If you ask me which Thai festival you as a tourist should experience at least once then I will answer Songkran.. Songkran is both culture and a cool experience. This is the day we Thais celebrate Buddhist New Year.
Songkran is a big family holiday and it is as important in Thailand as Christmas is in Norway. The school in Thailand has summer holidays from mid-March to mid-May, and under Songkran the adults have time off from work for several days (minimum 3 days, but a few years up to 5 days). This year, Songkran lasted from April 12 to 16. Mostly, people return to their homes to be with their family.
Culture and Buddhist ceremony
The day starts with a Buddhist ceremony taking place in several places around the communities. People bring food as offerings to the monks, and they pray for us. Some temples put Buddha statues on the street so people can pour water on them to clean the statues. The goal of the Buddhist ceremony is to get a good and happy start to the New Year. If you have a Buddha statue at home, this is the day you give it a proper cleaning, as well as clean up the sacrificial shelf in front of the statue. We also show respect to the elderly by pouring some water into their hands and then they give us some nice words back.
Party, celebration and water war
Big smiles, laughter and happy people everywhere are the hallmarks of Songkran. We Thais know how to party and have fun! In Thailand, this day is celebrated with large street parades, foam parties and various cultural experiences. There’s a full party in all the streets!
One of the funniest things is sitting in the back of a pickup truck and throwing water at anyone who drives by. Most people equip their pickup trucks with water tanks so you have enough water to splash water on people all day. What’s certain is that you’re going to get wet from head to toe and nobody gets mad even if you squirt on them.
How long does the party last?
It depends on where you are in Thailand.
In northern Thailand (+ Pattaya) you celebrate anywhere from 5 to 10 days while in other parts of Thailand you only celebrate for 2 days, or only on songkran itself which is April 13th.
So if you are in Thailand at this time you must not be surprised if you are suddenly splashed down with water by wild strangers. As a rule, it is only appreciated and cooling in April because it is the warmest month in Thailand, and the temperature often reaches 40 degrees.
Wet T-shirt contest?
This is the day most Thai men look forward to. Thousands of Thai girls and tourists wear wet T-shirts throughout the day. In Thai culture, body contact such as hugging or kissing on the cheek is not common when meeting strangers, but on this day it is tradition that the boys smear white powder on the faces of the girls they meet and some of them are so naughty that they don’t just settle on their faces.
In order to avoid the desperate men at Songkran, it is important not to wear revealling clothes.
You should wear colourful clothes that do not show too much skin, and it smart to check if the clothes become transparent when they get wet.
Some good advice when celebrating Songkran
- Bring a waterproof camera
- Waterproof bag for mobile phone and money.
- Sunglasses to protect you from sun and water.
- Dress in colorful clothes. Prefer not to wear white or see-through clothing.
- Get out on the street, get your own water gun and find the nearest place to fill water.
- Do not use ice-cold water or get rid of ice cubes. Don’t shoot people in the eyes.
- Do not throw water on the police, monks, infants or old people.
- Songkran is known to be the time when most traffic accidents occur in Thailand. So do not drive a moped or any other vehicle after drinking alcohol.