While most of the world celebrated the New Year in January, Thailand is one of a few Southeast Asian countries that use the traditional Buddhist calendar which is 543 years ahead of the Gregorian calendar. This results in the Thai new year being celebrated in April of each year. This festival is known as “Songkran” or “Water Festival” and is celebrated from 13-16 April. In Bangkok and throughout the country, people from around the world gather to enjoy the water festival by splashing freezing water and sometimes even talcum powder on each other. This is practiced nationwide in small villages and large cities and is often accompanied by partying and copious amounts of alcohol, especially in the capital of Bangkok. Anyone walking out in public is considered “fair game” during the Songkran festival as people soak each other with buckets of water or water guns. The dates for Songkran 2018 are officially 13-15 April, but the festivities often begin a few days earlier and extend to a couple of days after. This is an official holiday in Thailand and residents usually take time off from work to enjoy it so many businesses are closed during Songkran.
Often referred to as the world’s biggest water fight, the significance of the water goes way beyond just having fun. People have historically splashed water on each other for Songkran to cleanse away the past and bring luck, prosperity, and health for the future. The first days of Songkran are National Elderly Day and National Family Day, respectively. During this time locals often return to their childhood homes and visit temples to perform a ritual of pouring water on Buddha statues to wash away bad luck.
April is an ideal time to visit Thailand, as the weather is warm and sunny, and the Songkran festivities are a terrific way to dive headfirst into the local culture and traditions. Even though every city in Thailand celebrates Songkran, you’ll find the biggest Songkran parties in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Pattaya. Here are some of the best places to celebrate Songkran in Thailand.
Khao San Road is a well-traveled backpacker hotspot and by far one of the best places to celebrate Songkran. Known for its laid-back crowds, eclectic array of tourists from around the world, nightclubs, live music, cheap food and drinks, Songkran on Khao San Road is a blast. You can easily let your hair down and let your inhibitions go as there is never a shortage of water fights in this area. The market on Khao San Road is a good place to buy water guns and protective plastic containers for phones and accessories. During Songkran, Khao San Road is literally transformed into a water fight zone and it can get extremely crowded during the afternoon and evening.
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Silom Soak Zone
Located in the famous CBD (Central Business District) of Bangkok, Silom is a white collar corporate financial district by day, and high-end nightlife zone with rooftop bars, chic nightclubs, and world-renowned restaurants dominating the evenings. During Songkran, Silom morphs into one of Bangkok’s busiest, biggest and most ostentatious water fighting zones. They usually close Silom Road to car traffic during Songkran festivities, making it the perfect playground for those who are serious about doing some “soaking” during the festivities. Partygoers with water guns can be found everywhere, as the skywalk and footbridges are covered with people, most of whom will try to snipe you with their super soakers as you walk past. The party lasts all day and goes late into the night and the street markets near Lumpini Park are a wonderful place to buy supplies for Songkran such as plastic mobile phone pouches, water guns, and talcum powder. There’s also lots of street food and beer on offer along the entire length of Silom Road.
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If you want to head out of the bustling metropolis of Bangkok for Songkran, you may want to head down to the islands in the south of Thailand such as Phuket, Koh Samui, or the party hotspot of Pattaya. You will be sure to find Songkran celebrations in full swing among a multitude of beach parties and a freewheeling hedonistic atmosphere. If you prefer something more chilled out and relaxed, head up north to the mountainous and idyllic rural villages at the Golden Triangle near Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai. Here they avidly celebrated, but usually in a more low key way and without the international party scene that often accompanies the Songkran celebrations in Bangkok and at the beaches. There are also many hotels in Northern Thailand that respect the more spiritual side of the water festival with rituals and ceremonies.
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Melissa is a passionate foodie, travel writer, and editor working in media internationally and in the USA. She has lived in Bangkok since 2004 and has a background in the travel industry. Melissa’s writing has been published globally in many prestigious online and print magazines for over a decade. Her motto for life is “You cannot live or love well if you have not wined and dined well!”