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Songkran ceremony for the Thai New Year

The Songkran Water Festival

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Thailand

Cultural

Written by Thailand specialist Molly

Songkran is the annual festival celebrating the New Year in Thailand, held from the 13th April through to the 15th of April.

The name 'Songkran' is Sanskrit for 'astrological passage', and I assume refers to changing to a new year and embracing it.

The most iconic ritual of the festival is the pouring of water over Buddha statues to symbolize purification and the washing away of all sins and bad luck. You may also see younger people pouring water respectfully over the hands of their elders. However, the most obvious aspect of the festival is the water fights that erupt everywhere.

During this time, streets are closed off and frequently used for parades and as arenas for the water battles. You will see people splashing each other using water guns, buckets and pretty much anything that will hold liquid.

Water fight, Songkran Festival, Thailand

A water fight in the street

Despite our biggest efforts, we all got soaked. I even got a nice bowlful of chalky water in my face.

Experiencing the festival as a child

I was lucky enough to experience the festival when I was a child. During the years of 1993 and 1994, when I was seven years old, I lived in Bangkok with my family, where my father was working at the time. My older sister, Kelly, was adopted from Bangkok and the Thai culture has been in my family ever since. 

One of my favourite memories of the time was participating in Songkran. My family and I piled into our car and drove around the neighbourhoods of Nonthaburi with our 1990s super-soakers trying to guard ourselves through the car windows while spraying water at those we passed. 

Despite our biggest efforts, we all got soaked. I even got a nice bowlful of chalky water in my face (chalk is sometimes added to represent the monks’ marking blessings). Upon returning home, we were all so dirty we ran and jumped into our pool, clothes on, to rinse off.

Molly with her family at Songkran

Molly with some local friends celebrating Songkran

Visiting Thailand during the Songkran Festival

It is important to note it is a very sacred time of year for Thai people, and if you are traveling there during this time, while they love visitors to participate, it is important to be respectful. Songkran is one of the busier times of year to travel to Thailand. If you wish to experience the festival I would highly recommend trying to book about a year in advance.

While you are able to experience Songkran all over Thailand, I personally recommend planning to be in Bangkok or Chiang Mai. The Riva Surya in Bangkok, is a great hotel to stay at during this time since it is within walking distance of Khao San Road where a particularly large water fight generally takes place. It is important to choose a hotel that allows you to walk to main areas since many roads may be blocked from traffic.

In Chiang Mai, Rachamankha is a great choice to be near the action. It is a short walk away, but still in a great location to experience all the fun. The weather during April is beautiful in Thailand so it would be easy to pair a Songkran cultural experience with some time at the beach.

Molly aged 7, driving around the neighbourhoods of Nonthaburi

Molly aged eight, being driven around the neighbourhood

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