Songkran in Bangkok

  • Posted onFebruary 10th, 2013

Songkran in Bangkok

songkran-festivalLove it or hate it (and there are plenty in both camps), Songkran is the most celebrated festival on the Thai calendar. During the hot and humid month of April (the hottest month of the year), Thais get the chance to take to the streets and drench their friends, neighbours, and any unsuspecting stranger with ice cold water, all in the name of good fun, welcoming in the new Thai year.

Songkran in BangkokThings get pretty crazy as whole cities become over run by the friendly water fights. Locals sit in their shops or outside their homes, dousing passersby in damp flour and unloading a barrel or two of freezing water from their fully pumped super soaker, as trucks drive up and down the streets carrying gallon drums of cold water, soaking anyone/everyone within reach. Street parties are all the rage, lasting from hours to days (some even closer to a week in Pattaya!), and many places of business are closed throughout the whole festival.

But it isn’t just the Thais who have fun, all expats and foreign visitors are encourage to join in with the wet festivities, and it’s often seen as a great way to mingle with locals in one of the most colourful and joyous weeks of the Thai year.  Many Thais in Bangkok will head home to be with relatives and visit their hometown temple, but those who remain in the city will spend the majority of time on the streets, soaking up the city wide party atmosphere, joined by an army of backpackers, expats and other fun loving tourists. Certain areas of the city can get very crowded!

What is Songkran?

Bangkok-Songkran-FestivalSongkran is essentially the Thai new year, and the chance for friends and families to reunite and spend time together. It’s also a religious festival and temple visits play a very important part as die hard Buddhist meditate for hours on end, seeing in the new year with hope for good fortune.

The first day of Songkran is also known as Rod Nam Dum Hua, the national day for the elderly, and people are expected to show great respect towards more senior members of the community. You may well see many young people pouring scented water into the cupped hands of elders, as a way of showing humility.

The second day of Songkran is all about family, officially known as National Family Day. Families wake up early together and give alms to the local monks, before spending the rest of the day making food and eating together, whilst sharing memories and basically catching up on each others’ lives.

Why all the water?

It may seem all a bit crazy and fun but there’s more to it than just seeing how wet you can make the passing stranger (although that obviously is a big part of it), the act of throwing water is actually very symbolic. The Buddhists believe that splashing water on to your friends, family and neighbours is washing off the misfortune from the ending year, cleansing them for a fresh start in the new one. Whether everyone who pours freezing cold water down you back really believes that is what they are doing is another thing, but it’s all in the name of good fun!

In more traditional times Thais would very delicately pour a bowl water over members of their family, close friends and neighbours, all done in a very respectful manor. Today, things are a bit more gung-ho (not helped by advancements in water pistol technology), and a bowl of room temperature water is now a large drum of ice cold water, or a garden hose witched to nuke mode.

When is Songkran in Bangkok?

Traditionally Songkran was always calculated based on the solar calendar, meaning the date changed from year to year. Today Thai businesses run to international calendar and Songkran is on a set day, which actually depends on the city. In Bangkok Songkran is set across 3 dats, from the 13th to the 15th  of April, while in the nearby beach resort Songkran runs from the 13th until the 19th of April, with many Bangkokians travelling to Pattaya for the 1th, and perhaps the most insane city wide party you are likely to encounter!

 Where is Songkran in Bangkok?

songkranEverywhere. It’s almost impossible to avoid. Throughout the city from downtown to the outer suburbs, nowhere is safe from a soaking as Bangkok becomes on big party water fun zone. If you want to really indulge in the madness and get the greatest water drenching of your life than Khao San Road, Nana, or Silom are is your best bets.

For a more spiritual experience  the Phra Pradaeng district is known for continuing more traditional Songkran activities and ceremonies, although they tend to take place the week after the water massacres.

 

For more information on Songkran in Thailand.

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