What Is Songkran?
So you may be wondering just what is Songkran? Well I’ll break it down as best I understand it.
Songkran is basically the New Year’s celebration for the Thai people. It lands on April 13th every year however the celebrations will usually last until April 15th. The people will make merit, make offerings to the monks and say prayers. Often times people will travel home to celebrate with their families. A very popular part of the celebration is the Songkran Water Festival, which is basically one gigantic, country wide water fight. Many people will have super soaker water guns and will blast random people walking by. Take my advice and be sure to buy one of those waterproof plastic covers for your mobile phone!
Many expats who live in Thailand leave the country or head north to quieter Songkran celebrations and leave the tourist areas to the tourists.
Dark Side of Songkran
Sadly, it is also the worst time of year for road accidents and deaths on the highway. Wet roads, alcohol, and helmetless motorcycle drivers are a deadly combination.
Despite the government’s best efforts, the number of revelers who don’t get to the New Year is way too high each year. The annual Songkran don’t drink and drive campaign usually falls on deaf ears.
If you are in a tourist area or even in an upcountry village during Songkran, you can expect to get wet. The more touristy the area, the wetter you will get. Being soaked and then going into an air conditioned bar or restaurant can be very uncomfortable and could lead to a nasty cold.
There is also the possibility of infection as the water is not always clean.
Drunken tourists and locals in Pattaya and on Khaosan Road in Bangkok take this festival as a time to get absolutely crazy and drench each other in water.
Additionally, a white paste made from flour or talcum powder is smeared on unwitting people’s faces.
Depending on who you ask, Songkran is the best or the worst time of year to be on vacation. The main reason – water. Traditionally, Songkran is a water festival and celebrated by ‘sprinkling” water on other people. In tourist areas of Bangkok, Pattaya, and Phuket, the sprinkling has escalated to fire hoses, water tube blasters, and super-soakers.
This is also a traditional time to make resolutions to do good deeds and refrain from evil and even a time to clean the house.
Out with the old and in with the new. As are most other things in Thailand, it is “up to you” whether you want to experience Songkran. I would recommend seeing it at least once and then you can determine for yourself if you want to go back to do it again.
Getting back to the real meaning of Songkran, it is a time to go to the temple to pray and give food to the monks. It is also a time to cleanse the Buddha images at their household shrines and at the monasteries with water and a pleasant fragrance.