If you want to experience a country explode into water-fighting madness, then Thailand is the place to be during the nation’s New Year celebrations. Known as the Songkran Festival, this three-day event falls at the end of the dry season in mid-April, the hottest time of the year. A welcome escape from the heat, the entire country celebrates by throwing water on each other. The water is intended as a symbol for washing all the bad away and indeed, not an inch of your body is left dry.
Although an important event on the Buddhist calendar, the days have erupted into an outright party in big cities like Bangkok, where many foreigners are more than delighted to join in. Travellers fly in just to partake in this experience of a lifetime. Whole streets are closed off to make way for the enormous crowds, entertainment stages and vendors selling everything from water guns to delicious food. Some streets are so packed that you find yourself walking shoulder to shoulder as you make your way through the swarm of people. Dance parties take place on the streets as DJs and singers are brought in to entertain.
Both the young and old join in on the festivities and no one is safe from getting splashed by water guns, buckets of cold water, or even garden hoses as locals gather on streets, on constant lookout for the next person to soak. If you don’t want to get wet, don’t go outside. It’s as simple as that. If you want to get from point A to point B without getting soaked, opt for a taxi as opposed to an open-air auto rickshaw (known as a tuk tuk) where you are sure to become a prime target. Many people also carry around buckets of white talcum powder paste, which they smear on people’s faces and bodies as a blessing.
Besides all the playfulness and water fights, Songkran is also a time for people to visit and pay respect to elders, family members, friends, neighbors and monks. Many people visit temples or Buddhist monasteries to pray and give food to monks. A common ritual is to gently pour water mixed with a Thai fragrance over shrines dedicated to Buddha. It is believed that this will bring good luck and prosperity for the new year ahead. Songkran is also an occasion for cleaning and renewal, so many locals take time on their days off to clean their homes thoroughly.
Despite the fact that the emphasis of the festival has been placed more on the fun of water-throwing rather than on the spiritual and religious aspects, the holiday offers many the chance to fully immerse in the Thai culture as well. If you are looking for a unique and wild experience, the Songkran festival should be on your bucket list.