You know that scene in cartoons where the characters fry an egg on the searing surface of the road? You can try that for yourself if you visit Thailand in April. April is the hottest month of the year in Thailand, where the average temperature in the central region being 100 degrees. There is little rain and near-nothing in the name of reprieve from the blistering heat, but scorching weather doesn’t keep the Thai people from having a good time.
Staying true to their exuberant spirit, Thai people don’t hide indoors away from the sun during April. Instead they take to the streets with buckets of water in hand. The middle of April is when the Thai New Year (Songkran) is celebrated, and thankfully for everyone included, it involves dousing everyone around in refreshing waves of water.
Welcome the Thai New Year feeling refreshed and having fun by joining in for the world’s most epic water fight. Here’s everything you need to know:
topten22photo | ShutterstockWhat is the Songkran Water Festival?
The Songkran Water Festival is a national holiday spread over the course of three days and results in the entirety of the country going wild with water. Stores, offices and banks close down and the priority becomes the friendly water fights and street parties.
The origin of Songkran is based in traditional and religious roots. There’s more to it than escaping the sun’s heat, although that is a greatly appreciated benefit. This entry into the New Year is welcomed with purification, cleansing and rejuvenation, a renewal that water symbolizes. The dousings are meant to wash away the misfortunes and mishaps of the year prior, and begin the new one with a fresh start.
Traditionally, this belief was carried out with tame pours over the heads of family members. Over the years, though, a more festive tone has taken hold and polite drizzles have transformed into soaking buckets, hoses and water guns.
Within these evolving customs, the tying thread that has remained the same is the importance of family and worship. Relatives reunite to ask Buddha for blessings, visit monasteries, clean the homes to bring good luck and feast together. The “real” Songkran takes place early in the morning with ceremonies at temples, Buddhists making merit by giving alms, observing virtue and other acts of devotion.
Pornsak Paewlumfaek | ShutterstockWhen is the Songkran Water Festival?
Songkran is a Sanskrit word translating to signify the entry of the sun into any sign of the Zodiac. In this particular instance, it’s referring to the occurrence of the sun entering the sign of Aries or the Ram
. Songkran celebrations were first calculated based on the lunar calendar, but after Thailand adopted the international New Year’s Day of Jan. 1, Songkran has been honored on April 13 through April 15 every year. While officially it’s three days of feasts, family and fun, many Thai people take off from work and continue the party for as many as six days.
Where is the Songkran Water Festival? Bangkok is your center for all things Songkran, but even within the city there are different hot spots for celebrating. If you’ll be attending one of these areas, be sure to plan ahead and arrive early. Traffic comes to a near stand-still when everyone is armed and ready to wage a water war.
When it’s wild you want, head to the street of Silom. It’s three miles packed with people holding anything and everything that contains water. If you’d rather watch the mayhem from a safe (and dry) distance, take to the BTS sky walk. It runs above the street, giving you a bird’s eye view of the smiling crowd. Vendors selling everything under the sun you’d need for an epic water fight line both sides, and the ends are blocked off by firetrucks that release a powerful gush from their hoses for a finale.
Enter the party head-on by going to Khao San Road. You’ll boogie your way through the battle here, where bars and DJs are set up to offer some tunes for dancing. On the flipside if it’s tradition you crave, the Phra Pradaeng district offers you insight into Songkran customs. The celebrations come a week later, and include the must-have splashing but also Thai-Raman flag ceremonies, boat races, floral parades, traditional dances and more.
Festival Rules |
Songkran isn’t a no-holds-barred water war. There are some cultural and safety dos and don’ts to ensure everyone has an enjoyable time:
- Ceasefire starts at sunset. The evening is a chance to dry off and walk the streets without worries of water. It’s bad form and a bad idea, being that it’s also illegal. Move onto other activities instead, which shouldn’t be an issue considering Thailand’s active nightlife.
- Babies, monks and the elderly are granted immunity. Don’t spray them with water.
- Let motorcyclists pass in peace. Throwing water at them suddenly may result in an accident.
- Cover your drink. This is more of a tip than a rule, but one you’ll be thanking us for. Many participants partake with beer or cocktail in hand, but keep it covered. The water that’s being thrown around isn’t purified or safe to drink, so it’s the last thing you want mixing with your beverage.
- Don’t drink and drive (or even just drive). Navigating Thai streets is already a crazy affair, but during Songkran, the number of traffic fatalities nearly double. Take extra caution when crossing streets.
- Keep water clean and ice-free. Nobody wants to be pelted with a cube!
- Wish the locals a happy new year – “Sawasdee Pee Mai!”
Get going! Here are 5 Reasons to Visit Thailand.
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