Thailand’s Songkran Festival: A Photo Essay

Thailand's Songkran Festival: Thai People Celebrating on the Back of a Pickup Truck

Ah, Songkran, the festival of joy and water! It’s a time when Thailand’s streets are filled with laughter and fun, and the air is filled with the sound of splashing water.

Imagine this: it’s a hot and humid day, the kind of day where you feel like you’re melting under the oppressive Thai sun. You step outside, and then suddenly, you’re drenched in water! However, instead of feeling annoyed like you would on a normal day… you feel elated because it’s Songkran!

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Songkran Festival

Why Is Songkran Special?

Songkran is special because it’s not just a festival, it’s a celebration of life itself. It’s a time when people come together to forget their worries and immerse themselves in the joy of the moment. It’s a time to cleanse oneself of negativity and welcome new beginnings.

The splashing of water during Songkran is not just a playful activity, but it also holds a deeper meaning. Water is a symbol of purification and renewal, and by drenching each other in water, we are cleansing ourselves of past sins and starting afresh.

Songkran is one of the most fun and exciting festivals in the world, and it’s easy to see why. It’s basically a huge water fight where everyone is armed with buckets, water guns, and hoses. People are dancing in the streets, music is blaring, and laughter is everywhere. It’s a massive party, and everyone is invited!

The water fight itself is incredibly exhilarating. There’s nothing like the feeling of a bucket of ice-cold water hitting you on a hot day. The water fight just so happens to be a great way to cool down and stay refreshed during the scorching hot Thai summer.


History of Songkran

The history of Songkran dates back to ancient times when the festival was celebrated as a way of marking the end of the dry season and the beginning of the rainy season. The festival was originally a time for farmers to rest and celebrate their harvest before the hard work of the rainy season began.

Over time, Songkran became more closely associated with the Buddhist religion. It’s believed that during Songkran, the Buddha images are cleaned with water as a symbol of purification and renewal. Water is also poured over the hands of Buddhist monks and elders as a sign of respect and to seek blessings for the new year.

The water festival aspect of Songkran is thought to have originated in the northern regions of Thailand. It’s believed that the tradition of splashing water on each other during Songkran started as a way of showing respect to elders and asking for their blessings. This tradition gradually evolved into the water fight that we see today, with people of all ages taking part in the fun.

Songkran Festival Tips

What You Need to Know

If you are planning to witness the Songkran festival, some of the best places to experience it are in major cities like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket. In these cities, the streets are closed to traffic, and locals and tourists alike engage in water fights, street parties, and other festive activities.

In Bangkok, the epicenter of the celebrations is Khao San Road, which is known for its lively atmosphere and numerous water fights. Chiang Mai, on the other hand, is renowned for its cultural activities and religious ceremonies, which take place in temples across the city. Meanwhile, in Phuket, the festival is marked by beach parties and other fun activities.

The Songkran festival is primarily celebrated in Thailand, and is the country’s most important public holiday. It is observed from April 13 to 15 every year, and the celebrations are held throughout the country.

The origins of the Songkran festival can be traced back to ancient times, and it has been celebrated in various forms in different parts of Southeast Asia for centuries. However, the current version of the festival, which is observed in Thailand as the traditional Thai New Year, is believed to have its roots in ancient Indian and Khmer cultures.

The name Songkran is derived from the Sanskrit word “samkranti,” which means “astrological passage.” It marks the beginning of the Thai solar calendar and the start of the agricultural season.

In Thailand, the Songkran festival was officially recognized as a national holiday in 1940 by the government of King Rama VI. Since then, it has become one of the most important and widely celebrated festivals in the country, with festivities lasting for several days.

The festival is deeply rooted in Buddhist culture and is a time for reflection, renewal, and the strengthening of family and community ties. It is also a time for giving thanks and showing gratitude to elders and ancestors, and for seeking blessings for the coming year.

If you plan to participate in the Songkran festival, it’s important to dress appropriately for the occasion. Since it’s a water festival, you should wear clothes that you don’t mind getting wet or dirty, and that will dry quickly. It’s also a good idea to wear clothes that are lightweight and breathable, as the festival takes place during the hot and humid month of April.

Many locals and tourists wear traditional Thai clothing during the festival, such as the “pha sin” (a traditional Thai skirt) or the “chut thai” (a Thai-style dress). These garments are often made from lightweight fabrics like silk or cotton, and are decorated with bright colors and intricate patterns.

If you prefer not to wear traditional clothing, you can opt for light-colored and loose-fitting clothes, such as shorts, T-shirts, or tank tops. Avoid wearing dark-colored clothing, as they can show water stains more easily.

It’s also a good idea to wear water shoes or sandals, as the streets and sidewalks can be slippery and wet during the festival. And don’t forget to bring a waterproof bag or pouch to protect your valuables, such as your phone, wallet, or camera, from getting wet.

Lastly, it’s important to respect the local culture and traditions by dressing modestly and avoiding revealing clothing.

If you’re planning to participate in the Songkran festival and want to join in on the water fights, you can easily purchase water guns or other water-related equipment at various markets and street vendors throughout Thailand during the festival season.

In major cities like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket, you can find water guns, water balloons, and other festive gear at markets and street vendors located near the festival hotspots. These vendors sell a wide variety of water guns, ranging from small hand-held guns to large backpack-style guns that can hold several liters of water.

If you prefer to shop in more traditional settings, you can also find water guns at local markets, such as the Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok or the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai.

In addition to physical markets and vendors, you can also find water guns and other festival gear online through various e-commerce platforms in Thailand, such as Lazada or Shopee.

Just keep in mind that some venues or areas may prohibit or restrict the use of water guns during the festival, so it’s always a good idea to check with the locals or the festival organizers before using them.

Yes, tourists can participate. Songkran is a very lively and joyful celebration, which involves lots of water throwing, food, and music. Tourists are often welcome to join in the festivities and experience the unique culture of Thailand during this time.

However, it is important to keep in mind that Songkran is a religious and cultural event for Thai people, so it is important to respect the traditions and customs of the festival. 

The cost of participating in Songkran, can vary depending on various factors, such as the location, duration, and type of activities involved. Here are some general expenses to keep in mind:

  1. Travel costs: If you are traveling to Thailand specifically to participate in Songkran, your biggest expense will likely be transportation. Flight and accommodation prices can fluctuate depending on the time of year and the destination.

  2. Accommodation costs: During Songkran, many people travel to celebrate, so prices for accommodation may be higher than usual. It’s a good idea to book your accommodation in advance to secure the best rates.

  3. Food and drink costs: Street food is a significant part of the Songkran festival, and you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. Prices can vary depending on the vendor and the location, but generally, street food is affordable.

  4. Activity costs: There are usually many events and activities during Songkran, such as parades, water fights, and cultural performances. Some of these may require a fee to participate, while others are free.

Overall, the cost of participating in Songkran can range from relatively inexpensive to quite costly, depending on how you choose to celebrate. It’s best to research your options in advance to determine your budget and plan accordingly.

Tip #1: stay hydrated – the Songkran festival takes place during one of the hottest months of the year in Thailand, so it’s important to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to prevent dehydration and heatstroke. You can also bring your own water bottle or purchase bottled water from vendors.

Tip #2: protect your belongings – As the festival involves water fights and splashing, it’s important to protect your belongings. Consider using waterproof bags or pouches to keep your valuables safe and dry. You can also wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from water and sun.

Tip #3: respect local customs and traditions – the Songkran festival is deeply rooted in Thai culture and traditions. It’s important to respect these customs by dressing modestly, avoiding inappropriate behavior, and being mindful of religious ceremonies and practices. Also, be sure to ask for permission before splashing or pouring water on others, especially elders or monks.

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