Songkran in Thailand: Our field report from Phuket

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The Thai New Year festival called Songkran turns the streets of Thailand into a massive water fight every April. Nothing and nobody stays dry when Thais celebrate the beginning of the new year.

What can I expect when I travel to Thailand for Songkran? Where is the best place to celebrate Songkran? And what else is there to consider? In this article we will tell you our tips for the Thai New Year celebrations and tell you about our personal experiences from Phuket.

1. Songkran in Thailand: Info & FAQs What is celebrated at Songkran? Songkran is the Thai New Year festival. It will be – before mainly by tourists – often referred to as a water festival. And with good reason. We’ll tell you more about that in a moment.

Songkran is one of the most important festivals in Thailand. Many people go home to their families in the country during the holiday season. It is therefore not uncommon for small shops to close on Songkran.

When is Songkran taking place? Songkran is celebrated for three days, every year on the same date: from 12. until April.

How does Songkran work in Thailand? Songkran is basically a very traditional family festival. The thought behind it is as follows: Water cleanses us from the old year and prepares us for the new one.

On the eve by Songkran, on 12 . April, the entire apartment is traditionally cleaned and prepared for the celebrations. At the 13. April visits the nearby temple to pray and make offerings. Then all Buddhas in the house are poured with water.

Songkran is all about the ritual washing. This has developed over time into a huge water fight on the streets. The Thai New Year festival has two faces: A very traditional, family-related one and one where partying and alcohol are in the foreground.

On the streets of Thailand there is little to feel of the traditional idea. Here, especially in the tourist centers such as Chiang Mai, Phuket and Koh Samui , there is a lively party atmosphere. And here at the latest it becomes clear why the festival is known as a water festival among tourists.

Songkran is a single Water fight. From above, from the front, from behind, mixed with ice cubes, mud or baby powder: nobody is spared. Not even moped drivers. That makes the whole thing so dangerous. Every year several hundred people die in traffic accidents during Songkran! We will tell you later in this blog article what you need to pay attention to in concrete terms.

Do you get wet at Songkran? Almost certainly YES! Unless you’re about to barricade yourself in a hotel room for three days, expect to get wet.

In tourist hubs like Phuket and Koh Samui, it’s virtually impossible to get around the roads without not getting hit by a watery load or two. Of course, if you’re staying at a nice hotel on the beach then it’s possible to avoid the boozy celebrations.

Where to celebrate Songkran in Thailand? Short answer: Everywhere! Songkran is celebrated throughout Thailand. However, the way of celebrating varies a little. The more rural a region is, the more traditional it is.

In tourist centers like Phuket and Koh Samui there are big celebrations. If you want to avoid boisterous water fights, it is best to stay in a secluded hotel.

2. Personal experience report: Songkran in Phuket Traditional celebration within the family We were very lucky that we were allowed to celebrate the Thai New Year in a really traditional way. Together with our friend Rut we spent the day with her teacher and her family on the island of Phuket.

We made our way to the house by moped past singing, dancing and spilling water. Somehow we managed to arrive reasonably dry. (We were happy too soon!).

Traditionally, on New Year’s Day, a big meal is cooked first, then a small portion of each dish is set aside. When we asked Rut what that was for, she laughed and just said “For Buddha!” Buddha gets a little bit of everything: a piece of banana (you can see it in the one on the far right in the photo), a bit of papaya, a few spoonfuls of soup, some coconut juice, Curry and, and, and… “But he doesn’t eat”, the teacher’s husband said succinctly about the amount of offerings. “She always cooks for him, but he never eats.”

Then the new year will be heralded with crackers. There’s no countdown to midnight like we do, so it’s pretty boring. Unfortunately, Thai New Year’s pyrotechnics aren’t as romantic as the fireworks over Vienna’s night sky, so we were more glad when the whole thing was done than enjoying it.

After that we went to the culinary part of the ceremony. We were allowed to fill our bellies with delicious, authentic Thai food. There was also Thai red wine: ice cold and sour – so dispensable.

Ritual ablutions After the feast follows the actual ceremony: All Buddha figures in the house are doused with blossom water. Traditionally, the younger people wash the feet of the older ones first.

In order to start the new year clean, everyone present at Songkran in Thailand goes through the following procedure: First, you kneel in front of the Buddha figures and can wish for something. Then the Buddhas are poured with flower water and they go outside. There you will be showered with flower water yourself and thus washed clean of the worries, fears and other bad things of the past year .

We were also allowed to take part in this ceremony. We didn’t stay dry either, but we gladly accepted that! “Good luck to you! Good luck!” – oh we love the Thai mentality.

Contrast to this: water fight on the streets In the afternoon we drove back to the city with the moped. On our way back we got to know the other side of Songkran – the one we like less than the traditional one.

Hundreds of Thais danced in the streets and showered each other with water. Now that sounds amazing, doesn’t it? But it’s not at all, if we’re being honest. Have you ever been thrown buckets of water on the moving moped? It’s not that funny. If you add baby powder and ice water to that, the fun finally stops.

Ours Conclusion: We love the traditional Songkran celebrations. The one where the whole family sits together and laughs. But the other side, the party side, we honestly don’t like that much.

3. Practical Tips for Songkran in Thailand: Dos & Don’ts It goes without saying, but man I can’t say it often enough: Don’t drink and drive. If possible, we would advise you not to drive a moped during the three days. A lot of people get behind the wheel even though they’ve been drinking. The accident statistics during the New Year celebrations speak volumes. Clothes that are important to you stay in the closet during the three days. It’s best to wear something you can get dirty. Leave the expensive SLR camera at the hotel. It is best to pack your smartphone in a plastic bag if it is not waterproof. Even if others do it, but please spare passing mopeds. It is really dangerous for the driver. The same applies to monks If you don’t want to be right in the middle of the spectacle, then it’s best to look for a somewhat remote hotel. If you are not lucky enough to celebrate Songkran with a Thai family like we did, then at least visit a temple.And last but not least: Expect to get wet when you wake up walk the street Even if some spare you – you always have to expect that a young Thai will come running up from behind with a bucket of ice water. So try to take the whole thing with humor. 28209 Have you ever celebrated Songkran in Thailand ? Where did you spend the Thai New Year and how did you like it? Tell us about it in the comments – we look forward to it!