Soak Up the Fun — How to Enjoy Songkran as a Tourist
Celebrating Songkran Festival in Bangkok
If you’ve never heard of Songkran in Thailand, you’re in for a wild ride. The middle of April usually sees the entire country of Thailand stop everything and celebrate the water festival by visiting temples, cleaning, spending time with their loved ones, and having massive water gun fights!
Yes, you heard that right! During the hottest month in Thailand, Thai people get some much-needed relief by having water fights. However, there’s more to the Songkran festival than that.
What Is the Songkran Festival Anyway?
Songkran is the Buddhist New Year. Given that most Thais are Buddhists, Songkran is the biggest, most sacred, and most significant Thai festival. It’s the time of the year when old and young Thais wash away their sins, bad luck, and misfortune from the previous year.
Sounds great, right?
The festival originated back in the 13th century when it was a sacred ritual of purification. Ancient Thai people would use water in a ritualistic way to signify their devotion and cleansing. It was sort of a clean slate type of a deal.
And that’s what it is today, just on a smaller scale (at least when it comes to the ritualistic part). However, it’s also something that happens on a much bigger scale, given that practically the entire country participates.
A Country-Wide Celebration
Songkran usually happens between April 13 and 15. Most shopping malls stay open, but everything else shuts down so that people can take part in the celebration. What’s more, massive cities, such as Bangkok, usually see most of their citizens leave to travel back to their families for the holiday.
But don’t worry — that doesn’t mean that you’ll find Bangkok a ghost city if you happen to come around in the middle of April. Many Thais stay to spend Songkran with their friends, and a whole bunch of tourists swarm in to partake in the biggest water fight on the planet.
Because, you see, that’s exactly what Songkran escalated into over the years. Back in the day, Thai people would pour a bit of fragrant water over their loved ones as a sign of respect and to help them with purification.
Well, they still do so now. However, they also chuck water at strangers. And they don’t use tiny bowls either. Oh, no, they use buckets, water guns, hoses — anything and everything that can hold water and help them douse as many people as possible.
What Happens During the Songkran Festival?
Songkran festival is full of cultural activities that are a real treat to observe if you’re a tourist. It usually lasts for an entire week, but officially, the festival lasts for three days. Each day has some rituals and fun activities that Songkran celebrators take part in. What is Songkran Festival? Find out here.
First Day of Songkran
The first day is Songkran day when Thai people perform the Rod Nam Dum Hua ritual. Youngsters show respect to their elders during this first day by pouring fragrant water into their palms. That way, they help them purify themselves and mark the National Elder Day.
Showing respect to your elders is a huge cultural thing in Thailand, which is why the first day of Songkran is such a massive deal.
On this day, Thais also clean their homes to prepare themselves for the new year that’s knocking on their doors. They also clean public spaces like offices, temples, and schools.
Second Day of Songkran
The second day is National Family Day, and Thais use it to spend as much time with their loved ones as possible. The most important thing about this day is that it’s sort of an in-between day. That means it’s between the old and new year, which is why Thais think it’s unwise to argue during it.
So the day is spent in peaceful celebrations. However, people also prepare food that they’ll offer to monks in temples. Offering food to monks is ritualistic, and Thais believe it brings them good fortune.
Third Day of Songkran
The third day is the most important one, and religious, devout Buddhists wait for it for the whole 12 months of the year. Therefore, you can bet that it’s a sight you don’t want to miss.
On the third day of the festival, Thais take the food they prepared the day before to their temples and offer it to monks. They also pour fragrant water over Buddha statues in their homes and in sacred places of worship.
The Best Places to Be in Bangkok During Songkran
So if this festival sounds like a dream to you, you’re probably wondering where to celebrate Songkran in Bangkok. The answer is — anywhere! The entire city turns into one huge celebration.
However, some spots hold specific Songkran events in Bangkok that might make your festival experience even better.
Khao San Road
The number one destination in Bangkok, no matter the time of the year, Khao San Road, is where the magic happens. It’s full of bars and restaurants, so you can let the music dictate the rhythm of your water fights!
If you’re looking for the biggest crowd, you’ll find it at Silom Road. The entire five-kilometer street turns into one giant water fight. Tourists and locals alike all go to Silom Road to make the best out of their week of fun.
The local authorities are also highly invested in the celebrations, which is why there are fire trucks with hoses and accessible water at each end of the street!
Phra Pradaeng District
The most traditional Songkran celebrations are held at the Phra Pradaeng district. It’s where you’ll see flag ceremonies and various parades with people in formalwear.
If you’re looking to participate in Songkran celebrations without actually getting wet, then the famous Sanam Luang is the perfect destination for you. Here, the celebrations are more religious in nature and beautiful to watch for Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike.
How to Enjoy Songkram as a Gay Tourist
All tourists should get familiar with the etiquette during Songkran. Although a huge party, Songkran is also a religious holiday, so be respectful of that, especially in areas that are less about water fights and more about paying their respects.
Bangkok’s gay scene is booming, so you’ll have no trouble having fun during the Songkran festival. However, there are some things to keep in mind.
A few Songkran survival tips for gay travelers are:
- Book your flights and rooms (preferably at a gay-friendly hotel) in advance (and we mean way in advance).
- Gay bars will be packed, so either get there early or prepare yourself for the long wait.
- Songkran Bangkok Gay Circuit Party is the biggest gay event that happens during the festival, but it’s not something you want to stumble into. Prepare yourself and plan around it.
- Make sure your phone and money are in a waterproof case.
- Fancy wear has no place at Songkran celebrations. Go casual.
- Buy the biggest water gun you can find (but always test it before paying for it).