Songkran festival, which is also known as the water festival, is actually considered as Thai New Year according to their traditional calendar. If you are planning to visit Thailand in April, make sure to join the celebration of Songkran in Chiang Mai as it is definitely one of the most amazing Thai festivals that anyone can participate in!
Songkran in Chiang Mai
Songkran is a three-day festival that officially begins on April 13 and ends on April 15 but in the touristy places like Chiang Mai, the festival can be extended to 4-6 days. Chiang Mai is not as quite as Bangkok as most of Chiang Mai people come back to their hometowns in this province for visiting their families during Songkran, so the city is relatively lively. In the main areas of water fights the celebration can be very intense. Expect to see huge crowds having a lot of fun splashing water at each other during the day. When you are out on the street during Songkran, it is hard to go anywhere without getting wet. There are endless parties at night.
Songkran is the public holiday in Thailand so all business and government offices in Chiang Mai are closed. Shopping malls, convenience stores and clubs are open but many small shops and some bars might be closed. Local markets should be open but expect to find less vendors selling their stuff there.
Where to celebrate Songkran in Chiang Mai?
Chiang Mai is one of the most popular destinations to celebrate Songkran. During Songkran, the streets fill up with people looking to soak and get soaked. No matter where you are, be prepared to find your own water gun and join in the fun!
Top 5 places for celebrating Songkran in Chiang Mai
The TOP 5 places to soak up the Songkran Festival atmosphere in Chiang Mai are:
1. Tha Phae Gate
Tha Phae Gate is probably the biggest and the best place for you to experience Songkran in Chiang Mai. Many young people enjoy the annual Songkran festival at Tha Phae Gate so this place is a great choice if you are looking to have some serious fun as people will try to soak you by dumping buckets of water or shooting with water guns to make sure that you would be completely wet all day long. When you get here, be sure to pack all your water fight gear – water guns, buckets and be ready to get soaked.
At Tha Phae Gate, there is a large courtyard that Chiang Mai government uses as the main venue for organizing Songkran festival events every year. There are many cultural activities that make you feel like going back in the atmosphere of ancient Chiang Mai, including ceremony of giving alms and merit to monks, Songkran Beauty Contest, Lanna Tung Making Contest or Khantoke Lanna Contest. Apart from having the opportunity to experience the thrill of water fights, here you can also taste delicious Thai specialties from the booths or shops while taking a break.
2. Chiang Mai Moat
Not far from Tha Phae Gate, Chiang Mai moat is also a popular place to play water fights during Songkran festival in Chiang Mai that both Thai and foreign tourists must visit. You can walk around to see the beauty of the decoration of the place and have fun on both sides of the canal. Before Songkran Day, the water in the ditch will be drained to adjust the water condition and ensure that the water from the moat is absolutely clean.
3. Nimmanhaemin Road
Nimmanhaemin Road is a Chiang Mai's vibrant street packed with shops, cafes, and many accommodation options. It can be compared to Khao San Road in Bangkok with foreign tourists from all countries coming to have fun here during Songkran festival in Chiang Mai. Nimmanhaemin Road is considered as another Songkran water war zone that is worth visiting. Some sections of the road or alleys are closed to traffic to let people fully enjoy throwing water on each other.
4. Kad Suan Kaew
If you keep walking by the main road from Chiang Mai moat’s northwestern corner, you will find Kad Suan Kaew, previously one of the most popular shopping centers in Chiang Mai. Although today Kad Suan Kaew shopping mall is closed for renovation but there is an event to play water fights at the courtyard in front of the mall like in the past.
Kad Suan Kaew welcomes Songkran Festival with the concert stage and many DJs to play music. There is also a foam party where children and teenagers come out to have fun playing with the water and foam.
5. Temples in Chiang Mai
Songkran festival is not all about water fights. Traditionally, it is Thai New Year which is an important religious event celebrated inside the temples. Usually, Thai people start celebrating Songkran festival by visiting a temple to pour scented water on the Buddha image, receive blessings from the monks and give food to the monks as a good beginning of Thai New Year.
You can be a part of the Songkran festivities by not only participating in the water party but also by visiting a temple early in the morning, where you will have an opportunity to witness more traditional side of this Thai New Year festival.
There are many famous temples around Chiang Mai such as Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Wat Pan Tao, Wat Chedi Luang or Wat Chiang Man, offering you an opportunity to experience this Thai tradition.
Wat Phra Singh, temple located in the heart of Chiang Mai, has the enshrinement ceremony of Phra Phuttha Sihing, the invaluable monk of the province, on Bussabok (Tradional Buddha Throne) for the public and tourists to have the opportunity to pour water to receive blessings according to the local tradition of Songkran. Wat Phra Singh hold a Buddha Images procession every year on 13 April. The temple also arranges a place to play water battles in front of the temple.
If you will visit a temple or shrine, show respect at all times. Before going there, get familiar with the Etiquette for Visiting Temples in Thailand.
Looking for more places where you could celebrate Songkran Festival in Chiang Mai? The best options for the celebration this year can be found here: Songkran in Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai Hotels during Songkran
Chiang Mai accommodation can reach full capacity during Songkran. Therefore, it is recommended to book the hotel in advance especially in the locations near the Songkran celebration areas that give you an extraordinary experience. For a comfort stay during Songkran Holiday, Chiang Mai Old Town is a good place to be. This area is close to all the major attractions in Chiang Mai.
You can check some of the top rated accommodations in Chiang Mai Old Town below:
If you are planning to visit Bangkok for Songkran Festival, make sure to book your hotel near one of the best Songkran celebration spots in the city. The best areas to stay in Bangkok during Songkran are listed here: Bangkok Hotels for Songkran Holiday.
Tips for surviving Songkran Festival
Leave valuable belongings such as your phone, camera and wallet at your hotel or hostel and take with you as little as possible. You can easily buy a waterproof pouch for keeping your valuables dry anywhere the festivities are held.
Dress in a thin fabric for drying out easy. Locals often wear the brightly colored, floral, called "Songkran shirt" to celebrate. You can find plenty of cheap Songkran shirts available.
For the biggest comfort wear sandals, non-slip shoes or rubber flip-flops that dry easily and prevent you from slipping.
Don't splash monks, pregnant women, babies and the elderly.
Be cautious on the roads as Songkran is also known as the “Seven Dangerous Days” due to the amount of fatal road accidents. The streets can get slippery and the motorcyclists are often targeted for getting splashed.
You won’t be safe from water anywhere unless you’ll be staying in the room all 3 days. The foreigners are often special targeted so be prepared to get wet and enjoy!
The traditional greeting and wishing people good luck for the year is saying Sa-Wad-Dee-Pee-Mai (สวัสดีปีใหม่), which basically means "Happy New Year." Another greeting that is used is Suk-San-Wan-Songkran (สุขสันต์วันสงกรานต์), which means "Happy Songkran Day."
Songkran in Thailand
Looking for a place where you could celebrate Songkran Festival in Bangkok? The best options for the celebration this year can be found here: Songkran in Bangkok.
Songkran Festival is celebrated in all areas of Thailand so you can join an event even when not staying in the capital city. Find the most interesting events that are planned for Thai New Year celebration here: Songkran Festival in Thailand.