The Songkran Water Festival is Thailand’s most awaited holiday, and is one of the biggest water fight festivals in the entire world.
But amid the wild partying and celebrations, the Thai New Year is actually rooted in symbolic traditions and ceremonies. Songkran is a sanskrit word that means “transformation” or “change”, and is what the holiday is all about.
Before Songkran became what it is today with water guns and other friendly weapons, the pouring of water began as a symbol of cleansing and washing away of sins for the coming New Year, which happens from April 13 to 15.
Back then, tradition was kept between Thai families who would wash each other with a small bowl of water. Now, everyone gets to join in on the fun.
While the most recognized part of the festival involves drenching passersby with buckets of water, Songkran actually involves other age-old practices.
Festivities begin early in the morning when locals prepare food to serve to Buddhist monks at the temple. After this, a temple ceremony is conducted wherein attendees, altars, the temple grounds, and statues are blessed with sprinkles of holy water.
Once done, relatives would usually gather to celebrate national family day. Gifts of new clothes and items are usually exchanged, while cleansing is performed by elders.
If you’re planning to fly to Thailand to join in on the celebrations, then it’s important to figure out what kind of experience you’re after.
If you’re in it for the wild water fights and street parties, then Bangkok is the place to be. But if you want a tamer version and a more traditional setting, then the old city of Chiang Mai is what’s best for you.
Editorial Credit: Naypong Studio via Shutterstock.com
During the festivities, the entire Khao San road transforms into a battle field of sorts, with guests from all over the world wielding water cannons and weapons of all shapes and sizes. Because the road is notorious for being a hotspot for backpackers, locals see this as a chance to soak every foreigner in sight.
Whether you decide to join in or not, however, you can’t escape the street without being “cleansed” from head to toe. The party is highlighted by music from water-proof DJ booths scattered around the area as well as bars, which are typically off-limits to splashing.
Editorial Credit: 2p2play via Shutterstock.com
Silom Road is considered one of the biggest and best places to celebrate Songkran in Bangkok. The five-kilometer stretch is closed off to traffic, so guests can party without worry.
One of the highlights of the Silom celebrations include the fire trucks situated at the end of the intersection with their high-power water hoses, and the sidewalk sprinkler “tunnels”.
Editorial Credit: Safeena Hamdalee via Shutterstock.com
Despite the Chiang Mai celebrations being seen as calmer than that of Bangkok, that isn’t to say that the water war doesn’t get wild.
Similar to the parties of Khao San, Tha Pae Gate, which is the main entrance of the old city, will be filled with battling party-goers, music, performances and more. Here, you’ll see more people sporting the traditional Thai costume.
Chiang Mai is filled with beautiful and historic temples and is where you can witness locals practicing traditional rituals such as: the washing of Buddha statues, carrying of buckets of dirt to the temples, hanging of prayer flags, and more. Must-visit temples include Wat Phan Too and Wat Chiang Man.
Ready for the celebrations? Make sure to check-out other Bangkok attractions and activities before your trip!
Take part in this winter spectacle!
Be among the first to experience this festivity.
Go wild at one of the biggest music festivals in SEA!
Feast your eyes on these lovely blossoms.
Go and join the gathering!
Every April, Dagupan City honors its rich milkfish industry by celebrating the Bangus Festival.