If you are planning to visit Thailand in April, make sure to join the celebration of Thai New Year - Songkran Festival in Bangkok as it is definitely one of the most amazing Thai festivals that anyone can participate in!
Songkran Festival - Thai New Year
Songkran is the traditional Thai New Year festival according to the Buddhist/Hindu solar calendar. The name Songkran comes from a Sanskrit word and literally means as "astrological passage". It’s held annually from the 13th to 15th of April. In many regions and some tourist hotspots, the celebration starts even earlier and goes on for the whole week.
During Songkran people get together and make merit at the temple by gently pouring water mixed with Thai fragrance over the Buddha images. The water is also used to pour over the hands of the elders when asking them for blessing.
The better-known side of Songkran festival is a three-day long water fight throughout the whole country. There are typically different ways of celebrating Songkran in Thailand but no matter where you are, during that time you will be a walking distance from some kind of fun celebration.
Songkran in Bangkok
Songkran is the public holiday in Thailand so all business and government offices in Bangkok are closed. Shopping malls, convenience stores and clubs are open but many small shops and some bars might be closed. Local markets and Chatuchak Weekend Market should be open but expect to find less vendors selling their stuff there.
Most of Bangkokians come back to their hometowns during Songkran, so the city is relatively quiet and the traffic is VERY light for a few days.
However, in the main areas of water fights the celebration is very intense. Expect to see huge crowds having a lot of fun there and be ready to squeeze through the crowd.
Sometimes you will see pickup trucks carrying people who are throwing water on locals and tourists. When you are out on the street during Songkran, it is impossible to go anywhere without getting wet.
Where to celebrate Songkran in Bangkok?
Bangkok 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 Bangkok
Top places to enjoy the celebration of Songkran festival in Bangkok are:
1. Silom Road
Silom Road is probably the biggest and the best place for you to experience Songkran in Bangkok. You will be amazed by how many thousands of locals and tourists come to this 5 km long walking street to celebrate Songkran Festival. Silom 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.
2. Khao San Road
During Songkran, Bangkok's Khao San Road basically becomes a massive water fight street with a great party atmosphere. People are dancing around, the music is playing everywhere. It is impossible to walk down the street without getting wet. It is recommended to get there early to avoid crowds at the entrance.
Songkran Festival in front of CentralWorld Shopping Complex in Bangkok is a hidden gem with a cool and family friendly atmosphere. It is safe for everyone as no alcohol is allowed. There are many entertainment activities, games and free concerts by famous Thai singers and DJs. The highlight of Songkran celebration here is a bubbly area called “The Foam Party Zone” where everyone can get frothy and have fun.
4. Siam Square
Siam Square is another popular place for local teenagers to enjoy Songkran celebration in Bangkok. This year celebration here comes up with the theme of traditional Farmers Sarongs called "Pha Khao Ma" that will provide you a chance to experience some of the more traditional aspects of Songkran. Merit-making will be possible here.
5. RCA (Royal City Avenue)
If you like clubbing and partying, you should check out RCA which is Bangkok's largest nightlife area. There are plenty of bars, clubs and live music venues offering you different themed environment for celebrating night-time water fights during Songkran Festival. Each club will be packed by crowds of locals and foreigners. You will have a great time there moving to the beat as well as soaking up in water and foam throughout the night.
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.
Songkran in Temple
Keep in mind that Songkran festival is not all about water fights. Traditionally, it is Thai New Year which is an important religious event celebrated inside the temples. Many Thai people take time to visit the Buddhist temples to make a merit, offer food to monks and pour scented water on Buddha images and monks.
If you will visit a temple during Songkran early in the morning, you will have the opportunity to see more traditional side of this New Year festival away from the craziness of the water fights. There are many famous temples around Bangkok, such as Wat Saket, Wat Arun, Wat Pho or Wat Traimit, offering you the opportunity to experience this nice Thai tradition.
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.
Tips for surviving Songkran Festival
Bring your own water pistol - there are many shops selling water guns, hose pipes and buckets along the streets and at the markets during Songkran Day
In some touristy places expect to pay about 5-10 baht for refilling your water gun with an ice cold water
Leave valuable belongings at your hotel or hostel and take with you as little as possible
Keep your belongings, such as your phone, camera and wallet in a waterproof pouch. You can easily buy a pouch anywhere the festivities are held.
If you are photo addicted, take a photo with waterproof cell phone or camera only. From our experience, another cheap way is to put the phone in a waterproof pouch and take pictures. Even if it is not easy to take photos while everyone splashes the water on you and the quality won’t be great but at least you will have some pictures and your electronics won’t be damaged!
Songkran is not a full-moon party and the locals attend water fights fully-clothed so don't remove your shirt or dress indecently. Some tourists were arrested for taking their shirts off!
Dress in a thin fabric and choose bright and colorful clothes to express your joyful spirit. Many locals wear colorful floral “Songkran Shirts” - Hawaiian-style shirts sold at the local markets and on the streets.
Avoid wearing tight, light colored or white clothes as they can become see-through when you will get soaked.
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 not exempt from getting splashed which may cause road accidents.
You won’t be safe from the 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 more places 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