Official 2015 dates: 12-15th April.
The important thing to remember is Songkran is a MAJOR Thai holiday. It’s the Thai New Year and for better or worst it has evolved into a country-wide water fight.
Now you might be thinking, what is NOT to like about a huge water fight? Well, despite the nation’s best advertising efforts to “ban alcohol” or curtail the consumption of, during Songkran, it doesn’t happen. If one place isn’t selling, you can be sure another store is. Folks also stock up. So imagine if you will, all day partying and then driving. It gets fairly grisly for the good people of Thailand. But who knows, with this year, as pickup trucks carrying water have been banned. I can’t imagine this working in a smaller towns or the countryside but again, who knows. (it didn’t)
Did I mention Songkran is a major holiday? Ah yes. So any travel plans must be made well in advance as Thais return to their hometowns to be with family. It has also become a very well-known holiday so accommodations are quickly swallowed up. (And coupled with the fact that Thailand is experiencing a big tourism boom, I’ve made my reservations already.)
Oh, and I almost forgot. Many Thais and expats leave the country during Songkran because it gets so insane. And because it’s a major holiday everything shuts down, so it’s not like you can get caught up on running errands or anything. This being said, don’t be so surprised when Thais tell you they will be staying home during Songkran week (2014 “official” dates: 13-15). This isn’t new and exciting for them – it’s just like New Year’s Eve for us, some want to go out to party and others don’t mind keeping it at home.
Okay, but it’s still a massive water fight, right? Yeah. And once you wrap your mind around the idea that you will get wet/doused even if you are just trying to get somewhere, and decide to participate/surrender to it, Songkran can be a LOT of fun. This will be my fourth Songkran and I feel good about the different experiences I’ve had so far.
I wrote about my past Songkran experiences here. But if you are feeling exceptionally lazy, here is part of it:
I’ve celebrated it three times in three different ways and to me, it is a water fight, with religion somewhere in there along with the alcohol and aloha wear. In 2009, I was in Lamphun with my family where we spontaneously decided to fill up a plastic garbage bin and put it in the back of my cousin’s truck.
We drove around the city moat ambushing strangers, sitting in traffic, making new friends at “refill stations” aka someone’s water hose, stopping for beef noodle soup only to leave puddles of our own behind in the restaurant. I learned that blocks of ice were put in the water and perfected my water throwing aim or “sling” technique with my little bucket.
In 2011, I was shown the party side of Chiang Mai’s celebration from the music stages and firemen hoses at Kad Suan Kaew to the dancing girls on Loy Kroh. This year (2012), we walked around the northern half of the moat, laughing and splashing, and watching the procession of Buddhas from the city’s wats parading down Ratchadmnern.
If you want to participate and I recommend that you do, at least just once, here’s some advice but I’d like to add, I don’t think a copy of your passport is necessary, and carry your money in a plastic baggie too. Also, a hat is important. Not for the sun, although probably a good idea for folks out in the sun all day, but for water blockage.
I wear a floppy cotton hat to prevent the water from hitting my ears. Some of the water is from the moat, not the cleanest, and water squirted directly at you can sometimes cause problems like ear infections. Sorry if I sound like a mother. Advice, take it or leave it.
I found water throwing techniques here and if you are in Bangkok, definitely check out this site, although it’s funny because the banner picture features a Chiang Mai expat, so I wonder if the picture was taken here.
For those who want to read up on Songkran, I like ChiangMaiBest’s page. Have fun, be smart and remember to be like a fish in the water – go with the flow.