In many countries, New Year is celebrated with fireworks but in Southeast Asia it’s celebrated with… water! We’re not talking about a splash here and there, but three whole days of the biggest outdoor water fights in the world! Locals and backpackers alike take to the streets armed with water pistols for Thai New Year also known as the annual Songkran Festival.
Water is symbolic of washing away the bad luck and misfortunes of the year before and making everything fresh and clean for a great year ahead. Traditionally this meant spring cleaning your house, the local temple, and sprinkling a little water on members of your family and close neighbours, however this has clearly escalated into something much more festive
The Songkran celebrations last for 3 days but, in reality, the whole week is dedicated to parties, water fights and plenty of dancing! Everyone can get involved – grab your water guns, buckets, hose pipes or even just your drinking water bottles and start soaking people. As April is one of the hottest months in South East Asia, it’s also the perfect way to cool off in the midday sun. We’ve put together a list of the best places to celebrate in Thailand:
Chiang Mai holds the most popular Water Festival and parade. Celebrations take place in the heart of the city, around the moat and on Urban Culture Street.
City Moat and Tha Phae Gate, Chiang Mai, 13-15 April
Usually, the hottest spot to get wet is on Khao San Road, where tourists and locals all gather to celebrate. However this year, the Khao San Road celebrations have been cancelled, in order to prepare for the coronation of their new king, due to occur shortly after the public holiday. This year head to Silom Road to blast water amongst the locals, or Siam Square for water fights + dance parties.
Siam Square and Silom Road, 13-15 April
Pattaya City celebrates Songkran alongside the rest of Thailand from 13-15 April, but they don’t stop there. The craziest and final day of festivities is on the 19th of April – also known as the Wan Lai festival.
North, Central and South Beach.
Wash away all the bad luck from the previous year with a good spritzing from water guns, water cannons, and buckets along the infamous Bangla Road in Patong Beach.
Patong Beach and Bangla Road.
Compared to Songkran, celebrations in Chiang Mai and Bangkok, Koh Samui can seem a little tame but there’s still plenty going on. If you’re seeking a more traditional (and slightly drier) experience, head over to the West Coast and get involved with the local ceremonies. However, if you’re looking for the party then the Ark Bar Beach Resort on the East Coast is where it’s at
Songkran is also celebrated in other South-East Asian countries. They may all have different names but we can assure you that they all involve copious amounts of water and fun.
Pi Mai Lao – Luang Prabang, Laos
You’ll find pageants, flower arrangements, sand decorations, dancing and (of course) water fights at this New Year’s celebration in Laos.
Thingyan – Yangon, Myanmar
Load up the biggest water gun you can find and soak the locals and tourists partying in Myanmar. You’ll find bamboo stages complete with DJ’s spinning the latest tunes and of course buckets of water on every street corner. It’s the perfect way to wash away the bad spirits and negative energy but also the perfect way to cool off in the scorching heat!
Choul Chnam Thmey – Khmer, Cambodia
With plenty of colourful processions, music, dancing and water fights, Cambodia’s festivities are not to be missed!
If you’re in Southeast Asia around mid-April, prepare to get absolutely soaked and have the time of your life with millions of other international visitors. Just make sure your phone is in a waterproof bag! Read about our other top tips here: 5 top tips for Songkran