Songkran originated from the Hindu traditional festival of “Makar Sankranti”, which marked the arrival of Spring and the start of longer hours of daylight. The Thais, however, made the festival their own by using it to mark the start of the new year on the traditional Thai calendar. Originally, water was used to clean images of the Buddha during this period and then the same “blessed” water was used by Thais to soak each other for good fortune in the new year. Over time this tradition evolved into what occurs now in Thailand every year – the amazing water fight.
Chalk is also sometimes rubbed on participants’ faces as a mark of blessing, a tradition adopted from a similar practice that Thai monks followed in the past. Although nowadays chalk is banned from many of the larger water fights, like the ones in Silom and Khao San Road, it is still a tradition and likely will continue in spite of ordinances against it. The great thing is that if you get smeared with chalk, it certainly won’t last long as you’ll get sprayed, doused, and drenched within minutes.
Songkran is celebrated throughout the whole country, from the big cities down to the little villages and the islands. And everywhere it is different. The biggest parties are held in Bangkok in Silom, Khao San Road, and the club area of RCA. Pattaya, Patong (Phuket), and Chiang Mai (around the old city) also sport very large, very energetic festivals. Generally the festivities begin around noon and last until midnight, but of course people will be happy to soak you at any time of the day if they can.
If the big parties are too much for you to handle though, take a trip to any smaller town in Thailand and you’ll have a great time playing with the locals on a smaller scale. But be careful traveling during Songkran. This is the most dangerous time of the year to be on the road, as drink driving rates skyrocket and accidents are numerous. It could be an awesome time to give the train a try. Leave the city behind as you wind your way through the countryside to play in the water at Hua Hin, Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi, or any other town!
For better prices, try to purchase your water fight gear before the festival starts. You’ll want eye protection, a plastic wallet for your phone and money, sun cream, and of course a good water gun. Altogether, these items shouldn’t cost you more than 500 baht but keep in mind that after the 13th prices will rise significantly.
International House closes annually for Songkran, so if you’re looking to study English with us, why not schedule your classes in April so you can take part in this amazing event?