The Songkran Festival is the name for the Thai New Year, one of the most important dates on the Thai calendar.
Fundamentally a water festival, Songkran, depending on where you are situated in Thailand, could last more than one week from April 13 onwards.
If you are frightened of getting wet, you are advised to stay indoors because the streets will turn into one of the largest water fights ever.
Up until 1888, April was the official start of the Thai New Year, which was then change to the standardised new year of the western world on January 1 for business reasons. Songkran has been celebrated as New Year for hundreds of years and is believed to have been adapted from the ancient Indian Holi Festival, which is also fundamentally a water festival.
The festivities are celebrated nationwide and usually last for just a couple of days, although in Chiang Mai and other parts it can last more than a week long, becoming an endurance test of epic proportions.
During this colourful celebration, the throwing of water is the key element of the fun.
At every turn, you will be running the gauntlet as people line the streets with machine gun-styled water guns and buckets of icy cold water. This is a war you cannot win.
Driving your motorbike during Songkran is also hazardous, as convoys of pick-up trucks with entire SWAT teams on the back swarm the roads, performing drive-byes where nobody is safe. Please take part in the festivities and don’t get annoyed when you get drenched, because it’s inevitable, so take it all in good humour, or stay at your hotel.
The Songkran Water Festival traditionally symbolised cleansing, as “blessed” water would be poured into the palms of Buddhist monks as a mark of respect and to give good fortune to elders.
Songkran is also a time to make New Years’ resolutions, which is also in line with the cleansing ethos behind the whole festival.
The water is used as a symbolic gesture to wash away the old and bring in the new.
Whatever your reason for taking part in the Songkran festivities, the New Year celebrations in this day and age focus more on fun and a water fight to end all water fights than anything religious.
Keep anything valuable and non-waterproof back in your room, don’t wear that latest little Lacoste number you just purchased, arm yourself to the teeth and take no prisoners.
Fortunately for those holidaying in Phuket, the water festival only lasts for roughly 24 hours.
There is no special place where the water fights take place – it is literally all around you, so be warned, and have a great Thai New Year.