15 6 3
Tourists can expect a high-spirited Songkran celebration this year across Thailand. Songkran in 2017 had to go low-key in mourning for the late King Bhumibol.
Songkran is the Thai New Year’s festival held every 13th of April. April 14 and 15 are declared as holidays as well. In reality, it’s a week-long festival. Every town will have some form of celebration.
Songkran uses water to express goodwill, love, compassion, and gratitude. The original idea is just a sprinkle of water. The tradition has evolved and a splash of water is now considered a deluge of blessings.
If you’re headed to Songkran, here are some smart tips to make the most of Thailand’s widely known festival:
1. Know Where to Party
There are many places in Bangkok where you can expect pumping music, water cannon wars, dance parties and huge crowds. Your hotel might even hold its own Songkran party. However, if you want to put your fun-loving persona out there, here are the places where real Songkran experience is guaranteed:
Khao San Road
If you want to experience that “one big crazy wet party”, Khao San Road is the place to be.
Take note, however, that Soi Ram Butri is a narrow road. Once the street party kicks off, you will have to squeeze through the wet and wild crowd. A bit claustrophobic, I nearly blacked out amidst a sea of dancing revelers in Songkran 2017. We were soaked, sweaty, and carrying our bags as we had a bus trip to Chiang Mai to catch.
If you’re going out of Khao San on a Songkran day, it is best to leave a little past noon before the street party starts.
Khao San is typically the go-to place for people who “play hard, party harder” on a non-holiday. So if you get the idea, expect the unexpected during Songkran in Khao San.
The whole stretch of Silom Road is usually closed off to traffic during Songkran. The roads are wide in Silom area so you can join hundreds of strolling revelers.
Khao San Road and Silom Road are also the best areas to book a hotel (or hostel) during Songkran. There are many restaurants and fast food outlets serving foreign and Thai dishes around these areas. Convenient stores are nearly on every corner.
Besides Bangkok, Chiang Mai is also one of the most popular places to get soaked in the most fun way. You don’t even need a map, just head to Tha Pae Gate. Make no mistake, those tuk-tuks and pickup trucks carry water containers and sneaky water bombers. You won’t even make it to that spot dry and warm. You can find more info about the schedule of activities in Chiang Mai here.
Pattaya is dubbed as Thailand’s “Las Vegas” so low-key partying does not exist. Pattaya traditionally celebrates Songkran Festival as ‘Wan Lai’ on April 19 every year. There’ll be water fights and merrymaking still on regular Songkran days.
Beach Road is closed from morning until late evening. The streets are packed during Songkran as live bands and shows draw crowds along the thoroughfare.
When you hear “Phuket”, you hear “wild”, right? This is the place where you can party with a bikini top and shorts for three straight days of Songkran. What is Phuket for if there aren’t morning till night parties? Patong Beach has the best nightlife. The island also holds water fights and fun-filled activities during Songkran.
2. Be Patient with Traffic
Some streets will be closed to vehicles because live shows are set up. Slow-moving traffic is expected on other roads. It is best to book a hotel in proximity to the popular Songkran party spots.
You can take the taxi or tuk-tuk but still, you will have to join throngs of people walking the streets with water pistols.
3. Dress Appropriately
By “appropriate” I didn’t mean a wetsuit. Comfy clothes like shorts and bright-colored shirts are recommended to blend in with the locals. Not to be a prude but Thai culture is still pretty conservative. Walking through the streets on see-through white shirts or provocative tops is offensive to the local culture. And men, please don’t go topless! You could get arrested and fined.
Cheap flimsy raincoats are also sold in convenience stores and sidewalks. You can buy one if you want to keep your clothes dry during the festivities. I can’t guarantee though that your head will be spared the whole time.
4. Waterproof Your Gadgets, Money
I’d suggest a waterproof pouch for your valuables like cash and phone. Plenty of people would be selling waterproof pouches for cheap on the streets.
I don’t recommend bringing a passport, credit cards, and other valuables. If your hotel has a safe, leave your passport and jewelry behind. Just keep a screenshot of your passport on your phone. Be mindful of whatever you take with you. Pickpockets exist.
5. Arm Yourself with a Water Gun
Water pistols come in all sizes. The biggest ones cost around 1,000 Thai Baht. Big water guns are best for nonstop water fights. You’ll end up refilling water every few minutes if you carry small water pistols. You can bring home your water gun as a souvenir when you leave Thailand.
Locals set up huge water-filled containers on the sidewalks so you can refill anytime, anywhere. Skip the ones who profit from water refills.
6. Wear Goggles or Sunglasses
Unless you’re used to getting your eyes blasted with a water pistol or hose, a pair of goggles or sunnies will come in handy. You don’t know where the water came from.
You might get smeared with a sticky grey-white paste made of powder and water. It stings when it gets in your eyes. If you’re also prone to eye irritations, better keep an eye drop in your pocket.
7. Drink Moderately
It’s a no-brainer: if you can’t handle too much alcohol, stay sober. Sometimes, things get out of hand when drunk people get doused with buckets of water. And I guess, there’s no need to explain this rule: Don’t drink and drive.
8. Don’t Rent Motorbikes
Motorbike accidents are common during this time. Roads are slippery, people are all over the streets. Drunk driving and speeding were the leading causes of accidents in the past, mostly involving motorbikes and pickup trucks.
Leave the roads to motorcades and Songkran revelers. Besides, walking with a water gun is more badass during Songkran.
9. Respect the Songkran Rituals
Songkran isn’t just about water fights. It’s a celebration of the Thai culture and religion. The Buddhist monks are revered and not part of the water fights so don’t douse them with water.
If you see locals coming in and out of a temple, don’t make them targets. People make merit offerings in temples and shrines. They go there for Thai rituals and not for the wet festivities.
10. Bring Loads of Patience And Sense of Fun
When you get out of your hotel, condition your mind that you’ll get soaked. If you get doused with water while you’re mouthing a word, that’s okay. Don’t take things personally. Smile back at the perp and blast him back with water from your giant water pistol.
Be a sport. Laugh it off. And don’t be a party pooper! If you want to stay dry, then stay indoors.
I’d be thrilled to hear about your Songkran experience. If you find yourself in Bangkok for Songkran this year, stay safe. Sawadee bee Mai, Thailand!!
Sheila, a.k.a. The Solo Tripper. Former news desk editor, full-time traveler, freelance writer.