January 1st now seems like a date in the distant past, but in Thailand, a new year is just about to begin. ‘Songkran’ as its called is Thai New Year (and a national holiday), celebrated around the 13th April each year. The festival is all about transformational change, the idea being to ‘cleanse’ the old year while learning lessons of the past, but welcome the new with hopes and dreams.
The Songkran celebration itself is one that is rich in symbolic traditions and water (and its pure, cleansing properties) features heavily. The holiday is well known for its water festival – where major streets up and down the country, in big cities and little villages alike are closed to traffic and turn into one big water fight. Thais believe that splashing water on each other cleanses the soul, not to mention it being a lot of fun. But besides the tradition, with it being a national holiday, there are plenty of fun activities to see and do in the Land of Smiles during Songkran. Here are some of our favourites.
You’ll definitely get ‘Wet and Wild’ (this year’s theme) for Asia’s biggest circuit party in Bangkok. Now in its 12th year of partying. We’re not sure how much ‘cleansing’ you’ll get, but these fun-filled few days in the capital are sure to get you to make some new resolutions for the year ahead.
Walking street Pattaya
While Songkran activities are generally spread out across this beach getaway, revelers have to check out Pattaya’s infamous bar-lined walking-street that turns into ‘stand-still and get drenched street’. There’s no discriminating here, gay, straight, old, young, Thai or tourist, you’re going to get wet. So make sure you pack your electronics in a dry bag!
You’ll get the true meaning of Songkran here in a setting of ancient temples in Chiang Mai – where Songkran – while still taking up its reputation of being fun and splashy, is a little more traditional. In fact, visitors are encouraged to wear traditional Thai costumes here, and take part in the dress-up competitions around the city. Maybe you could win the coveted title of ‘Miss Songkran’ this year!
Nakhon Si Thammarat
The way this off-the-beaten track southern city of Nakhon Si Thammarat celebrates the festival is by taking on a distinctly more Hindu feel. The ceremonies see some Brahmin fusion with rituals intertwined with the usual Buddhist traditions and water fun. It’s worth visiting if you’re a discoverer looking for a different side to Songkran.
Go chasing waterfalls
If getting drenched by a local or tourist isn’t your cup of tea, you can go get pure in nature’s way. One of the most magical places is Kanchanaburi’s famous Erawan National Park, where you’ll find a 7-layer, truly majestic waterfall plunging into emerald green water. They say the water here is the purest you can get to do the cleansing ritual!