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 with hoses, buckets, makeshift water pistols and Super Soakers 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
This year Songkran takes place from April 13 -15.
We’ve put together a list of the best places to celebrate in Thailand:
As many of you will be aware, Thailand is experiencing a year-long mourning period after the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in October 2016. Songkran festivities may be slightly subdued in comparison to previous years in order to show respect. This means that there will be no beauty pageants or street concerts and the emphasis will be placed on the water fights and traditional ceremonies instead. Don’t cancel your plans just yet though! The celebration is still going ahead and with many hostels and hotels fully booked for this period we have no doubt that it will retain it’s title as Thailand’s biggest festival…
Chiang Mai holds the most popular Water Festival Parade. Celebrations take place in the heart of the city, around the moat and on Urban Culture Street.
City Moat, Chiang Mai, 11-16 April, 9am – 10pm
Arm yourselves with a bucket full of water and head to Khao San Road in Bangkok. The whole road is turned into an almighty water fight! If you want to experience Songkran with the locals instead of the tourists, celebrate in Silom Road instead. There are also other Songkran celebrations taking place throughout the city.
Khao San Road, 13-15 April, 10am – 11pm
Silom Road, 13-15 April, 10am – midnight
Pattaya City celebrates Songkran on the 19th of April – also known as the Wan Lai festival.
North, Central and South Beach, 11-19 April, 9am – midnight
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, Soi Bangla, 12-13 April, 10am – 10pm
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!
Chaweng Beach – 13 April, 8am – 8pm
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
Normally, this festival lasts just 3 days but this year the celebrations are being extended. You’ll find pageants, flower arrangements, sand decorations, dancing and (of course) water fights at this New Year’s celebration in Laos.
Main Street and Mekong Street – 10-20 April (Parades on 15/16 April)
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!
19th Street – 13-16 April, 9am – 10pm
Kandawgyi Pet – 13-21 April
Choul Chnam Thmey – Khmer, Cambodia
With plenty of colourful processions, music, dancing and water fights, Cambodia’s festivities are not to be missed!
Angkor Wat – 13-15 April
If you’re in Southeast Asia around April 13th, 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
Tara Manjunath is a 22 year old, trilingual Brit residing in Auckland, NZ. Despite studying politics, the creative world is where she feels most at home. When she’s not working at Stray HQ, you can find her hula hooping, perfecting her yoga poses or stocking up on peanut butter supplies. She’s lived in Spain and Russia, backpacked through Latin America and road tripped through NZ… just to name a few things! Follow her adventures at sojourneywithme.com