Songkran Festival: What you need to know.
Source: Anthony Bouch
I’m sure many of you have heard about the Songkran Festival in Thailand, and its popularity has grown so much that even in Malaysia, people are organising events to celebrate it, but they are mostly more of an excuse to throw a party rather than to celebrate its original meaning.
I had the opportunity to experience this when I went to Thailand. The celebration is between 13 to 15 April, but in some places, the festivities can last up to a week.
If you’re planning on visiting, here are some tips that you might want to know before going.
What is it?
This festival actually marks the beginning of the traditional Thai New Year, or the solar year. Originally, it’s celebrated through the blessings and prayers for Buddhist Monks, and scented water would be poured over the monks for a cleansing process. The water would then be collected and taken home, where the locals would pour the water over one another as it is believed to be blessed.
Throughout the years, the act of pouring the water over one another has become more popular, and seem to be practiced by all, even without the intention of blessing. That gave birth to the Songkran Festival that we know today — a festival of throwing all forms of water to drench each other.
Things to look out for
One thing’s for sure — you will never be able to avoid getting splashed with water, so you just have to be prepared for it. It would be wise to wear beach-style clothing, or to wear a swimsuit underneath your shirt. Thick materials are best avoided, because it might become heavy. White shirts are also best avoided, unless you’re very sure of what you’re wearing underneath.
Source: Moshen Chan
In some areas, they might also mix the water with powder, and it really sticks to your clothing, so that’s another thing to think about when choosing what to wear. If your skin is sensitive, you might want to wash them off immediately before they get stuck, so bring a bottle of clean water for yourself.
Also, because you’re obviously going to get wet, you might want to bring along a waterproof bag, or at least a ziploc bag for your valuables that shouldn’t get wet. A waterproof camera or smartphone is a plus, since your Instagram feed would be begging for some attention.
Where to go
Source: Ben Reeves
For a tourist experience of Songkran, Bangkok is your best bet. Like any other New Year celebrations, locals would go back to their hometowns away from the city, so the city will be filled with tourists who just want to have fun with the experience and to party. There are two places in particular to go to party; Silom Road, which is closed off to traffic, and Khao San Road, the backpacking heartland of Bangkok.
For the less adventurous, celebrating the festival in Chiang Mai can prove to be more enjoyable, especially since it is known to be the wettest celebration in the whole country. Which is why it becomes a very popular destination during this time of the year. You can just go to Tha Pae Gate and enjoy the 4-kilometre stretch of water fighting, getting water gears along the streets as you go.
As a popular city for parties, it comes as no surprise that the Songkran festivities last longer here. Instead of the usual 3-day event, the festival lasts until 19th April, with its biggest celebration being on the final day. So, if you want to avoid the rush of tourists going to Thailand, you can go there slightly later and still get to enjoy.
Source: Steve McNicholas
When you think of water, of course the beach comes to your mind. I mean, what better place to celebrate a water festival than a beach, right? Just head over to the Patong Beach for a full 3-day celebration of water, from morning until night. You can also catch a Miss Songkran beauty pageant if you go to Soi Bangla, a road near Patong Beach.
If you’re looking for a more toned-down celebration, you can go to the beaches of Koh Samui. The festivities there are definitely not as intense as the ones in Pattaya or Chiang Mai, but you can still have a fun time while enjoying Songkran. Some of the mischievous local kids might shoot you with melted ice water, so that will probably perk you up a little, :P.