SONGKRAN

Songkran is a term derived from the Sanskrit word, saṅkrānti (or, more specifically, meṣa saṅkrānti) and used to refer to the traditional New Year celebrated in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, parts of northeast India, parts of Vietnam and Xishuangbanna, China. It begins when the sun transits the constellation of Aries, the first astrological sign in the Zodiac, as reckoned by sidereal astrology. It is related to the equivalent Hindu calendar-based New Year festivals in most parts of South Asia which are collectively referred to as Mesha Sankranti.

Songkran 2018 in Bangkok – Having fun is a big part of Thai culture, and having fun amidst scorching heat is no exception. The hottest month of the year, April sees the entire country go bananas in friendly water fights and street parties that last nearly a week. During Songkran, most office buildings, banks as well as family-run shops and restaurants shut down completely, while big shopping malls usually remain open. Bangkok experiences a mass exodus, as at least half of its residents travel back to their home towns for family re-unions. In their place are tourists, who fly into Bangkok particularly to enjoy one of the most colourful and festive times of the year. Note. Songkran in Thailand is officially observed between the 13th and 15th of April (three days national holiday), although in reality, celebrations often last the entire week!

What is Songkran? Songkran is the occasion for family re-unions, temple visits and annual house cleaning. Many Thais observe the holidays by spending time with families and friends. Traditionally, Thais perform the Rod Nam Dum Hua ritual on the first day of Songkran, which is officially the National Elderly Day. During the ritual, young people would pour fragrant water into the elders’ palms as a gesture of humility and to ask for their blessings. The second day of Songkran is officially the National Family Day. Families would wake up early and give alms to the monks, then ideally the rest of the day would be spent sharing quality family time together. An important religious ritual on Songkran is ‘Bathing the Buddha image’, in which devout Buddhists pour fragrant water over Buddha statues both at the temple and at home. More religious Thais would engage themselves in Buddhist ceremonies and merit-making activities throughout the holidays.

Chiang Mai is home to the most spectacular Songkran Festival in Thailand — millions of visitors come here every year for the New Year. Inside the old city and city moat, there are crowds of people, all walking up and down the road with a bowl and bucket of water and saying “Sawasdee Pi-Mai” to one another all day long. This is the real meaning behind Songkran: not just water fights, but happiness and kindness to all people.

 

WATERPROOF EVERYTHING

You’re going to get wet 100%. Very wet infact. So make sure you’re wearing clothes that aren’t going to bleed colour all over your body (or end up entirely see-through), that they are not you best smart clothes, that your camera and especially your mobile phone is in a waterproof bag (or to be extra safe, just don’t bring it at all or invest in a waterproof disposable one), and that you’re not worried about hair or makeup (because it’s going to be a mess).

Keep your cash and cards tucked somewhere safe in a plastic sachet and don’t even think about carrying unnecessary valuables with you.

Don’t try to escape the gushes of water heading your way, and certainly don’t wear a poncho or carry an umbrella, just relax and enjoy the party getting wet. If you do not then not only are they going to do little to protect you, but you’ll actually make yourself a bigger target.

The best thing to do is just embrace the fact that the moment you step outside your hotel or hostel front door, you’re going to get wet. Besides, since March and April are the hottest and driest time of year in Bangkok & Chiang Mai, the water is actually a welcome relief to cool down!

It’s going to be hot and you’re going to get wet, so best to wear something light, but not too skimpy or see-through. Remember that Thai culture is quite conservative and this is a holy holiday, so avoid wearing thin tank tops or short shorts (especially as a woman; you’ll risk getting unwanted attention), and keep your feet water-friendly with sandals or flip-flops/thongs.

For the most comfort, wear a bathing suit rather than underwear under your outfit. Don’t forget sun protection (sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat), water, and, most importantly, your water weapons!

We’re talking water guns, buckets and bowls all of them are fair game on the streets. You can refill them at free water stations and vendors throughout the old town centres. One thing to remember – Keep your eyes and mouth closed if you’re getting sprayed with moat water in Chiang Mai as its not clean or healthy at all.