During the hottest month of the year, people of Thai celebrate the beginning of a new year. The official first day of celebrations is the 13th of April. Customs dictate that locals must celebrate this holiday for at least three days, but partying, and various organized events do not stop for at least a week. This is one of the most important holidays in Thailand respected and loved by both tourists and locals.
The word itself means “astrological transition” indicating a significant change in the sky. The name of the holiday is derived from a similar word in Hindu. Indians celebrate a good harvest in January and welcome a new spring and call this festival Makar Sankranti. Songkran in Thailand is a great day when all people unite in a glorious celebration. This is a moment when solar calendar demands people to welcome the beginning of a new year.
The math behind this holiday is quite intricate. The exact moment of transition and some other essential things are calculated beforehand. A unique calendar is issued by the government and handled to all citizens so that everyone in the country knows exactly when they should perform specific religious and social activities.
Legends Behind Songkran
There is a beautiful legend called Nang Songkran. This is a story of 7 ladies. The story revolves around Brahma who meets a young boy named Thammapala Kumara. This 7-year-old impresses Brahma by reading scriptures in front of a crowd. Brahma decided to come to Earth in his human form and ask the boy three complex riddles. The reward for winning in this challenge was the head of Brahma himself. The punishment for failure was death.
Brahma asked where the aura of a man resides during the morning, day, and night. The boy tried to find answers for six long days. When he was desperate, he overheard two eagles talking about how they will tear apart the dead body of the youngling. Eagles were quite talkative and leaked the answers not knowing that they were listened to.
The boy returned to Brahma and told him the answer. Aura resides in the morning on the face of a man hence you wash it. During the day a man perfumes his chest where atmosphere lives during the noon. Then, a man should bath feet where aura ends up in the evening. Brahma was defeated. He forfeited his head to the boy, but the magic encased in the head was too strong.
Should the head touch the ground, everything would have burned. Left in the air, it would have prevented rains. If thrown out in the ocean, it would have dried it out. To stop such calamities, Brahma’s daughters (7 ladies) carried the head to the deep cave of Kailash. Every year, these seven ladies take turns to move the head around the country fulfilling the purpose of the Songkran festival.
The Day of Blessings
There are lots of cool traditions and customs that make the whole celebration week truly interesting for everyone. This is a time to receive and give blessings. Songkran is an excellent opportunity to visit local temples, share food with monks, and pour water on Buddha statues. This is an iconic custom that has been around for centuries. Younger and older people come to temples with water and wash figures to cleanse themselves from sins and turn away bad fortune. During Songkran children should visit their parents, friends should reunite, and unification, in general, is encouraged. In some regions, people also visit the cemetery to honor their ancestors.
Monks receive blessings from visitors of temples. You can also participate in the ritual. Bring water and food to the temple. Donate food to monks and bless them with water. This is a unique spiritual experience.
Festival of Water
The main trademark of this holiday is a nation-wide water fight. Battles take place everywhere. People run around with buckets and water guns pouring water onto each other. All main streets are closed and cars do not mess with the celebration. Everyone participates in the global water fight. Some of the most critical battles happen in unique venues where participants wear traditional clothing and take part in special rituals.
This is a very happy holiday when everyone splashes water all around them. There is no way that you walk out in the streets and stay away from water. It is a true festival of water, and all people have to participate regardless of the mood.
Where to Party
While Songkran is a national party, there are places where festivities are most colorful and engaging. There is nothing better than spending some time in an area with thousands of people eating, dancing, and play with water. If you want to experience the whole range of emotions during this fantastic celebration, you will need to visit several cool places.
The capital city becomes emptier during the festival since many people travel back to their hometowns to visit their friends and relatives. This is a period of reunion. It is entirely possible for many shops and restaurants to be closed due to the exodus of a workforce. At the same time, some want to make money and agitate their clientele by inviting them to huge parties. If you're going to avoid festivities and water, you may use private taxies and spend leisure time in shopping malls where water fights are forbidden.
People who love the festival can easily get lost in the crowd on the Khao San Road where all backpackers and tourists spend most of their time. Huge celebrations happen on the Silom Road. You will find lots of street foods and entertainments. You can visit some packed places to experience heavy water artillery. Powerful water cannons splash dancing people and create an intense environment for everyone involved. Both streets are closed to traffic and accommodate large crowds of people.
The Old City Moat will welcome all who want to participate in celebrations. The most significant crowd usually gathers near the Phae Gate situated on the eastern side of Moat. Very often, local authorities conduct the beauty contest and organize concerts for those who want to stay up for the whole night. Travel to the north-west if you want to avoid big water fights. A trip to Huaykaew Road will be rewarding. Lots of grand vistas, fantastic street performances, and stages for DJ’s, artists, and dancers will be craving for your attention.
The most intense part of Phuket during this period is the Bangla Road and the Beach Road where all festivities take place. Lots of people with water guns, buckets, and water bottles run around and make sure that no one leaves the street dry. The 13th of April may be a bit overwhelming for foreigners as they will walk out of the hotel right into a solid wall of water. The amount of water fighting here is just outstanding.
This is a much calmer city when it comes to festivities. You will still find places where people “appreciate” water in all possible ways, but Pattayans mostly visit temples and spend their time doing more spiritual activities. One of the key differences here is that the 19th of April is the time for Wan Lai day, the last day of the festival. This is a unique event with raves and concerts. Another exciting thing that locals prefer using the mix of chalk and water instead of pure water when fighting was making the whole celebration messy.
During the festival, you should visit Chaweng Beach where bars and restaurants are full of people. During the day streets look like battlefields with thousands men and women armed with menacing water guns. If you want to spend time away from noisy festivities, visit the area of Na Thorn where all celebrations have a more traditional approach to the festival. Residents love to throw out parties at their villas.
While the festival is all about joyous celebrations, you should be cautious. The amount of road accidents increases dramatically. Avoid open roads and stay away from the traffic. At the same time, you should not drink too much as thieves do not care about the spirit of the holiday.
It is highly relevant to stay within specific borders when celebrating. You cannot run around naked. Topless men and women will be detained, no questions asked. If you don’t want to be fined, just do not behave too frivolous.
Tips for Newcomers
Several small tips will help you to enjoy the holiday truly.
This is one of the brightest holidays in the whole Southern Asia. You will love the readiness with which people participate in large-scale water fights. This is indeed an amazingly memorable experience!