8Adventures will be closed during the Songkran Festival from 13th- 22nd April
To the largely Buddhist population of Thailand, Songkran is also a time for temple visits and religious rituals. Bathing the Buddha which is called “สรงน้ำพระ Song Nam Phra” is an essential ceremony where devout Buddhists gently pouring scented water over the Buddha images (พระพุทธรูป Phra Phutharup) at home or at the temple. It is believed that doing this will bring good fortune and prosperity for the New Year. Songkran is also seen as a day for spring cleaning and many Thais take the opportunity to get their houses spic and span for the New Year.
On the first day of Songkran, which is a day to honour the elderly, an old custom called Rod Nam Dum Hua (รดน้ำดำหัว) takes place. This ritual involves young people pouring rose and jasmine scented water into the palms or feet of parents or wise elders as a signs of humility and to ask for their blessings.
The second day of Songkran is dedicated to families and officially known as National Family Day (วันครอบครัวแห่งชาติ). Families get together to spend quality time together. Children will also prepare rose and jasmine scented water to wash parents’ feet and offer them a flower garland, then the parents will give blessing to the children.
Today, Songkran has evolved into a very modern, large, and exhilarating event. The streets are filled with people of all ages armed with water guns, buckets, and balloons. There are fun events at certain points throughout the city such as musical performances, and most bars throughout the city will be open for people to stop along their way and enjoy the fun from inside.
The entire festival is going to be a great experience for any first timers, and following these simple tips will help make your experience that much better.
Songkran always sees an increase in traffic accidents. Avoid travelling if possible and never get in a car or on a motorbike with anyone who has drunk alcohol. The police strictly enforce this nowadays and there are many roadblocks set up around this time to catch drink drivers. If you are driving a motorbike past water stations, don’t try to avoid them, simply slow down and allow people to splash you with water or you could have a bad crash.
Many foreigners think this is ‘water fight’, however it is more about playing in a friendly way and we throw water on each other as a sign of love. Never aim at the face and be careful with children and elderly people who may not want to get wet. A little sprinkle down the back of someone’s shirt is far more respectful! Don’t use high-powered water pistols or ice water which can be really painful.
Seems easy, right? There’s water being flung at you from every direction. However simple it may seem to keep hydrated during the hot days, you’ll be surprised how often you’ll need to remind yourself amidst all of the chaotic fun. It can be easy to get lost in the excitement. Also, don’t consider shooting your water gun water into your friend’s mouths, because the water you’ll be using as ammo will likely be from the very famous, very dirty moat that surrounds Chiang Mai’s Old City. Using a Camelbak hydration pack is also a smart idea to avoid contamination.
The heat isn’t the only reason you’ll need to stay hydrated. For those who are interested in the party scene during Songkran, drinking water in between tequila shots is crucial if you want to last the whole day and night. There will be fun happenings through the evening as well, and you’d hate to burn out and miss them!
While Thapae Gate will be the hub of things during the festival, other parts of the city are worth exploring. Wander around and make your way through the happy crowds to the Buak Haad Park, or Nimman Rd. and you’ll get to see a more intimate Songkran filled with smiling locals and excited travelers. Central Festival mall will be having fun events all day and night as well.
Protect Your Electronics
If you’re wondering at all about the amount of water you’ll be covered in: it’s a lot. You will be drenched from head to toe if you’re inside the city limits. So, with this in mind, it’s important to either leave your phones, cameras, etc. at home, or buy protective bags for them. Many convenient stores will be selling waterproof bags in different sizes.
Although it’ll feel like there’s a massive pool party happening in Chiang Mai, save the bare swimsuits for the pool. Especially for ladies, try not to walk around the city in your bikini. Dressing that way will surely make Thai people uncomfortable, so it’s best to wear light clothing that can get wet, with a swimsuit underneath for comfort. I’d also recommend not wearing shoes that can come off so easily–you’re likely to lose those.
Remember to Just Have Fun
Songkran is a truly blissful event, and will most likely be one of the most memorable things you’ll ever experience. For some, it accesses a bit of a competitive and intense part of them. Being aggressive during this festival is a bit contradictory to the spirit of the holiday. If you can remember that it’s not a competition, but is a playful event, you’ll be able to have fun and maintain a level of respect for others.
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