Songkran, the much-loved and much-anticipated yearly event, is more than about water-fights and fun in the sun. The Thai New Year traditions stretch back hundreds of years, and in a country as large and diverse as Thailand, how the festival is celebrated differs from province to province – each community having their own unique centuries-old traditions.
Top tips to get the most out of Songkran:
- In the morning, make merit and listen to temple sermons to understand and benefit from the spiritual side of the festival. Remember that during the New Year festival, the temple activities are the most important aspects of the celebration.
- To purify or bath the Buddha or other statues, water should not be poured directly onto the head of the relic, rather on other parts of the statue’s torso.
- The custom of pouring water onto the hand of elders’ (people above 60 years old), is to show respect and seek their New Year blessings. This custom is called the Rod Nam Dum Hua ritual.
- Water used to splash on others should be clean or mixed with Thai traditional fragrances. Avoid throwing water aggressively or using high-pressure water guns or hoses. Avoid throwing water with ice.
- Women should be wary of wearing tight clothes or ones that are light in colour and/or made of thin fabric. When wet, such garments can become quite revealing, raising the risk of sexual harassment.
Here are some of the locations to celebrate Songkran where ancient traditions are still being observed.
Bangkok (12-15 April)
Phra Buddha Sihing image from the National Museum will be taken on a parade around the Bangkok Municipal Administration for the public to bath and pray to. Visitors are suggested to wear Thai traditional clothes.
For the urban ways of celebrating Songkran, go to the streets of Khao San and Silom, where revellers will swarm the area in search for a riotous good time.
Ayutthaya (13-15 April)
Join locals in celebrating Songkran in the ancient capital of Ayuttaya with a merit-making ceremony at Viharn Phra Mongkolborpit, the procession of Miss Songkran and elaborately-decorated floats, bathing Buddha image, join Rod Nam Dum Hua ritual and enjoy many other religious and cultural activities.
Samut Prakan (date differs from location to location)
Phra Pradaeng is one of the few places in Thailand that celebrates the Thai New Year in the Thai-Mon style. Visitors can enjoy a beautiful parade of floral wagons, contests of Miss Songkran and Mister Loi Chai, a Mon folk play and a Mon game of Saba. (17-19 April)
In Bang Nam Phueng district, highlights include Miss Jumbo-Nam Pheung and Miss Songkran contest, local comedy and play, as well as many cultural activities. (13-15 April)
Kanchanaburi (date differs from location to location)
The Thai-Myanmar border town of Sangkhlaburi will celebrate Songkran from 13-18 April. The ‘Mon’ or the ethic Burmese-Thai people perform a merit-making ritual to Buddhist monks on Thailand’s longest wooden bridge. There’s also a Mon ceremony of bathing Buddha statues through bamboo pipes that can be kilometers in length.
Nong Prue district will celebrate Songkran with the Wax Castle Procession from 13-17 April. Other activities are merit-making ceremony, Rod Nam Dum Hua ritual, and local play.
Chiang Mai (12-16 April)
The Prapeni Pi Mai Mueang lasts five days. Highlights include joining the procession of Chiang Mai’s prominent Phra Buddha Sihing image as well as bathing the image, and taking part in a parade bringing sand and Sali (Bodhi tree) clutches to temples.
Sukhothai’s Sri Satchanalai (8-12 April)
Join the worshipping ceremony of Phra Maha Thammaracha I and the royal dynasty as well as enjoy the Lady Oi Tan – Miss Songkran competition and the Chang pho Mueang parade at Sri Satchanalai Historical Park.
In addition, on 13-15 April, there will be a Songkran celebration in remembrance of Sukhothai as an ancient capital of Thailand, also at Sri Satchanalai Historical Park.
Chiang Rai (13-15 April)
Phra Buddha Sihing image from Wat Phra Singha will be taken on a parade for the public to bath and pray to. Join the procession of Miss Songkran, sand pagoda building contest and a range of fun-filled local shows.
Mae Hong Son (13-15 April)
Join the procession of the Buddha image and Miss Songkran as well as enjoy various fun-filled activities including Songkran fancy parade, local sports, and cooking demonstration of local snacks and sweet.
Tak (13-15 April)
Join the Thai-Myanmar Songkran celebration on the banks of Moei River. Other highlights include the Muay Kaad Cheuk matches between Thai and Myanmar fighters. This is an ancient Muay Thai martial art in which the fighters wrap their fists and forearms in hemp rope.
Phichit (8-10 April)
Bathing the highly-revered Por Pu image in which devout Buddhists pour fragrant water over the image to mark the welcoming of the New Year, worship the provincial shrine in Mueang district, and learn the captivating history of Phichit in the magnificent light-and-sound presentation.
Udon Thani (12-16 April): Bath Buddhist monks and Rod Nam Dum Hua ritual. Savour local dishes at the avenue of food, staging especially to showcase the best flavours from around the town.
Nong Khai (6-18 April)
Baht the revered Luang Por Phra Sai Buddha image as it is paraded around the city. Join a party on the Thailand-Laos Friendship Bridge that signifies the unity between the two nations.
Nakhon Ratchasima (13-15 April)
Join the spectacular Songkran procession, merit-making activity, Rod Nam Dum Hua ritual, local play, and stage entertainment from leading Thai artists.
Mukdahan (12-16 April)
This is where Thailand, Lao PDR and Vietnam jointly celebrate Songkran with spectacular procession that depicts the characteristics of the three Mekong nations, as well as the long-standing friendships between the peoples. Join the merit-making ceremony and Rod Nam Dum Hua ritual.
Chon Buri (date differs from location to location)
In Meaung district, there will be a parade of the ‘God of Death’ statue to the sea to chase away bad luck (13-17 April).
In Bang Saen district, people from local villages will come together in a ceremony called Wan Lai to make merit with a sand pagoda competition (18-19 April).
In Sri Racha district, other traditional events set to take place including a rice pagoda parade and performances of local plays (19-21 April).
Hat Yai, Songkhla (11-15 April)
This is the only place in Thailand to celebrate Songkran at midnight. Enjoy the full fun of Songkran from midday to midnight with various fun-filled activities including Songkran procession, local sports, Miss Songkran contest, and various forms of entertainment.
Nakhon Si Thammarat (11-15 April)
Join the procession of Nang Dan, which is synonymous to Sonkran celebration in Nakhon Si Thammarat. Bath the highly-revered Phra Buddha Sihing image, join the Rod Nam Dum Hua ritual and enjoy local play.
Ko Samui, Surat Thani (12-14 April)
Samui Beach Songkran Festival highlights the water splashing along Chawang Beach Road and Samui Muay Thai Angels matches.
Phuket (13-15 April)
The popular tourist island celebrates what it calls Songkran on the Beach with merit-making ceremony, Rod Nam Dum Hua ritual, and various competitions and fun-filled entertainments.
The dates may be subject to change. For more information, contact TAT Call Centre 1672.