SONGKRAN – CELEBRATING THAI NEW YEAR IN BANGKOK
A mixture between tradition and craziness
Every year in April, Thailand is celebrating Songkran, the Thai New Year. It is considered to be the most magical festival of all that brings all Thai people together.
From April 13 to 15 the whole country is topsy-turvy when families and friends close the old year and bring in the New Year.
Songkran – Thailand’s highlight of the year
Before we arrived in Thailand we had no idea of this very special date and the fact that Thailand celebrates the international New Year on the 1st of January as well as the traditional Thai New Year. We rather heard about Songkran coincidentally from a lovely hotel receptionist who proudly explained us that it is THE must-do in Thailand.
BoB, Lars and I are ready for the water fights at Silom Road
On the 13th the magical festival started and the streets around our apartment became noticeably quieter. The few cars and motorcycles that could be seen in the streets were equipped with giant water guns and some drivers had some kind of white paste in their faces. It’s chalk, a custom originating from the chalk used by monks to mark blessings.
On the following days we learned that Songkran is a giant festival with a mixture between tradition and craziness.
Tradition vs. Craziness
First family and tradition afterwards water fights and a lot of fun
Rituals of Songkran
First let me tell you a bit about the tradition…
Songkran is the time when Thais go home to their parents to pay homage to elders and to the temple. It is also the time of the year when the hot and dry months end and the rainy and fertile season is about to begin. The word Songkran is a Sanskrit word that is used in Thai and which means the ‘movement’ or ‘relocation’ of the sun from one sign of the zodiac to another. Songkran is the period of time that the sun moves from Pisces to Aries.
A traditional rite is pouring fragrant water over Buddha statues
But what does actually happen on those three days?
The 13th is the last day of the old year and is officially the National Elderly Day when young people would pour fragrant water into the elders’ palms to ask for their blessings.
The 14th is the day that connects the old and the New Year and is officially the National Family Day when families give alms to the monks or pour fragrant water over Buddha statues.
The 15th is the first day of the New Year.
Craziness – the endless water fights of Songkran
So far Songkran sounded like a very peaceful festival. But it’s not! It’s a giant water fight!
We were absolutely overwhelmed by the thousands of people who gathered together in the streets of Bangkok. The usually quiet Thais turned into an exciting party crowd full of energetic young people. Everybody held a “loaded” squirt gun, a bucket full of iced-water, or even a water hose in their hands. Even the smallest ones have so much fun throwing cold water on passing people.
Even the smallest have impressive splashing skills
We were also perfectly prepared, mentally and physically :-). Funny golf ball BoB got his own poncho (you know golf balls don’t like water that much) and a super powerful water gun.
Funny golf ball BoB equipped with his poncho and his super powerful water gut
Also Lars and I had a squirt gun and sunglasses to protect our eyes. Highly motivated we entered Bangkok’s biggest water battlefields and craziest streets:
Look at Lars, he’s still dry. But that changed within a minute.
Silom Road is one of Bangkok’s most important financial districts with many bank headquarters, financial institutions, and office buildings. Amongst international tourists it is known for its famous nightlife scene and red-light district Patpong.
The incredible water tube at Silom Road
On Songkran the first kilometers of Silom Road, beginning at Lumpini Park, turn into a mega splash arena. The whole street is closed from April 13 – 15 and attracts thousands of Thais. When coming from Lumpini Park some kind of water tube welcomes all visitors of Silom Road which is absolutely crazy. After passing this “artificial rain”, plus the water gun attacks from all directions, you don’t find any dry spot on your body. I promise!
The best of Silom Road is the view of the busy wet street from the BTS sky walk that runs above the street. But don’t expect to stay dry up there. Loaded water guns are everywhere!
The traditional usage of chalk is no longer permitted at Silom Road. Police offers will check you before entering the street.
Khao San Road
Crowded to the limit: Khao San Road
Everybody knows of Khao San Road, Bangkok’s famous backpacker street. Oh man, this street turns into a mega party zone on all three Songkran Days. Once you are in, it’s hard to get out.
Every bar tries to beat the speaker’s volume of the neighbor and endless masses of people push their way through Khao San Road and its side streets. Half naked “real women” and ladyboys dance on tables and car’s loading areas to animate the crowd, while white hands covered with chalk suddenly appear in front of your face and spread the white paste on your cheeks. Usually they do it in a very polite way with tourists. Amongst each other they seem not to have any limits and many Thais tried to stop the chalk from running down to their eyes. But they all seem to love it as safety glasses are proudly worn on the head instead of in front of the eyes. Not sure if I will ever understand that “tradition”.
Clever attacks from the back
Around 10pm Khao San Road was absolutely crowded and people pushed from all sides. I don’t know why but there was a stage built almost right in the middle of the street so that it was impossible for the crowd to pass by.
Caught in the middle of the mass I got a bit nervous and didn’t want to think about what would happen if somebody started to panic. I was just wondering that the small Thai girls, that were one head shorter than me, could get enough oxygen. They had so much fun and smiled all the time. Wow! Hats off! Thais know how to party!
Our faces after a long funny Songkran Day
What can I say more about Songkran!?
It really is a giant party and Bangkok went totally crazy. It is absolutely funny to run through the streets equipped with a water gun and to soak other people. Everybody is very relaxed and enjoys this special time of the year.
What about you? Have you experienced Songkran? How much did you like it and what was your favorite equipment? Water gun, bucket, or hose? Leave a comment below!
When in Thailand on April 13 – 15 you absolutely MUST take part in the water fights. Otherwise you would miss a part of Thailand’s most important tradition and a lot of fun.
Thank you for reading and watching the video!
BoB, Liane and Lars