Disguised as the Thai New Year and celebrated around the Kingdom of Thailand as Songkran, is one of the most spectacular festivals on the Thai calendar and perhaps the biggest Water Fight in the World!
The traditional Thai New Year, is unquestionably, the most spectacular, wettest and interactive festival on the Thai calendar. This Annual Festival and it’s importance, is boosted by all 3 days being declared National Public Holiday’s.
In 2015, the three-day “Maha Songkran” or “Thai New Year” festival, starts on Monday, 13th April. On this day, the majority of the traditional religious and New Year ceremonies take place in Temples all over the Kingdom. This day is chosen because it is normally the day of the year when the day-time and night-time hours are of equal length. The second day of the festival is, “Nao Day”, the “Middle Day”, on Tuesday 14th April. The last day of the festival is New Years Day on Wednesday, 15th April.
This is a religious and respectful time, when images of Buddha are “bathed’ and the younger Thais seek the blessing of their elders by pouring scented water over their hands in a cleansing ceremony known as, “Rod Nahm Dum Hua”. This water cleansing is why Songkran has evolved into the water fight it is today.
Be aware that the actual water fight does vary substantially in length. In some cities and provinces, the water activities only last for 24 hours, commencing the night before
Songkran, Songkran Eve, and finish around dinner time on Songkran Day. Perhaps the longest is Chiang Mai, you are guaranteed to get wet every time you venture outside
for up to 7 days.
If you are in Thailand at this time, and you venture outside; YOU WILL GET WET, it is unavoidable.
The only way to stay dry is to stay indoors. For obvious reasons, hotels, restaurants and the like forbid water throwing inside the premises. Water and electricity are not good friends!
• Dress appropriately. NO swimming costumes, this is a religious event, so please wear clothes that are not too revealing. A t-shirt or singlet and shorts are appropriate and adequate. For safety reasons, do not enter the battle bare-footed
• Protect your valuables. Waterproof bags are readily available and are recommended for mobile phones, money, glasses and keys
• Be well armed. You do not need to bring water pistols from home. Every second or third shop will have a display of water guns, in different sizes and colours for sale
• Wear sunglasses, better still, wear goggles, to prevent your eyes from sun damage, rogue water sprays and any bugs that may be in the water
• Wear clothing that will protect you from the sun or apply sunscreen regularly to prevent sunburn
• Occasionally you will see a local fully wrapped in plastic attempting to get to work as dry as possible, give them a break, don’t hose them, only sprinkle water on them
• Be respectful. The water fight has evolved from a religious festival celebrating the start of a new year and the cleansing of bad fortune. Remember that Songkran is a Thai Tradition, we are visitors in this country, and are fortunate to have been welcomed to participate and enjoy alongside the Thai people.
• Get blessed; In Thai culture, Songkran initially was celebrated by dousing water over the shoulders or hands. It’s considered a blessing or good luck and something many Thais will do to you, and you should reciprocate.
• Make a talcum powder mix; Whether walking around or stationary, at some stage you will be approached by someone with a bowl of scented talcum powder mixed with water, attempting to smear the paste on your face or body, don’t be alarmed or offended. It’s a blessing. Why not do this for a while as a break from the water?
• The Songkran Festival coincides with the hottest time of the year in Thailand and is a pressure valve for an overheated and overworked population
• There is an annual mass exodus from Bangkok, as many as 2 million Thai’s who have come to the capital city to find work, travel back to rural areas to visit family, friends and take part in this cultural celebration of family and religion, celebrated with the world biggest water fight!
• The roads, normally regarded among the most dangerous in the world, will rise a notch or two on the danger scale. There are over 300 deaths, and thousands of serious and minor road accident injuries over these 3 days
• Banks are closed on the 13th April and many businesses are closed for longer
Thailand’s Songkran New Year Festival signifies a cleansing of the mind and body, the washing away of previous bad luck and creates a new beginning.
Now, it’s an all-out water war.
People take to the streets with hoses, buckets, and water guns as they try to get everyone, no exceptions, around them as soaking wet as possible.
Thailand is not the only country to hold a nation-wide water fight, variations of the Songkran celebrations also take place in Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar, however, Thailand’s is the most famous. Tourists come from all over the world just to be a part of these wet and wild activities.
After the visit to the local Temple, and a gathering of family and friends, and the early morning respectful roadside greeting consisting of the sprinkling of a few drops of water and a “Sabaidee Mai” , the whole country declares itself at war, a water war, with water being the only weapon.
Well, almost the only weapon, I will explain more later.
The longest Songkran celebrations are held in Chiang Mai. The city is considered the place to witness festivities in Thailand. If you intend to visit and stay in the city, book flights and hotel rooms well in advance.
One of the main attractions is the sheer scale of the water fights. The entire moat area of Chiang Mai and Thae Pae Road, becomes jammed with open-backed trucks full of revelers crawling through town, hurling water at those in the street. Armed with buckets, water pistols and hose pipes, nobody escapes the water, so smile, have a great time and you will experience an event like nothing you have seen before.
The other weapon that I mentioned earlier, is powder, yes, regular talcum powder mixed with water. Many brands of powder are used and all bar 1 are totally harmless. The powder is mixed with water until it becomes paste. It is generally smeared on your cheeks, forehead, arms or legs, and signifies protection and promises to ward off evil.
Now it is common for people to use a prickly heat powder containing camphor and menthol that can sting if it gets in your eyes, the upside is, it will stop you from itching!
THE LAST WORD
Location: Thailand, everywhere
Dates: 13–15 April 2015
Action Level: 10/10 – Songkran is a no-holds-barred water fight, and tourists are fair game, both to be soaked and to do the soaking