What is Songkran and where are the best places to celebrate?

Songkran is the Thai New Year festival, which takes place from 13-15 April every year; 13 April is Thai New Year’s Day. Songkran is an occasion that symbolizes kindness, love, empathy, and gratitude, using water to cleanse and to wish for plenty of rain in the year ahead. The name Songkran can be translated as ‘passing’ or ‘approaching’. Songkran festival is celebrated throughout Thailand in April, the hottest month of the year.

We have selected a range of popular tourist destinations to experience Songkran and create unforgettable memories, both in traditional and modern style:

1. Khao San Road (Bangkok)

Khao San is home to the undisputed hub of Bangkok’s modern celebration of Songkran. Cordoned off to traffic, the carnival atmosphere in the backpacker district is electric. Thai and Farang (foreigners) alike hold stations equipped with oversized water guns, pressure hoses and giant cooler containers. Crowded and wild, Khao San is the place to be to experience crowds armed with water guns while enjoying pumping music from the local establishments.

2. Ayutthaya

If you are looking for a more traditional Songkran experience, Ayutthaya is a good choice. Here you can see people going to the temple to make merit, pouring water on the hands of those who are senior to ask for blessings. The atmosphere is family friendly, with temples decorated in Songkran theme. The city does also enjoy its fair share of water games with elephants spraying anyone in sight, which is said to banish bad luck.

3. Chiang Mai

The northern capital of Chiang Mai is where the largest Songkran festivities are held, with the city stretching out the celebrations for nearly a week. It is also more common in the north of Thailand for people to collect sand, which is taken to their local monastery. This sand — symbolic of dirt carried on their feet over the past year — is used to replenish the monastery before being sculpted into stupa-shaped mounds and decorated with colorful, celebratory flags.

4. Koh Samui, Surat Thani

The center of the Songkran action on Koh Samui is Chaweng Beach, where Thai and foreign tourists come together to share smiles while simultaneously soaking each other with water. Meanwhile, the local community holds traditional ceremonies, where monks pray for the residents to have good luck in their lives. Young children also hand senior community members wreaths to ask for blessings.

Typical activities during the Songkran Festival

  • People often do spring cleaning in houses, temples, schools, and offices to welcome the New Year with cleanliness symbolic of a fresh start.
  • Some make merit by offering alms to monks to commemorate late ancestors, while the monk offers some words of wisdom.
  • It also common to release birds and fish back to their natural habitat, as part of the merit-making activities.
  • Sprinkling water onto Buddha images and monks to receive blessings for the New Year.
  • Building sand pagodas in the temple grounds. Bringing sand to the temple is considered a merit as the sand can be used for construction or restoration by the temple.
  • Pouring water onto elderly family or community members to show respect and gratefulness and to ask for their blessing.
  • Most well-known, are the friendly water fights using clean or scented water, exchanging New Year’s greetings. It is wise to ask permission before throwing water at someone in case they do not wish to get wet!

Kenan Asia

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