Songkran is a rather wet affair. The festival is celebrated by the whole of Thailand, where innumerable people take the streets to celebrate water. And how do they do that? Well, they shoot each other with water pistols of varying shapes and sizes. There's more to it than that, but we'll save that for after the drop.
So, let's explore Songkran Water Festival and how to celebrate it in Bangkok. Below, you'll learn more about the festival's origins, what it means to the locals, when it takes place, and how to make the most of it on your Bangkok travels. So, let's get wet, shall we?
- When is Songkran Water Festival in Bangkok?
- What is Songkran Water Festival?
- Where to celebrate is Songkran Water Festival
- Where to celebrate is Songkran Water Festival in Bangkok
- Songkran Water Festival Tips
When is Songkran Water Festival in Bangkok?
Songkran Water Festival is a celebration that's held throughout Thailand between April 13-15 every year. And, since April is traditionally the hottest month in Thailand, it's just as well! Don't believe us? With average monthly temperatures of 86°F, and the occasional spike to 104°F, you better start believing!
What is Songkran Water Festival?
In Thailand, water is considered incredibly sacred and spiritual. As it should! After all, it gives us life. So it might surprise you to learn that the word 'Songkran' has nothing to do with water. A very literal translation of the word means 'to move' or 'change place', and the Songkran celebrations originally marked the day when the sun changed position in the Asian zodiac calendar. With that in mind, you might be scratching your head, wondering how any of this ended up being about water?
Well, there was a water festival in Thailand that was separate from Songkran. Originally, this was celebrated by blessing water on Buddha before being poured onto sick loved ones to help make them better. This "drenching" practice soon evolved into splashing anyone and everyone with water on a national scale. And, at some point in the past, Songkram and the water festival were rolled into one. And, hey presto, you've got yourself a water festival called Songkram!
Though you could partially attribute Songkram's 'evolution' from a religious ceremony to a water fight due to the general erosion of meaning in many religious holidays - like Christmas - many still celebrate Songkram between water fights. People spend some of the holidays visiting Buddhist monasteries to seek forgiveness and state their resolutions for the year, what they hope to achieve, and what they want to change. They also clean their houses - nothing like a proper spring clean!
Where to celebrate is Songkran Water Festival
If you're willing to travel outside of Bangkok, you'll find Thailand's biggest Songkran celebrations happening in the northern capital of Chiang Mai. Waterlogged festivities can take place over six days there, so make sure to pack a metric ton of clothes. You may also see people carrying sand around Chiang Mai. They're taking it to the local temples, where it's fashioned into sculptures.
Why sand, you ask? Well, it represents the dust people have carried on their feet since the last Songkran festival. Once it's brought to a temple, their feet are inevitably cleaned by the water festival, only for the process to begin again.
Where to celebrate is Songkran Water Festival in Bangkok
If you're wondering where to celebrate Songkran Water Festival in Bangkok, just take a look out of your window. Every street will likely have some kind of water-based action going on. However, if you want to go where the action is, we'd suggest Khao San Road. Arguably the heart of Bangkok's tourist scene, Khao San Road takes Songkran seriously. The whole area turns into a no-traffic zone, ensuring a safe and satisfying, days-long water fight can take place.
You'll find both locals and tourists sporting massive water cannons, water pistols, rifles, and all manner of water-unleashing devices. As soon as you step into the cold light of the day, you'll likely be met by mayhem. Only a handful of groups are exempt from proceedings, including the elderly, nuns, and monks. We'll assume you don't fall into those categories. As such, prepare to be soaked. Loud music, dancing, and other general revelry are also to be expected.
Of course, you needn't settle on being prey. Tons of stalls throughout Bangkok sell water-dealing death machines, from measly pistols all the way to aqua shotguns. Feel free to put some of that dough back into the economy and go hunting. And, if anyone comes up to you and smothers your face with clay, allow it. It's part of the Songkran culture. Why, you ask? Well, it closely resembles a monk's blessing, and is to wish you a happy year until the next Songkran. But also, why not!
Songkran Water Festival Tips
Before we bid you farewell, we're going to give you some hints and tips to make your Songkran as fun as possible. Isn't that nice? Read on, take notes, and prepare for the wettest weekend of your life!
Firstly, pack a bunch of spare tees, shorts, or skirts. Trust us, you will get wet, and the last thing you want is to be stuck in the same drenched clothing for 2+ days.
Secondly, you're fair game unless you're holding a camera or cigarette. The unwritten rules of Songkran state that you won't be sprayed if you're holding either - after all, smoking is big in Thailand. This may not apply to cell phones, so be warned when trying to take pictures!
Thirdly, buy a decent pair of goggles to shield your eyes. People aren't shy to spray you directly in the face, so if you want to keep your peepers protected, invest in some goggles!
Fourthly, tons of people will have buckets filled with water so you can reload for free. That doesn't stop some conniving locals from trying to sell H20 to unsuspecting tourists. Never pay for water; just move on to another stall.
And finally, stay off the roads. Road traffic accidents double during the festival, so avoid taking any public transport or hopping on a motorbike. You want to have fun, not become a yearly statistic!
And that's our guide to Songkran in Bangkok! Enjoy the water festival and embrace the wetness! If you're spending some time in the city both before and after the festivities, check out Go City. With our All-Inclusive Pass and Explorer Pass, you can see all of Bangkok's best bits for one low price!