focused on Khao San Road. But it’s the northern city of Chiang Mai that celebrates with most gusto. It’s practically pandemonium – people literally flood the streets. There are no rules or requirements for joining in, just be prepared to get wet.
Thailand is moving from high season into hot season. Some services are reduced and it can be soul-sappingly muggy so avoid densely populated areas. Instead, head north – it’s cooler in the highlands. Or cool off on the islands and beaches in the south: dive off Ko Tao, climb in Krabi, kayak around Phuket or hang in a hammock wherever you like.
Beware flying buckets, don swimwear or clothes that won’t become see-through when wet, and make sure you have waterproof cases for your electricals.