Thailand is one of my favourite places to visit in South East Asia and a popular destination for backpackers, with many choosing to start their Asian adventures there.
One of my greatest memories from all my visits to Thailand has to be Songkran. If you’re going to be in Asia during April I would highly recommend heading to Thailand for this crazy but fun festival.
- 1 What Is Songkran?
- 2 Where to Celebrate Songkran
- 3 How To Prepare For Songkran
- 4 How To Behave During Songkran
- 4.1 Do Respect The 7am to 7pm Time
- 4.2 Don’t Soak Monks, Babies or the Elderly
- 4.3 Do Wear Clothes That Dry Fast
- 4.4 Don’t Run Around in a Bikini or Half Naked
- 4.5 Do Keep Yours Valuables Safe
- 4.6 Don’t Squirt People in the Eyes
- 4.7 Do Remember It’s a Holiday
- 4.8 Don’t Drink The Water
- 4.9 Do Pace Yourself
- 4.10 Don’t Forget About The Drinking Laws
- 4.11 Do Ask Before Taking Water From Shops
- 4.12 Don’t Add Powder to Your Water
- 4.13 Do Take A GoPro If You Have One
- 4.14 Don’t Ride In A Tuk Tuk
- 4.15 Do Avoid Driving Scooters
- 4.16 Don’t Forget About The Temples
- 4.17 Do Remember To Have Fun
- 5 Plan Your Thailand Itinerary
What Is Songkran?
Songkran is the Thai New Year’s festival. The holiday is known for its water festival with many tourists coming to Thailand to take part in the festivities. Everyone, young and old, all take part in this tradition of splashing water on each other. The water is used to represent purification and washing away of sin and bad luck.
Where to Celebrate Songkran
The majority of places in Thailand will take part in the celebration of Songkran but the most popular place for celebrating Songkran is Chiang Mai. This is where I chose to take part in the festivities. Other popular areas are Bangkok, Phuket, Koh Phangan, Pai, Koh Tao, Pattaya and Ayutthaya.
If you do decide to celebrate Songkran Festival in Chiang Mai make sure you stick around for a few days after. There are plenty of fun and quirky things to do in Chiang Mai.
How To Prepare For Songkran
Tourists flood to Thailand from all over the world so book your accommodation as early as you can. Especially if you plan on celebrating Songkran Festival in one of the more popular destinations like Chiang Mai. The good hotels will book up fast so booking early could save you some disappointment.
Prepare To Get Wet
As soon as you step outside of your hotel or hostel be prepared to become a target. People will be flooding the streets armed with water guns and even buckets. Locals will be sat outside their shops with pools of water ready to ‘attack’ anyone who walks by. People will be squirting you all day as well as throwing buckets of water over you so you will get completely soaked.
Protect Your Valuables
Songkran festival is a massive water fight which means your valuables need protecting. Either keep your possessions locked up in your room or invest in a waterproof bag. These bags will be available all over the country in a variety of sizes. I kept my phone in a waterproof bag and it was completely safe the whole time.
Get Ready To Attack
Unless you just plan to be a target you’re going to need a weapon. Throughout the country you will find a variety of squirt guns on offer from the small and cute to the large and deadly. Just keep in mind that the water guns won’t be high quality so you may end up buying more than one throughout the festival. Don’t worry though, there are plenty of cheap options out there so there’s no need to worry about breaking the budget.
How To Behave During Songkran
Do Respect The 7am to 7pm Time
Something a lot people don’t pay attention to is the fact the water fights are only supposed to last until 7pm. The idea being that once the sun sets and it’s not as easy to dry off, it’s time to stop. While a lot of people are happy to continue after 7pm, if you spot someone after this time who asks you not to soak them, respect that request.
Don’t Soak Monks, Babies or the Elderly
Songkran festival is enjoyed by everyone of all ages so keep that in mind while you’re out there having a good time. It’s easy to get carried away with the fun but try not to soak young children, monks or the elderly.
Do Wear Clothes That Dry Fast
You will be getting soaked all day so you will need to wear clothes that dry fast. There’s nothing worse than wearing uncomfortable, wet clothes. Loose fitting shorts and a vest top are a good option.
Don’t Run Around in a Bikini or Half Naked
I celebrated Songkran Festival in Chiang Mai, a place full of religious temples, so it would have been completely inappropriate for me to run around in my bikini all day. Keep yourself covered up out of respect for the locals.
Do Keep Yours Valuables Safe
I know I’ve said it already but it’s worth repeating. It’s a water fight where you will have buckets of water chucked over you. Keep all electronics either in a waterproof bag or safe in your hotel room. The waterproof bags are clear so you can still take pictures from your phone without having to remove it from the safety of the bag. I was able to Snapchat and take photos on my phone throughout the whole festival!
Don’t Squirt People in the Eyes
Now hopefully you’re not the sort of person that would try and do this on purpose! But it’s worth pointing out that as much as you can can help it, avoid getting anyone in the eye. If you’ve ever been shot in the eye with a squirt gun you’ll know how painful it is! This is why it’s also worth investing in a pair of cheap plastic sunglasses.
Do Remember It’s a Holiday
It’s important to remember that Songkran is a holiday so banks and ATMs may be closed. Make sure to take out money you need before the festival starts just in case. But also remember to keep it safe and not take it all out with you!
Don’t Drink The Water
The water may start out clean but by the end of the day people will be trying to get water wherever they can. In Chiang Mai I saw a lot of people filling up their guns and buckets from the river. Although, I would suggest that you keep your water as clean as possible and avoid being the person who uses dirty water.
Do Pace Yourself
Songkran Festival lasts all day for 3 days so you’ll want to take it easy on the celebrations. Try not to drink too much too fast and make sure you drink water in between your alcoholic drinks. Just not the water from the river!
Don’t Forget About The Drinking Laws
While it’s easy to get caught up in the festivities, it’s important not to forget that alcohol consumption is not allowed before 5pm so keep in mind and don’t wander the streets drinking.
Do Ask Before Taking Water From Shops
Locals love Songkran and will have water tanks set up outside their shops. Some will be ice water which will be a shock the first time it hits you! Most shop owners are happy to share the water, after all it’s all part of the fun. However, it’s polite to ask first as some shop owners will have two tanks. One of tap water for everyone and another full of ice water they save for themselves and their customers. Our hotel had a pool for guests so we were allowed to sit and ‘attack’ from there.
Don’t Add Powder to Your Water
While I didn’t experience this when I took part in Songkran, it has been known for people to add talc powder to make water more gooey and sticky. If this is something you are tempted to do please reconsider as it’s not nice for others and it’s actually prohibited in certain areas.
Do Take A GoPro If You Have One
Sadly your digital camera will not survive 3 days of water fights so the best way to get pictures is to take a GoPro out with you. A chest harness with a GoPro attached is the perfect combination for Songkran. Thanks to my GoPro I came home with some fantastic action pictures.
Don’t Ride In A Tuk Tuk
Don’t ride in a tuk tuk unless you want to be an open target. All the people in the streets will stop what they are doing when a moving vehicle comes their way. If you don’t want to be the target stay out of the tuk tuks. However, on the last day of Songkran that was exactly what we wanted so we split the price of a tuk tuk and drove around. We got soaked but it was a lot of fun.
Do Avoid Driving Scooters
It’s easy to rent a scooter in Thailand with no insurance or proof that you can even drive the thing! If you’re an inexperienced driver Songkran is not the time to be on wheels. Play it safe and stick to walking. Leave the scooter driving to the experienced locals!
Don’t Forget About The Temples
While the water fight portion of Songkran is why tourists want to visit Thailand for the festival, don’t forget about the Temples during this period. Religious ceremonies also take place in temples and tourists are not prohibited from taking part.
Do Remember To Have Fun
While it’s important to stay safe and respect the locals the most important thing to remember is to have fun. Taking part in Songkran was one of the highlights of my Asia trip. It was three days of acting like a kid and I loved every second of it. I can’t wait to enjoy Songkran festival again in the future.
Plan Your Thailand Itinerary
If you’re planning on spending some time exploring Thailand these posts may help plan your itinerary:
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