Songkran Survival 101

If you ever find yourself in Thailand in mid-April, it will be hard to escape Songkran.  With only a few weeks until Thailand’s infamous new year festival, it’s time to start making your preparations for the world’s biggest water fight.

Choose your base wisely.

Songkran is celebrated across Thailand but there are a number of places that are known for putting on an extra special party.  Popular Songkran venues include cities from the full length of the country from Sukhothai to Bangkok or further south to Hat Yai, but by far the most infamous Songkran destination is Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand with thousands of people (foreigners and Thai citizens alike) descending on the city to take part in the festivities.

If, like many others, you decide to make Chiang Mai your Songkran base be sure to book in advance to avoid disappointment and make sure you consult a map before choosing your accommodation.  The bulk of the festivities take place at Tha Phae gate in the old city wall and public transport grinds to a halt as the streets are overtaken by revelers.  To avoid a long, soggy walk home at the end of the day choose a hostel close to the action.  Then again, if you’d rather have a bit of distance between your night time sanctuary and the endless festivities, perhaps this area would be best to avoid.

If you are looking for a more authentic Songkran experience consider avoiding the more touristy areas; images of the celebrations in the north east of Thailand look particularly beautiful.

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Songkran in Chiang Mai

Invest in a good weapon

As with any big holiday, in the weeks running up to Songkran the shop shelves start to fill up with all manner of associated things to be bought including a huge range of aquatic weaponry.  From manual pump-action cannons to backpack devices shaped like Hello Kitty, there is something for all budgets.

Some points to consider when choosing your weapon;

Tactics – will you be going for hand to hand, up close combat or a more stealthy approach?

Capacity – there will be buckets of water along the streets for you to refill from , but do you really want to be stopping every three minutes to load up on ammunition?

Longevity – are you taking part in just one day or will you be in it for the long run?  Cheap plastic water guns simply can’t hack the pressure of a Songkran battle.

Think about your dates

The official dates for Songkran are 13th-15th April, but in many popular Songkran destinations the festivities will start a few days before and will continue beyond the supposed end date.  If you are making a vacation out of it think carefully about your arrival and departure dates – you definitely don’t want to be walking the streets looking for your hostel or a taxi to the airport one the water fights have begun – unarmed people with backpacks full of possessions will be shown no mercy.

Leave the bike at home

Don’t bother trying to drive during Songkran unless you are avoiding the celebration completely.  In many places roads will be closed anyway, or traffic will be at a snail’s pace as pickups loaded with water make their way through the city.  Songkran can be quite a boozy affair (despite alcohol bans) and with water fights extending into the roads it isn’t a good idea to be driving.  Leave the bike at home and go on foot – the streets will be packed with fellow revelers so get involved.

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The crowd parts for a Songkran procession.

Waterproofing

Get yourself some sort of waterproof bag for your essentials – there are plenty on sale and it really is worth investing in something of you want your money to stay in one piece.  Also, think about your clothing – denim is a definite no no in a water fight situation (hello chafing).

Keep your cool

Songkran can feel like all out warfare at times and it is very easy to get carried away.  Don’t let the booze get to your head and make sure you remember that this is all supposed to be a bit of fun.  Give as good as you get and expect to take a bucket of ice water down your back every one in a while.  This is not the place to be getting annoyed with someone for spraying you in the face or catching you out with a soaking – if you don’t like it, go home.

There will also be older Thai people out partaking in a more traditional manner, with small bowls of water and a white paste.  The tradition is to only sprinkle a little water on the back of the neck and put some paste on the face – respect this and don’t go all out attacking an old woman outside her home.

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Note how there is not one drop of water on these lovely ladies.

For more information about the Songkran celebrations for this year, check out the festival’s official website here.

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Photo of the Day – Songkran in Chiang Mai

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A random respite from endless water fighting as a religious procession makes its way through the crowds on the streets of Chiang Mai, and on to the temple within the city walls.

Songkran is Thailand’s infamous water festival taking place in the hottest month of April, seeing in the Thai new year and offering a fun way to kep cool in the searing heat.  What was traditionally a trickle of water down the back of the neck has become all out warfare with super soakers and water cannons.  A must-do for anyone in Thailand at that time of year!

Some images from Songkran

Songkran is the traditional Thai new year celebration held from 13th-15th April, and in some places, a few days before and after.  Songkran is famous for its water throwing antics that attract tourists in their thousands onto the streets to take part, although traditionally it is only customary to pour a little water down the back of a person’s neck it has been taken to the extremes with full scale wars erupting across streets involving big water guns and ice cold water.  As a city surrounded by water (the moat encircling the old city), Chiang Mai has become infamous for its Songkran celebrations, and we were not disappointed!

Obviously due to the amount of water everywhere I wasn’t really able to get that many pictures, but here are a few of the main water fight at Tha Phae gate and the procession that went through the city to the temple. 

The world’s biggest water fight and me.

I’ve just woken up after a full 12 hours of sleep. Today is the first official day of the Thai New Year celebration of Songkran, yet our room is littered with the signs of battle already; damp clothing strewn up to dry, water pistols scattered across the bathroom floor. It appears that when any large number of farangs get involved things need to get started a little earlier, a whole day and a half earlier to be precise, if my memory of our first surrender to aquatic attack serves me right.

A quick google search of ‘Songkran’ informs you that 12th April serves as a religious day of processions, making merit with monks, spring cleaning homes and paying visits to elders – we spent the day in full water battle in a crowd that was around 80% non-Thai, with a booming soundtrack of old school drum and bass (I felt 18 again) being provided by official Air Asia stages, blasting the crowd with beats and an endless spray of cool water. Weapons of choice range from small water pistols to pump action super-soaker-style long range high pressure water cannon guns. My weapon of choice? A ‘Super Wallop Water Gun’ which is a mid to low range battle instrument. Good for close quarter combat and battles with children. Tom has a ‘Super Shooter Constant Pressure’ pump action beast – able to reach across roads and over obstacles – much better than mine but then again he has the balls to use it whereas I am more of a ‘cover the face and run‘ type of person – those of you that know me from back home will understand that my fear of getting my face wet will make Songkran a challenge but does equip me with amazing skills at dodging water from any angle!

And so we begin our first official day of Songkran – Thai people are on holiday now so the imbalance in the crowd should ease out. First things first, we need to walk to get some breakfast – wish us luck!!