If you’re lucky enough to be travelling through Thailand or Laos between April 13-15 this year, be prepared to experience the wet and wild one-of-a-kind water festivals known as Songkran/Thai New Year and Pi Mai Lao/Lao New Year.
The festivals may go by different names in the different countries, but the basic idea is the same: locals and visitors alike take to the streets for the biggest street water fights in the world!
Why a water festival?
Traditionally, people in Southeast Asia celebrated the New Year by travelling home to visit family, cleaning their homes and the local temples and sprinkling water on family members and statues of Buddha. The splashing water symbolised renewal by washing away the sins and bad luck of the previous year to make way for good fortune in the year ahead. Over the years, the water splashing ritual evolved into the epic water fights that take place throughout the region today.
Where to celebrate
The biggest and best known celebrations for visitors happen in Chiang Mai, Bangkok and Luang Prabang, but you are sure to find celebrations no matter where you are. Expect the main streets in most city centres to shut down for parades and the water battles.
How to have an epic time in the world’s biggest water fight
1) Embrace the water
There’s really no way to avoid it, so don’t hesitate to get out in the streets, grab a bucket or water gun and get wet! Given that it’s usually the hottest time of year, getting doused with water will be a welcome relief from the heat!
2) Dress appropriately
You’re heading out into the streets for a water fight – getting soaked is inevitable! Your best clothing options are clothes you normally wear at the beach, such as singlets, t-shirts, board shorts and flip-flops. For modesty’s sake, it’s probably best to wear a swimsuit under your clothes and avoid wearing white!
3) Arm yourself accordingly
If you’re travelling with Stray in mid-April you’ll be issued one of our standard regulation water pistols so that you can bring the rain! If you’re not there with Stray, there will be plenty of places you can buy a water gun or Super Soaker of your own. You’ll also find plenty of hoses and water barrels where you can reload as needed.
4) Waterproof bags are a must!
Save yourself the grief of discovering your phone or passport ruined by sealing valuables in a waterproof bag or pouch. Many places even sell waterproof pouches you can wear as a necklace so you can focus on carrying a water gun in each hand.
5) Stake out a good location
Once the festivities kick off many people find a spot near a hostel or bar where they can easily refill their water weapons and stick to that area since it’s guaranteed to get a bit wild once the crowds gather. It’s a good idea to designate a ‘home base’ or meeting spot with your friends in case you get separated.
Want the scoop on Songkran hot spots? Read last year’s Songkran post for ideas!
Missed out on going to Songkran this year? Check out Stray’s best deals and start planning for next year!