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The Ultimate Guide to Songkran

Published:
February 9, 2018

Thai New Years may sound like just a blip on the radar of most festival seekers. With seemingly hundreds of options for large scale festivals and parties, what makes Thai New Years anything different from Chinese New Years or New Years celebrations here in the west?

In a nutshell, the Songkran celebration is hundreds of thousands of people flooding the streets  all over Thailand with water guns, buckets and hoses to soak each other to the bone, dance in the streets and most oddly, cover each others faces in a gray thick clay for three days straight.

Songkran is celebrated all over Thailand, from Chiang Mai which some say is the mecca of Songkran, to Bangkok where 12 million people reside ready to cool down from the hottest days of the year, all the way to the Thai Islands which may not be as wild as it’s northern counterparts but if complete insanity is not your thing, the islands would be perfect.

The party starts first thing in the morning with people sitting outside their hostels with water guns shooting anyone who is misfortunate enough to be getting their morning walk in anywhere near Koh San Road (One of the biggest party streets on earth filled with people from every country on Earth that enjoys a good party).  Children walk with their parents holding princess water guns and looking either completely confused or ecstatic about the situation. Tourists will be out early not realizing that the real party starts in the afternoon and evening, drinking too much and passing out at 9pm the first night. The locals come out around 6pm and stay out all night.

Bangkok has three major areas for Songkran

1- Koh San Road

Go to KSR if you can’t wait any longer and you want to start having fun early. The party starts around 9am and goes all night. By noon you will be shoulder to shoulder with people jumping up and down to loud hip hop music or getting in one on one water battles with a random guy who shot you in the eye from the side of the street. This is about 90 percent tourists which sometimes is the most fun because they traveled halfway around the world for this, so they are ready to party hard!

2- Royal City Avenue (RCA)

RCA gets started around 4 or 5 pm and is an amazing experience if you’re looking to experience how the locals party. There is thousands of Thai young people either dancing, singing or at a nearby concert with a DJ and electronic music. There is good food near the concerts too. 20 Baht (55 cents) for chicken on a stick or 100 Baht ($2.75) for some good Pad Thai. This is quite a distance in heavy traffic from Koh San Road so make sure to be prepared to wait in traffic or try to be in the area earlier in the day.

3- Silom

Silom is a great place for a SLIGHTLY more family friendly Songkran. KSR and RCA both are more designated for a crazier university age crowd while Silom is slightly more of a friendly fun environment. There isn’t as much electronic music and drunk people (there will still be drunk people though, it is a festival after all!)

In the islands (Koh Samui)

In the Islands it can be hit and miss. On Koh Samui I suggest Chaweng Beach area near Ark Bar. It will be a little touristy but plenty of fun. The first day is celebrated most in the smaller areas and on the last day there is basically no celebrations at all depending where you are. So make sure to be there for the first two days especially if you’re planning on celebrating on the islands.

In Chiang Mai

In Chiang Mai it is a city wide party that doesn’t have as big 0f differences in experiences as Bangkok. In general, most celebrations are the same with the amount of people being the main difference between places. In Chiang Mai it is less of a huge party and more of a traditional fun filled free for all.  Look out for “water gangs” which is small trucks filled with about 10 people ready to soak anyone they come across with buckets of water! The parade on the opening day is beautiful and a “can’t miss” if you’re experiencing Songkran in Chiang Mai. A few good places to make sure to experience is:

1- Thapae Gate

A great place to watch the parade as it makes it’s way through town and a place sure to have many people ready for fun throughout the evening.

2-Chiang Mai Gate

 There is a big food market near Chiang Mai gate and although most stalls open after 5pm (if at all on Songkran) it is a must visit before going wild for the rest of the evening.

3- Moat, Canals and Ping River

 The great thing about celebrating in Chiang Mai is that it’s literally everywhere. You will see larger groups of water warriors some places but it’s just everywhere. Go explore the city, but never let your guard down.

Songkran is wild. In fact it’s one of the wildest festivals I’ve ever experienced. I knew it would be fun but Thai New Year really takes it to another level. Three days, three nights of constant music, dancing and getting unexpectedly soaked by a cold bucket of water.

Pro Tips for Songkran

  1. Wear big sunglasses. Especially ones that protect the sides of your eyes. You will be shot in the face a lot and a hard shot to your eye will absolutely ruin your day or possibly worse.
  2. If you take a Tuk Tuk (Motorcycle taxi) expect to be soaked. Don’t take your phone out of a bag or a nice camera. When you least expect it, a big bucket of water will come flying in at you. Be ready, have your squirt guns at full alert at all times to return fire.
  3. Don’t take anything seriously or personally. People will smear clay on your face and sometimes in your nose or eye. It’s really annoying but you must keep smiling. Everyone here is having a blast and nobody is really trying to pick on you. Smile, have your friend spray you in the face to clean it off if you want and keep moving forward.
  4. Don’t drink too early. I think this is the best tip for all festivals but this one especially. It’s hot, you’re constantly moving and not thinking about drinking water because you’re spraying it all. The real fun starts in the evening. Don’t miss out on it because you couldn’t wait to drink. Remember, your body still has the ability to dance and have a great time without alcohol. Drink if you want, but understand you need to pace yourself.
  5. Buy your water guns early! The day before or as early as you can from a grocery store or somewhere far away from Koh San Road if possible. Prices can be ridiculous if you don’t realize the exchange rate. Most guns go for around 200 baht ($5.50) but there are plenty that go for 500 baht or more to drunk guys that want a big powerful gun because they are tired of being overpowered.
  6. Don’t be an asshole. There are a few guys you will see walking through the crowds shooting people directly in the eyes from close range and walking off. Some will sit on the side of the road and snipe people as the walk by and get them in the eyes or ear. Those people are assholes. Don’t be an asshole.

Have a blast and enjoy Thai New Years you crazy party animal you!

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