It's April, the hottest part of the year in Thailand, and time for Songkran, the Thai New Year!
What is Songkran?
Songkran, a three-day festival falling on April 13, 14, and 15 every year, is the traditional Thai New Year.
How do you celebrate Songkran?
Well, first you'll need a Songkran Shirt! You'll notice that nearly everybody in Bangkok will be wearing a brightly-colored floral Hawaiian-style "aloha shirt" during the festival. This year, the Thai government has also been encouraging people to wear traditional Thai silk outfits during Songkran.
Traditionally, Songkran is a reverent holiday. People will return to their hometowns to visit their families. Children will wash their parents hands with scented water, and Buddhists will wash Buddha statues with holy water.
Nowadays, thought, the festival has evolved into something bigger and wilder.
The Water Fight
Some time in the last couple decades, Songkran has changed. The three-day festival has grown into a huge city-wide water fight! Certain areas of the city are closed off for revelers to throw buckets of water and shoot each other with water guns. It's a lot of fun! Pick up a waterproof phone bag and a water gun (available almost literally everywhere in the weeks leading up to Songkran) and join in the fun!
Don't be surprised if you get dragged into celebrating, even if you are just out to head on an errand! Nobody is safe on Songkran. People will stand on street corners soaking anyone who passes by, and smearing their faces with aromatic cooling powder. Embrace the party, don't take yourself too seriously, and have fun!
Where to Play Songkran in Bangkok
There are several big street parties throughout Bangkok.
Siam Square has one of the most famous parties, and is the safest and most family-friendly. The area is protected from traffic and patrolled by staff and police. It's a much more traditional party and more Thai than the ones at Khao San Road or Si Lom. After all, why would you travel halfway around the world to celebrate a traditional Thai holiday with a bunch of Americans?
The Songkran Festival is a part of Thailand's infamous "Seven Deadly Days". More road accidents happen during Songkran than during any other part of the year, and the Thai government keeps daily statistics about the number of road fatalities during the festival in a somewhat morbid but necessary effort to remind people to be safe.
Careless revelers might throw a bucket of water at a passing motorbike, who might swerve and cause a huge road collision. Drunk driving is also a big problem during the festival.
Stay safe! Stay off the road as much as you can, and avoid driving. Especially avoid driving or taking a bus across the country, as the highways can be a bit dangerous during this time.
Be aware of your personal belongings, and keep your phone protected in a waterproof phone bag around your neck.
And have fun!