Songkran is a three-day celebration of the Thai New Year, which falls on the April 13 each year and is observed through April 15. Prior to modern times, the date wasn’t fixed, but was determined astrologically. It’s an exuberant festival whose main purpose is to purify and cleanse in preparation for the year ahead. People visit the wat (temple) to pay homage and give offerings to the monks and images of the Buddha are carefully cleaned, with fragrant water gently sluiced over them.
Elsewhere, the water blessings are a bit more manic. Water being the preferred method of purification, the opportunity for a giant water fight is irresistible. Those heading out into the streets are almost guaranteed a drubbing somewhere along the way, as strangers take it upon themselves to confer blessings with liberal doses of water via buckets, water pistols and whatever other receptacle they can get their hands on.
Chalk also plays a part, thought to have derived from the chalk monks would use to mark blessings, and it is not uncommon to see ghostlike apparitions tearing about the place…until they get drenched in water of course.
Songkran in Chiang Mai is easily the wettest – and probably the most fun – of any of the nationwide celebrations of the Thai Buddhist New Year. Bangkok’s parties may be the biggest and Pattaya’s are the longest, but nowhere sees as much water flying as Chiang Mai, which makes it one of the most popular places in the whole of Southeast Asia to visit in mid-April.
As Thailand’s most popular beach destination, Phuket sees wild celebrations during Songkran. All three days of the New Year break has developed into an orgy of water throwing using buckets and water guns. Even the police in Phuket will get involved, swapping their firearm for a water pistol for a few days. In the past, Songkran in Phuket was celebrated mainly on March 13th but in recent years you will find a morning till night party consume the island for a solid three days.
Besides the street festival atmosphere, there are a number of ancient rituals around the country. The Wai Khon Gaa ceremony in Samui for example involves all the members of the community gathering together to honour the two oldest individuals among them by…yes, you guessed it, pouring water over them!
Both Karma Royal Bella Vista and Karma Royal Boat Lagoon will be playing their parts in celebrating Songkran – expect Thai feasts, visits to some of the more interesting happenings around the island during the festival and of course, copious amounts of water…