EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SONGKRAN - THAILAND'S AWESOME WATER FESTIVAL
Thailand is without a doubt one of the most enchanting and exotic locations in the world. From idyllic islands with sugar-white sands and turquoise waters, to lush leafy jungles and eclectic cities on the mainland, Thailand is a truly tropical gem and a favourite for all types of travellers from backpackers to honeymooners.
If you’re jetting off to Thailand in April, you may or may not be aware of Songkran – Thailand’s awesome water festival! From the dynamic capital of Bangkok to the picture-perfect island of Koh Samui, wherever you’re visiting between the 13th and 15th of April, you’ll be sure to see the locals embrace this incredible festival with celebrations happening throughout the captivating country.
WHAT IS SONGKRAN?
Songkran refers to the national holiday for Thai New Year. Celebrated throughout the Thailand in mid-April, the festival celebrates ‘the passing of the sun’ - a translation from the ancient Sanskrit language. The festival is one of the most significant events in the Thai calendar and is embraced by all ages as family and friends gather together across the three days.
So where does the ‘water’ aspect of the festival come in? Well, if you happen to be in Thailand over Songkran, you’re likely to see the locals happily throwing water over one another, or taking part in wild fun-filled water fights! The water symbolises the spiritual washing away of any bad luck from the past year and is a way to wish new blessings and prosperity for the year ahead. (April just happens to be the hottest month of the year too, so the water is also a welcomed cool-down from the sun!)
Like we mentioned, the festival has a big focus on family and so many Thai people will travel back to their hometowns to visit their elders and show their love and appreciation for them. Other traditions of the Songkran festival include the ritual cleansing of Buddha to bring good luck, pouring fragrant water into the hands of older generations and constructing mini chedis out of sand.
WHAT TO EXPECT?
Songkran is the busiest time of year in Thailand with many Thai people returning home and several businesses shutting down to embrace the event and join in with the annual celebrations. If you’re lucky enough to be in Thailand over Songkran, prepare to get just a little bit (okay, a lot) wet! From the splashes of water pistols to full buckets being thrown, this really is a festival full of fun and happiness with kaleidoscopic processions and performances all over.
WHERE TO VISIT DURING THE FESTIVAL?
When it comes to choosing where to visit in Thailand, this really is a destination brimming with beautiful locations and holidays here can be as varied as you wish – from heavenly beaches to bustling street markets, the country is rich in culture, with a vibrant culinary scene and some of the most breath-taking scenery the world has to see – in other words, you’ll be spoilt for choice!
If you are heading to Thailand over Songkran and want to embrace and experience the best of the festival, here are the spots to take note of…
A diverse global destination, the capital city Bangkok is an incredible mix of modern skyscrapers, lush tropical gardens, traditional temples and more. Over Songkran, the streets of this energetic metropolis are transformed, with the opening ceremony taking place on Khao San Road in the backpacking district. If you want to be at the centre of the celebrations and don’t mind the crowds, this is certainly the place to be! Don't panic if you only have time to stopover at this busting destination though, you can still squeeze in plenty of attractions with our guide to multi-centre flights worth the stopover.
Stretching over 40km of sun-drenched coastline, the popular beach resort of Phuket is a firm favourite for those visiting Thailand for the first time, as it also makes a great base for island hopping. When Songkran is taking place, the location turns into one big water fight with everyone getting involved - including the police! Expect to see an abundance of water pistols and buckets as you explore and head to Patong Beach to really experience the exhilarating atmosphere.
It’s little wonder holidays to the island of Koh Samui are described as a dream come true. Sitting pretty in the Gulf of Thailand, powder soft beaches meet shimmering waters and lush tropical scenery provides a postcard-perfect backdrop. With fun-filled celebrations across all of the island’s beautiful beaches, celebrating Songkran here will certainly give you a holiday to remember.
As on of the most vibrant and energetic tourists spots in Thailand, the coastal resort of Pattaya has established itself as a must-see in the south east and developed a reputation for being the place to party too. Boasting an invigorating nightlife scene, celebrations here continue later in the month too, with the regions unique Wan Lai Festival.
Referred to as ‘the rose of the north’, Chang Mai is a city of colour with impressive temples all around and an authentic Thai atmosphere. For Songkran, the celebrations begin a day earlier on the 12th of April. With an abundance of delicious street food to tempt you and plenty to see, one of the most charming parts of the festival is seeing the locals flock to pour fragrant jasmine water over Buddha whilst asking for blessings.
A FEW THINGS TO REMEMBER
Fondly named ‘the land of smiles’ Thai people are incredibly friendly and hospitable; they are also conservative and respectful too so it’s worth noting a few things to remember when you’re visiting over Songkran.
- Embrace the festival – it will bring joy to the locals to see travellers getting involved with their traditions!
- Dress appropriately for the festival - you’ll definitely get drenched, however remember to be considerate with your outfit choices.
- Never throw water at monks, babies or the elderly and avoid releasing water from up high too.
- If you’re planning to capture the celebrations or take an insta-worthy photo at the event, then make sure your tech is waterproof.
- Finally and most importantly of all, live in the moment and have fun!