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Songkran - the Thai New Year

One of the most famous events in Thailand is Songkran, the festival that celebrates the Thai New Year. It's several days of celebration, where there's a fusion of tradition, spirituality, and lots of excitement!

The atmosphere is incredible; the streets are filled with people carrying buckets and water guns, ready for a real water war.

In this article, we're going to share our experience at the Songkran festival in Chiang Mai with you.

Songkran, o Ano Novo Tailandês
Songkran, o Ano Novo Tailandês

What is the Songkran Festival?

The Songkran Festival, also known as the Water Festival, is a traditional celebration marking the beginning of the New Year in the Thai calendar.

It's a three-day festival rooted in Buddhist traditions, during which Thais perform purification rituals, visit temples, and spend time with family.

Water plays a central role in this festival, symbolizing purification and spiritual renewal. The act of pouring water on others is a way to start the new year with a clean mind and also a way to receive blessings and welcome the coming year.

Some people also apply a white powder paste called din sor pong on the faces of Thais and foreigners during Songkran. It's a symbol of protection for those who wear it.

The procession inaugurates the festivities
The procession inaugurates the festivities

When is it celebrated?

Songkran is celebrated from April 13th to 15th each year. But some places extend the festivities for more days, and others start celebrations as early as April 12th. So, from this day onwards, it's best to hit the streets prepared for possible water battles.

Where is it celebrated?

The Songkran Festival is celebrated throughout the country, but Chiang Mai is considered the main center of festivities. This city is located in northern Thailand and attracts thousands of visitors from around the world at this time of year.

Other recommended places are Bangkok, particularly in the Khao San Road area, Phuket, and Koh Samui.

We chose to spend Songkran in Chiang Mai to have a complete experience, and we highly recommend it. The whole city is ready to welcome this festival, with various activities and some traditional markets. We recommend the area around Thapae Gate, where the festivities are concentrated and where everything happens.

Songkran is also a spiritual celebration
Songkran is also a spiritual celebration

What happens during these days?

During these festival days, the streets of Chiang Mai turn into real water battles. People wear colorful clothes and gather on the streets with buckets of water, water guns, and hoses, ready to participate in an epic water fight.

During these days, one thing is for sure: you'll be wet from the moment you step out of the hotel until you return. No one escapes, not even those inside cars or songthaews (those red vans). But honestly, with the heat at this time of year, it's refreshing. The temperature during the day is around 40°C.

The atmosphere is amazing; everyone has fun and wishes each other a happy new year while pouring water on each other. The streets are lively, and to refill your water gun or bucket, you can use water from the river, which is the most practical, or from the homes of some residents who provide water for refilling.

Water battles are the highlight of Songkran, but there's more to experience during these days. The celebrations are divided over the three festival days: on the first day, there's a grand procession through the city. We participated in this procession, and it's completely different from what we're used to. The procession lasted several hours, with various Buddha images followed by people singing, and dancing, all with maximum enthusiasm.

During the remaining days of Songkran, people participate in purification rituals at temples. Additionally, it's a time when families gather to celebrate and share traditional meals.

Tips for these days

  • If you don't want to get wet, we recommend not even trying to leave the hotel, not even going to the supermarket to get something to eat; someone will surely splash you.

  • Use a waterproof cover for your phone - this is essential if you don't want to damage your phone; also, keep your money in this pouch.

  • Dress appropriately. Songkran is a Buddhist ritual, so you shouldn't walk the streets in a bikini. Wear practical shorts and a t-shirt and have fun. Flower-printed shirts are the most commonly worn outfit during these days.

  • Use sunglasses to protect your eyes. The water circulating in the water battles is not the best, so we recommend wearing glasses and keeping your mouth closed whenever someone pours water on you.

  • An action camera is very useful during these days. This way, you can take photos or videos without the risk of damaging your phone.

  • Keep your passport safe. Normally, we always had our passports with us, but during these days, we chose to leave them in the hotel safe to avoid any mishaps.

Spending Songkran in Chiang Mai was a unique experience that we will never forget. They were days of great excitement, where we had contact with a new culture and met local people and people from all over the world.

If you are in Thailand at this time, Songkran is a must!
If you are in Thailand at this time, Songkran is a must!

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