Every year in the middle of April people of South-East Asia celebrate a Buddhist New Year. The celebration lasts several days. In Thailand this festival is Songkran which originates from India and the word is translated as “transition” from ancient Indian language. The festival is a symbol of the season change, the renewal of the nature and the beginning of spring and the rainy season. Only in 1940 the King of Thailand announced 1 January the official beginning of the New Year. However, at the same time all the holidays, including Thai New Year, are also celebrated according to Buddhist Moon calendar. In 2017 Thailand will be celebrating the arrival of 2560 year.
In the first place, Thai New Year is a religious and family holiday. The morning begins with the traditional services in temples, generous donations to monks as a sign of the worship of Buddha and acceptance of Buddhist philosophy. Having returned from the temples, Thai people carry out the ritual washing of family’s Buddha statue with clean water with rose and jasmine petals. They also traditionally wash the hands of the eldest family members asking for their blessings and good luck in the next year. After that the Thais have a festive dinner in the company of their family. It is evident that nobody works on this day.
The date of the celebration may vary in different Thai provinces, but usually the festival is held over a period of 13-19 April. In 2017 Songkran will be celebrated on the 13th April in Phuket and on the 18-19th April in Pattaya. Apart from visiting holy places and performing religious rituals, the Thais throw water and sprinkle each other with clay or talc. Water and talc are meant to cleanse people from the negative thoughts, feelings and emotions.
The washing and cleansing takes place everywhere - in the streets of all the cities, so any tourist who is in Thailand during this celebration becomes an active participant of the event. Prepare water pistols or bottles or other containers filled with water to take part in Songkran ritual washing. The celebrations usually involve drinking a lot of alcohol, playing loud music and other activities which may cause troubles and spoil your holiday in Thailand.
A number of fatal road accidents happening during Songkran festivities is very big. The reasons for the transport accidents are drunk driving and busy traffic caused by the concentration of a huge number of motorbikes, cars and tuk-tuks on the roads. It is common knowledge that the road traffic and driving is the most dangerous in South-East Asia, and during the festival the statistics on the road accidents is even worse than on usual days. It is not surprising that the police increases the traffic control during these days and checks the amount of alcohol in drivers’ blood. Accidents involving motorbikers who suffered from a sudden throw of water are very common. Sometimes the force of the thrown water is so strong that it hits the drivers really hard. Some people prepare big amounts of water on purpose to increase the “smashing” effect. There were accidents when people and even motorbikes were knocked over by water pistols.
During Songkran a festive parade takes place in the central streets of the city, that is why the traffic is busy, it is difficult to go anywhere by personal or public transport. It is almost impossible to get a taxi and arrive on time.
Songkran is a holiday for all Thai people, so all state organizations, banks, most shops and entertainment parks are closed. Most tours and excursions are not available during the festival.
The water which the Thais throw at each other is usually cold. Thai people fill tanks with water and ice which was prepared in advance. The contrasting temperatures may cause unpleasant feelings and even a cold in future because one portion of poured water is enough to get soaked. Absolutely anyone can be doused with water no matter what they are wearing or if they are carrying an expensive photo camera or a mobile phone.
If you enjoy crazy noisy parties and want to immerse yourselves into the celebration, prepare a waterproof bag for valuable things and dry change clothes, put a waterproof case or a plastic packet on your camera, put on your swimsuits, get water pistols and be ready for adventures! You can buy water pistols in any shop, for example in 7/11. It is better to walk and not use any transport.
If you prefer a quiet rest and can not stand icy shower, we recommend to avoid walking in the central streets or just stay inside. It is possible to book a tour to the islands in advance and enjoy a peaceful holiday far away from the big noisy celebration.
If your flight happens to be during Songkran festival, book a taxi in advance and plan your trip to the airport carefully. Leave your hotel a few hours before the flight - better early in the morning or at night. At Songkran there won’t be many available taxi drivers and it will be almost impossible to guarantee a car delivery in time due to the parades in the main streets.