Songkran, yep it’s that time of the year again, the festival you love to hate, is almost upon us.
Widely observed not only in Thailand but also Burma, Cambodia and Laos, Songkran, is probably the most outrageous of all Thai festivals, of which there are many.
It wasn’t always that way but as time has passed the once pleasant, traditional sprinkle of water has transformed into a deluge, and more often than not it’s an icy cold deluge.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Songkran, you won’t find me in the corner of the whining ex-pat who doesn’t like to get wet, I embrace it and come April 19 I can be found on Beach Road with my water gun fully loaded.
So, let’s take a look at Songkran, what it’s about and where in this crazy town you need to be to fully immerse yourself.
Songkran traditionally starts on April 13 running until the 15th however, Pattaya is its own animal and stretches the festivities out until the 20th with the party kicking off in tourist areas around beach and second road anytime from the 10th.
Traditionally the Songkran Festival, marks Thai New Year, throughout the Kingdom with folk visiting local temples and spending time with loved ones as well as participating in mild water throwing in a respectful manner, wishing well to others and hoping that the act of water will wash away any bad luck.
Nowadays, Songkran has become the largest water festival in the world and people come from all corners of the globe to Thailand and join in the revelry.
April just happens to be Thailand’s HOT SEASON’ and for that you can be thankful as revelers armed with buckets of water, super soakers, big barrels, basically anything that will carry water are ready to exchange in what generally is a friendly water fight.
The word Songkran originally comes from a Sanskrit word Sankranti’ literally meaning ‘astrological passage’, or the transformation of change.
The festival usually begins with merit-making and the visiting of temples where food is offered to Buddhist monks and water pouring over Buddhist statues is considered an iconic ritual, representing purification and the washing away of one’s sins and bad luck.
As a festival of unity, people who have moved away usually return home to their loved ones and elders and as a way to show respect, younger people often practice water pouring over the palms of their elders’ hands as paying reverence to ancestors is also an important part of Songkran tradition.
As I previously mentioned Pattaya has a tendency to jump the gun’ so expected to get wet if you’re in central Pattaya as early as the 10th or 11th.
This is usually initiated by foreigners/tourists hurling water at passes by regardless whether they’re on foot in a Songthaw or passing by on two wheels.
The official days don’t seem really to count in Pattaya, as a city of extremes Songkran is no different.
With that being said the main days tend to be April 18 and 19.
The 18th sees the party starting in North Pattaya and in particular Naklua, with roads closed and party-goers taking over.
However, the 19th really is the day Pattaya comes to a stand-still, beach road along with various other major roads are all officially closed as the city comes alive with the swell of water.
Central Festival on beach road really is a stand out spot to enjoy the day with friends, the sunken area on beach road is home to bands playing live music with people partying as over-head cannons dowse all.
In fact, the whole of beach road is a hype of activity major hotels such as The Hard Rock Hotel have pool and foam parties that spill on to the roadside as passersby once again feel the force of water cannons.
Many stages are also set up with a variety of entertainment and there’s no shortage of refreshment kiosks and pit stops to keep one fuelled.
The city is awash in true carnival style with people of all nationalies interacting and making the most of this unique experience.
Pattaya can quickly escalate into an outrageous celebration of life and freedom with most major soi’s having their own celebrations whether it be out of beer bars or pick-up trucks parked along the roadside, Pattaya knows how to party hard.
One other thing important to mention; don’t be surprised if your smeared in talcum powder or similar substances, this is all in good nature to wish you luck, happiness and fortune for the coming year.
Remember everyone is fair-game, excluding no one, so expected a soaking and often the ultimate prize is soaking someone who is dry and appears to want to stay that way.
It’s a no-holds-barred water fight but one that is good-willed.
Preparation is key
A word to the wise.
The weeks running up to Songkran you will be able to purchase your weapon of choice (water shooter) however that being said theirs never a shortage on the main days but do remember to buy a zip plastic wallet or bag to keep your belongings dry especially your phone and money.
Do remember though Songkran can unfortunately be a dangerous time with road accidents every year seemingly exceeding the previous.
So, whatever you do stay safe by all means have fun and party but be respectful to those around you.
By Paul Johnson