Surviving Songkran Tips for celebrating Thai New Year
If you’re lucky enough to be in Thailand during 13-15 April, you’ll be part of the colourful, vibrant, and rather wet celebrations that make up Songkran – the Thai New Year.
This is a fantastic time to visit Thailand, and if I was to recommend any time to see real Thai life and traditions, this would be it.
Some of it is fascinating, some of it could be considered a little strange, but most of it is downright wonderful, and certainly something you will always remember.
Despite that, experiencing a celebration so different from anything we’re used to in the western world can be a little mystifying at first, so it’s important to find out what it’s all about, familiarise yourself, and then find ways to get the most out of it.
Let me explain how.
Songkran is the most important festival in Thailand, and indeed in the Buddhist calendar. Also referred to as the ‘water festival’, Songkran hails the beginning of many different celebrations, and one of the most popular is to throw water! Don’t be surprised if you’re aimlessly walking down the street and someone throws a bucket of water at you, it’s just what happens, so embrace it and laugh!
Aside from water-based celebration, Songkran is also a time of family and cleansing the home of energy for the New Year. In Buddhist temples across the country you will find water poured on images of Buddha himself, as well as the hands of monks; this is all a mark of respect and a huge tradition.
To experience Songkran in its fullest sense, I would suggest you head to Bangkok or Chiang Mai, because although everywhere in Thailand celebrates it, the biggest festivals and celebrations are here. I can’t say that Songkran isn’t tiring, because it is – parties, meals, and festivities have the habit of taking it out of you after a day or so!
During the first day of Songkran this is when you will find water being thrown at you more than any other time, and you will also see images of Buddha practically everywhere. Families travel back home to their loved ones, and houses are cleaned to bring in new energy. On the second day, which is known as Wan Nao, further rituals and celebrations take place, and New Year’s Day is the final day.
The best advice for visiting Thailand during Songkran and surviving it with your energy levels intact, is to book accommodation well in advance, somewhere central and close to where you are planning on celebrating yourself, because hotels will get booked up quickly, no matter where you are planning on heading within the country.
Pace yourself, enjoy it, and embrace the fast-paced energy of the time. If you’re going to enjoy an authentic Thai celebration, make it this one.
Photo Credit: Uwe Schwarzbach
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