When was the last time you had a good water fight? I bet it has been ages ago, at least mine I could hardly remember – until we happened to be in Thailand for the Songkran Festival.
Towards the end of our 6 months stay in Thailand everybody started talking about the Songkran Festival. I had never heard of it before and in general I’m not a big festival fan so I did not get very excited about it even though throwing water into other people’s faces sounded like fun. We didn’t pay so much attention to the talking until a few days before the supposedly big event when the amounts of water pistols (and their sizes!) which were literally sold everywhere seemed kind of odd. To be prepared (we still had no idea what was going to happen!) we also bought one. Just in case!
We watched some youtube videos of thousands of people going crazy in the streets of Bangkok and Chiang Mai but since we were in the South, in Ao Nang, at this time, we kind of felt save and thought not much would be happening (at least that’s what we have been told).
In the morning of the first festival day I left our bungalow to walk (usually I took the scooter but somehow I thought it would be better to walk that day) to our local 7-eleven store. Before reaching the main street I already heard a lot of noise, people screaming and shouting, horns beeping, laughter. But what I saw when I turned around the corner left me speechless for one moment: the street was stuck with cars, mostly big pick up trucks with the loading areas full of people shooting with water pistols and throwing buckets of water onto the crowd which was lining the street on both sides, shooting back. Additionally, many scooters tried to make their way a bit faster by crossing the cars to all directions. It was a huge chaos, slowly moving forward. Many cars were nicely decorated in colorful ornaments or had paintings all over, people wore colorful clothes, mostly soaking wet, and many had chalk in their faces.
I was stunned and soon realized that there was no way to reach 7-eleven on the other side of the street without getting completely wet. I watched the spectacle for a few more minutes, trying to figure out which way was the safest with least damage before I started running… I few seconds later I already felt the first cold water running down on my back and it didn’t take much longer for the first huge splash of water to hit my face. By the time I reached 7-eleven I was completely soaked but considering the heat (above 30 degrees) it actually felt quite refreshing. The only thing what bothered me was that I was unarmed and could not fire back. So I quickly finished my shopping and ran back to our bungalow to load our water gun and grab a water proof bag for my camera. A few minutes later we left on our scooter to join the party. We aimed to reach the centrum of Ao Nang where we suspected the center of the party at the beach front. However, to get there was quite a challenge! While my boyfriend was driving, trying to find a way through the traffic jam and partying people I sat in the back and was firing at everything that moved. It was so much fun! I felt like 5 again. That’s where 3 crazy party days started…
Facts about Songkran
Traditionally, Songkran is the celebration of the Buddhist New Year of the lunar calendar. It is a national holiday in Thailand, celebrated on April 13-15. The ancient religious festival is an opportunity for Thai’s to relax with their families. Commonly people pour water on Buddha statues which represents purification, all sins and bad luck are washed away. Also many street parades are held. The cars are decorated with colorful ornaments and people wear traditional clothes and jewelry.
Nowadays, major streets are closed for traffic and used as arena for water fights. People walk the streets and use water pistols or containers of water to wet each other. Some also stand at the side of the streets with a hose and soak everybody who passes by. It is also very common to smear chalk to people’s faces. This originates from the chalk used by monks to mark blessings.
Since water is the symbol of rebirth, Songkran is a way of celebrating life which always is a good thing I would say!
Songkran survival tips
To get the most fun out of the Songkran festival, here a few tips for you to consider:
- When you decide to join the party there is no chance to avoid getting wet! Most likely, you will also get wet when you decide not to join. There are only 2 options to stay dry: lock yourself into your hotel room for at least 3 days or leave the country!
- Since April is the hottest month in Thailand it actually feels good to get wet. But consider your clothing! You will walk around for hours in wet clothes. Long trousers or dresses are not recommended. Comfortable shorts and T-Shirt with your swimming suit underneath probably would be the best option.
- Take a waterproof bag for your valuables (camera, phone, glasses,…). Everything outside of this bag will be soaked after minutes.
- Buy a water pistol but consider the size! A small one will not get you very far, a big one might be too heavy when fully loaded. I would recommend to go for a medium-sized one. Many restaurants and bars offer huge containers to refill the pistols any time.
- Prepare for heavy drinking! As with all festivals around the globe the amount of alcohol consumtion also increases during Songkran. Since it lasts at least 3 days (it felt more like a week) a slower pace of alcohol consumption during the first day(s) might be helpful to still be able to enjoy the last day 😉
If you haven’t been to Thailand for Songkran I highly recommend going! Prepare to get soaked and to have the time of your life in a fun and exciting water fight – you’ll feel like a kid again!
Have you joined the Songkran festival already? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below!