It’s time to celebrate Thai New Year!!! No smashing cake into other people’s faces but plenty of water is splashed all around country.
Songkran or ‘water festival’ is the traditional Thai New Year, which we celebrate on the 13th to the 15th of April every year. It is understandable that nowadays we celebrate Songkran by splashing water around because April is the hottest month in Thailand. The temperature can heat up to 40 degrees Celsius or more plus high humidity so most Thais enjoy this event.
Unfortunately between 2009 and 2013 there were about 27 road deaths per day during non-holiday periods and an average of 52 road deaths per day during Songkran. Most of these cases were drunk driving and speeding, sad but true…..
The name Songkran comes from a Sanskrit word meaning ‘passing’ or ‘approaching’. In the past, the festival was celebrated by splashing small amounts of water on the hands of elderly people. Then, young people would ask the elderly to pray for them for good luck. However, most tourists don’t know about this and, at present, Thai teenagers don’t pay much attention to the traditional ceremony. Most people just want to celebrate and have fun! So are you ready for it?
Who joins in?
Songkran Festival is super famous, like Mardi Gras or the Tomato Festival (La Tomatina) in Spain. People from all over the world come to Thailand to take part in this event. There are a lot of Malaysians, Chinese, Europeans, New Zealanders, Americans, and even Samoans who join this festival, and of course many young Thais love this event as well.
What to prepare?
Be prepared to get wet and fight back. So the basic gear is:
- Water gun or whatever you can come up with that shoots water
- Clothing and shoes that are allowed to get wet as there is a very slim chance you can avoid water coming at you from every direction
- Ocean bag or water-proof bag to put your cell phone and or wallet in
- Lots of smiles and positive thinking. If you join this event, or even just walk past it on the street, people will splash you with water no matter how serious your face is. It is the day that everyone has the right to wet everyone else.
Note: Some guys might try to harass you so be careful and avoid excessive drinking.
Where is the best place to celebrate?
I would say that the most popular place for both Thais and Westerners to go to celebrate Songkran is Chiang Mai. I didn’t want to travel to Chiang Mai and take my chances with finding accommodation so, this year (2014), I celebrated Songkran in Bangkok. It was a very nice time with loads of good new friends. Here are my recommendations on where you should go:
Silom Road: Costs nothing (except transport and food)
One of the most popular places to go during Songkran is Silom Road. You can reach it easily by the subway (MRT Silom Station) or sky train (BTS Salar Deng Station). This place is a bit less crowded than the famous Khao San Road.
I love the multicultural vibe and mix of people. It does not get too hot as there is shade from the sky train and room to move, unlike KSR. You can come in the morning and stay until midnight or keep partying all night at one of the nearby bars or nightclubs.
Tip: Can you see the white powder on the girl’s face? Smearing powder on girls’ faces is a favorite activity of a lot of men. Normally they will touch only your face but, sometimes, if they are drunk, they might try to touch somewhere you don’t want. Be careful and stay close to friends.
Pool Party @ Ocean 33 (No entry fee, beer and mojitos cost 100 baht each)
It’s time for a pool party!!! Actually this was the first time I had been to this pool, which was introduced to me by Mimimini, a popular Couch Surfing host who organized this event.
The best thing about it was that it had no entry fee! There was a nice swimming pool that anyone could jump into and the beer and mojitos cost just 100 baht (US$3). If you want to save more you could go out and cross the street to buy cheaper beer and food in Familymart. Sounds unreal, huh?
The music here was nice, and there were a lot of young people. It was super fun and exceeded my expectations so the next day I came back again with another group of people but found that there were fewer people on the second day.
PS. You could come here by BTS to Prompong station , take exit 5. Then walk to Sukhumvit soi 33. This place is about 5 minutes walk from the beginning of the soi33 , and it is on the left hand side.
R.C.A. (Costs about 500 baht for entry and one free drink)
If you want to get away from most of the Westerners and enjoy the best local night clubs, R.C.A. or the famous Route 66 area celebrate Songkran as well. There are always huge amount of young Thais you can join. I recommend you go to Praram 9 MRT Station then walk about 15 minutes to R.C.A. Another option is to take a motorbike taxi or a taxi from Praram 9 Station. The only problem with this is they will undoubtedly over-charge you. Especially during Songkran, taxis may charge up to 500 baht to Westerners instead of 150 baht, which would be the approximate cost if they used a meter.
Tip: Prices in the R.C.A. area are more expensive than Khao San Road and Silom but there are many popular DJs in this area.
Khaosan Road: cost nothing (except transport and food)
Are you ready? This is the place you have to be for the water festival. The street transforms from any normal day (85% of people are not local). There are a lot of young Thai kids (male, female and many lady boys), aged between 10 and 18 years old who love to hang out at KSR during Songkran because it is the one time of year that their parents have no excuses to keep them at home. At this time of year, they are allowed to join with big groups of friends, drink together and throw water.
Despite all these young Thais, 50% of those occupying KSR during the water festival are foreigners so you can have a lot of fun meeting new people while waging a water war. Most of the time it is safe but sometimes people put cold water in their water guns, which could make you catch a cold.
This place is the most crowded and the craziest. Most people along this road are there to get drunk and get wet. Due to safety precautions, this year (2014) police shut down all water fighting before midnight so people who wanted to keep the party alive had to go to a nightclub. There are two clubs which are quite nice and stay open late on this road, the first one is named “The Club” and the other one is named “Lava”.
Enjoy the water festival party!!!