If you find yourself anywhere in Thailand during mid-April, there is no way to avoid being splashed and wet from head to toe as the world’s biggest water festival, Songkran, is taking place in each nook and cranny of the nation. Here are the amazing major cities and islands in Thailand where you can best celebrate Songkran. Get ready to join in the watery battlefield!
1.1 Khao San Road: probably the biggest water fight on earth
This backpacker haven brings out it utmost nature over Songkran with the entire street turning into what must the biggest annual water fight on earth. You’re going to get drenched here as tourists seem to be the target of choice. Bars and DJs set up in waterproof shacks along the road so you can pause from the madness for a Thai whisky and coke before joining the melee once again.
1.2. Sanam Luang: the spiritual side of Songkran
For something a bit more spiritual, head to Sanam Luang opposite the Grand Palace. On the first day of Songkran, the highly revered Phra Phuttha Sihing Buddha image is paraded along the streets and people sprinkle fragrant water on it. The image is left there for 3 days so that those who are unable to make the parade are still able to pour water on the sacred image. There are also dancing flash mobs, carnival floats and cultural shows to catch, making this Bangkok’s premier spot for a cultural Songkran experience.
1.3. Wisutkasat: where the beauties gather at one place
Head to Wisutkasat to see Thai beauties in all their finery at the annual Miss Songkran beauty contest. There is a parade, lots of festive activities and some of the city’s best food and seasonal delicacies on sale from street hawkers and nearby hotels.
2. Chiang Mai
Many expats claim that the best place to witness Songkran is in Chiang Mai. The city’s small size and gorgeous temple complexes make for a spectacular setting. Chiang Mai’s Songkran enriches religious intentions and is truly different with a deeper meaning apart from the fun-filled activities.
The festival here lasts for four days instead of the usual three, with the first day or two being quieter family days and the final two becoming increasingly party-like. On the first day, a procession of Buddha images and floats starts at Narawat Bridge and ends at Wat Prasingh.
Cultural activities continue on the second day with locals heading to the Mae Ping River at dusk to collect sand from the banks which is taken to temples, piled up and topped with flowers. Things get wilder on the final two days as family and religious obligations and rituals are completed. Local families dip buckets into the lake to gather water, heave them up and lob the water over nearby victims. Inside the old town, there are numerous stages set up featuring dancing girls spraying the crowd with water from large hoses, and roaming bubble machines pump foam onto the streets turning unexpected corners into impromptu foam parties.
Songkran is celebrated a little longer in Pattaya with celebrations kicking off on the April 13th and culminating on 19th of April, with an extended festival known as Wan Lai, meaning “the day that flows”.
There are a few special events to keep an eye out for including the ritual of local men carrying a lady into the sea for a dousing, amazing sand sculptures, Muay Talay (in which fighters do battle on a board over water), and in a uniquely Pattaya twist – a beauty competition for Miss Songkran in which ladyboys and ladies are judged in the same category. Head to the main beach road on April 19th for a 5-kilometre long water splashing party with tens of thousands of people from around the world dumping water over each other’s heads.
If you think Phuket is wild, wait until you see it during Songkran festival. Even the police in Phuket will get involved, swapping their firearm for a water pistol for a few days. In the past, Songkran in Phuket was celebrated mainly on March 13th but in recent years you will find a morning till night party consume the island for a solid three days.
Patong Beach is home to the most raucous scenes during Songkran, unsurprisingly when you consider this is where you will find the most bars and the best nightlife. There is a parade, a Miss Songkran beauty pageant and an intense water fight along Soi Bangla.
5. Koh Samui
Songkran in Samui is not as intense as, say Pattaya or Phuket, but it is still one of Thailand’s most fun celebrations with events taking place in all major beach towns. You will find parties throughout Samui and anyone is welcome to turn up and join in the fun. Local children are driven around the island in the back of a pick-up truck and will stop to have skirmishes with you which is always fun; just be aware they use melted ice water which is a shock to the senses.
Can’t wait for a trip to Thailand in April? Go away with Sens Asia Travel for the coolest summer ever with our pick of Thailand tour by clicking here. To enjoy the fullest Songkran, do not forget to check out our guide for first-timers (link to another blog). And if the streets jammed with people is not your ideal getaway, get off the tourist trails with our authentic tour here.