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Songkran is the traditional Thai New Year that runs over three days of public holidays from April 13th – 15th. The name Songkran comes from a Sanskrit word meaning “to move” or “to pass into”. Water is used as a symbol of purification, so Thai people pour fragrant water over Buddhist images and elders as a blessing before the new year. As time passed, this unique Thai festival is now widely recognised as the water festival.
In this guide we share all you need to know about celebrating Songkran in Bangkok and across Thailand
In 2021, while official celebrations will go ahead, there are restrictions imposed due to COVID-19. However, the situation could change at any time,
Though Thailand now adheres for all practical purposes to the western calendar running from January to December, Songkran is still celebrated as the traditional new year period in mid-April.
While practices vary slightly across Thailand, traditionally Thais spend the first day of Songkran cleaning their homes and public places such as temples, schools, and offices in preparation for the arrival of the new year.
On the second day – a kind of no-man’s-land between the old and new years, when it is thought to be a bad omen to argue – Buddhists prepare food to offer to monks the following day. Making offerings to monks is something that Thai Buddhists do throughout the year since it is believed to be a merit-making act that will bring them good fortune in this and future lives.
The third day of Songkran is celebrated by Thai Buddhists by again visiting the local temple, offering food to monks, and pouring fragrant water over Buddha images.
In reality, Buddhists may visit the temple and make offerings on any one or more of the three main days of Songkran. You may also see them building sandcastles inside the temple grounds as a fun, family-friendly way to make a spiritual offering. After visiting the temple, people may pour water over the hands of the elders in their family to pay respect and receive their blessing in return. This ritual is called Rod Nam Dum Hua.
While this section has been updated at the start of April, the situation may change depending on the impact of the most recent outbreak of COVID-19.
In 2021, April 12 has officially been added as a public holiday to add the this official Songkran Festival which falls on April 13-15. While Songkran is scheduled to go ahead, the situation can quickly change.
Whilst traditional celebrations are currently allowed this year, many of the more modern celebrations activities have been banned for this year. These banned activities include: Mass water fights, powder smearing, foam parties, concerts.
Travelling around Thailand is being encouraged as Thailand has an urgent need to boost domestic tourism. However, like all things restrictions could be imposed.
Many destinations around the country have extended Songkran Festivals.
There are plenty of places to celebrate Songkran in Bangkok. Even without looking for one, you are in danger of stumbling into the middle of a water fight as soon as you step onto the street. Often this is just a bunch of local kids on the street outside their home splashing people as they pass by.
Here are some recommended places that we have gathered for you.
If you would like to experience traditional Thai new year activities away from the craziness of the modern-day water fights, visiting temples is a great idea. Since Songkran is a Buddhist festival, temples across the country no matter huge or small typically held Songkran activities. Hence, it’s just as worthwhile to visit whichever local temple is closest to your home or hotel and take a look at how local Thai Buddhists are marking the occasion there.
On the other hand, you can join the annual event called “Water Festival”. There will be traditionally themed Songkran events – centred around the idea of ‘the Thai way of life’ – at nine piers along the Chaophraya river, including Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Wat Kalaya and Wat Prayun temples, plus the Tha Maharaj pier, Yodipiman River walk at Pak Khlong Talat flower market, Asiatique the Riverfront, Lhong 1919, and SOOKSIAM @ ICONSIAM.
Other events in Bangkok include:
Most people have time off and try to escape Bangkok. However, this means it is also the perfect time to enjoy Bangkok without crowds! Over the last year many of the top Bangkok hotels have been offering some truly amazing deals and Songkran is no exception. Check out our article on The Best Staycations in Bangkok.
Songkran is a time when many people return to their home provinces to spend time with their families. Events pop up across the country. (more details to come)
Apart from the beautiful traditional side, this festival is also well known for its fun side, in the form of a massive water fight! Every year, there are over a million travelers from all over the world flying to Thailand to experience this joyful festival. The country gets soaked and streets are full of crowds coming out for the battle. There is no place to hide or avoid being splashed!
In Bangkok, 2 of the main areas for mass water fights are usually Silom Road and Khao San Road.
One of the most popular spots to celebrate the Songkran Festival in Bangkok. The road is full of both locals and tourists indulging in a frantic water fight throughout the day and into the evening. Expect live music performances and more all day, plus countless stalls set up in and around the area selling food, drinks, and all the supplies you could possibly need to make sure you can fully partake in the watery shenanigans.
Beware that entry to the area is usually via cordons controlled by police on the lookout for weapons. Police may also enforce restrictions on taking in oversized water pistols, clay powder (commonly moistened and light-heartedly used to smear on people’s faces during the water fights), and your own alcohol.
The road will be closed to traffic from midday onwards and turned into an enormous battle of water pistols from around 3 pm until late evening. You won’t go hungry or thirsty, or be short of water pistols, water refills, goggles, or other essential Songkran accessories – entrepreneurial local traders make a small fortune by setting up countless stalls to cater to the occasion. Also, like in the Khao San Road area, police will control entry and exit points to check for weapons and alcohols.
It is sad that we have to add this point, but Songkran is known to be serious time for road accidents due to drink driving. Please don’t be one of the guilty drivers and please take care!
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