The Songkran festival is probably Thailand’s biggest and most important. Like most great festivals celebrated around the world, Songkran started as a Buddhist celebration of the new solar year. The official start date for this year’s festivities is Friday April 13th, but different regions start celebrating at different times.
What is it?
While it started life as a religious festival, Songkran has grown and grown and is now a tourist event as much as anything. Much like La Tomatina in Spain, or Holi in India, Songkran is now a giant water fight staged across Thailand for 3 days. Cities and towns shut down so screaming tourists and excited locals can drench each other with water pistols, buckets and hoses.
When is it?
In April, also Thailand’s hottest month. The official start date is Friday April 13th.
Where is it?
It’s celebrated all over Thailand, but we’ve put together a list of our top 5 favourite places to visit during Songkran.
Of course Thailand’s capital does it best! A lot of the locals go back to their home towns to celebrate, so the city is full of tourists. The bustling hubs of Khao San and Silom road are almost completely shut off to traffic, giving you ample space to splash around in, and a lot of hotels will have private pool parties, so you won’t be short of options!
Bangkok’s parties may be the biggest, and Pattaya’s festivities may run longer, but Chiang Mai’s Songkran celebrations are easily the wettest. Head to Tha Pae Gate in the old city and check a full 4km of water wars in the old moat that used to protect the town. There are stalls selling everything you need and heaps of parties happening all around the old city, while the temples will give you a more relaxed – and authentic – view of the celebrations.
Everybody gets involved in the celebrations in Phuket, with even the Police swapping their guns for water pistols! Patong beach is the centre of the action, with the most intense battles raging along Soi Bangla. If you need a break from getting wet, there’s also a Miss Songkran beauty pageant and a parade to enjoy.
Living up to its reputation as a party city, Pattaya celebrates Songkran into the following week! The biggest day of celebration will be 19th of April, so if you are a little late to the party, head to Pattaya!
Koh Samui is a little more laid back than most of Thailand, and it’s reflected in its Songkran celebrations. The big parties happen at Chaweng beach and Soi Green Mango. If you’re looking for something a little more traditional, head to the western side of the island, particularly around Na Thorn. The local fisherman and their families get together to celebrate and you are more than welcome to join in.
Suggestions for Songkran
- Make sure you use clean water and don’t get to carried away and hurt anyone
- You’re going to get wet – Unless you stay inside, it’s going to happen, so make sure you wear clothes you’re happy to get soaked in.
- Be respectful! – This means don’t splash monks, the very young and the elderly…unless they splash you first!
- Get pasted – People will be going around wiping powder on faces as a form of blessing. It may run and get in your eyes, and maybe irritate sensitive skin, so make sure you have some clean water to clean it off with if you so feel.
- Bring a waterproof bag – if you want to carry your valuables with you, this is a must!