Celebrating Songkran in Bangkok

New Years-eve in the UK usually consists of either a house party, paying an extortionate amount to drink at a bar you go each week or freezing to death outside whilst watching fireworks tumble into the sky as the clock strikes 12.

Pretty tame eh?

When I was travelling on my RTW trip, I was so excited to see that I would be in Bangkok during Thai New Year (Songkran). A few days prior I had holed up in a smart hostel in Silom, a place where I’d heard would be the centre of the action. I met a travel blogger friend at the hostel and on the first day of Songkran we walked outside the hostel totally unprepared for what was about to happen.

Cold water rushed up my nostrels and in my eyes the second I went outside. As soon as I gained my vision I could see three young Thai children all aiming at us with big, powerful supersoakers in their slender arms.

So this was how they celebrate New Years in Thailand?

Songkran is a three day holiday from April 13-15. It’s essentially one big water festival and the streets of Bangkok hault to a standstill for three days whilst young Thais have the ultimate water fight. The water represents  purification and the washing away of sins and bad luck.

However for many Thais and travellers it’s just three days of Chaos!

And no-one is safe! 

I saw a family check into a hotel across the road. As they struggled with heavy bags they were soaked from all angles and a cheeky boy even ran across and smeared thick clay across the fathers face.

I’ve never seen anyone look so angry!

Songkran is not the time to get pissed of at people soaking you with water. Be prepared to be soaked for three days straight so make sure you check in to your hostel at least the day before to avoid unwanted attention.

If you are prepared, you will have an incredible time. One you will never regret and a chance to bond with the funny, cheeky and smart Thai people.

Super soakers

The first thing to do is choose your weapon. We chose the biggest and most expensive super soakers we could find and I think It’s a sound investment. Having a big water gun means that you can soak people far away. Handy when people are squirting you from moving motorbikes, buses or pick up trucks! (Yes I don’t think there is any health and safety in Thailand!).

An adorable Thai boy with his massive super soaker!
An adorable Thai boy with his massive super soaker!

Clay

Many people in Thailand wear clay on their faces daily as a form of sun protection. During Songkran it’s tradition to wipe a small amount of clay on peoples cheek and wish them a ‘happy new year’. My first encounter with clay was when an extremely attractive Thai guy slowly smeared the cool clay across my cheek in Silom. After that I was hooked and would wipe clay on any attractive passers by!

Covered in clay and absolutely soaked = a sucessful day of celebrating Songkran
Covered in clay and absolutely soaked = a sucessful day of celebrating Songkran

Buckets

Oh the dreaded buckets! In Thailand buckets are usually associated with drinking large volumes of alcohol at night in Khao San road. During Songkran some cruel souls pour whole buckets of ice cold water over unsuspecting victims. In the heat of the day this can feel heavenly but as the sun sets it feels absolutely horrible. Just remember to get them back with either your supersoaker or clay bucket.

 

Khao San and Silom

Khao San Road and Silom are the epicentres of the celebration . The roads close and the areas become unrecognisable for three days as thousands of revellers pass through the streets. There is such a party atmosphere, loud dance music plays and there are stalls selling alcohol and water top ups at the side of the road. In Silom there were Thai girls in skimpy outfits performing on stage (They still got soaked!) and a Thai fire truck absolutely blasted gallons of water everywhere in the street.

It really was crazy!

Craziness on the streets of Khao San Road
Craziness on the streets of Khao San Road
The streets are absolutely packed!
The streets of Silom are absolutely packed!
Thais selling extra water, and also preying on unsuspecting victims!
Thais selling extra water, and also preying on unsuspecting victims!

What to wear

You will get absolutely soaked the moment you step outside so wear something that isn’t see through and that won’t fall down when wet. Buy a plastic dry bag for your phone and money and make sure that it’s always locked. I have very few photos of the celebration because water is thrown in your face literally every couple of metres. No-one is safe from the fun, even if you are holding your expensive camera in your hands.

Where to Stay

I would reccomend staying near the action in Silom or Khao San Road. The buses run infrequently during Songkran and it’s extremely hard to get a taxi or tuk tuk. If you do end up getting one you will pay an inflated price.

However it’s extremely fun to soak people from the safety of a bus or a tuk tuk, until you stop at a traffic light and everyone turns and soaks you (and the driver!).

Oh Thailand!

In the evening

As the sun sets, less water is thrown but you may still be someones target so still keep your valubles in a dry bag. As the sun set we headed to the Gay area of Bangkok to enjoy a few beers and a cheeky water fight with ladyboys and tourists. So much fun!

Songkran is a must see event for people travelling through Thailand. Although I had an amazing time celebrating it in Bangkok, I hear that Chiang Mai and some of the islands celebrate just as hard! Just remember to have fun and lighten up for three days. No matter what you are doing, you will be a target!

Our friends waving to us from across the street!
Our new friends waving to us from across the street!
Soaked, covered in clay and with my new Thai friend who wears balloons down his top, because, why not?
Soaked, covered in clay and with my new Thai friend who wears balloons down his top, because, why not?

 

 

Have you celebrated Songkran in Thailand? Is so what did you think? Did you celebrate in Bangkok? What’s your weapon of choice?

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Stephanie

I’m a twenty something podiatrist with new found wanderlust. Follow me as I prepare for my trip of a lifetime to Dubai, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and wherever else the world takes me. https://www.facebook.com/StephanieAndSeek https://twitter.com/Stephandseek

12 thoughts on “Celebrating Songkran in Bangkok”

  1. This is exactly where I spent Songkran a few years ago! I was working in Silom and had to bring a few changes to work each day because by the time I got there I was soaked and covered in powder! Because I lived in an area without many foreigners, I was chased down the street in the mornings by locals who wanted to make sure I was soaked through. Then in the afternoons and evenings, I danced the nights away with my friends in Silom and had the best time. Love seeing your photos! I’m going to go back and look at some of mine 😀

  2. I’m not a fan of crowds, or having water thrown/shot at me, BUT you make it sound like so much fun that I might have to put aside my normally timid self and give it a shot!

  3. I can’t decide if I absolutely love this or hate it! I have never heard of anything like this before!! I think I could swing one day, but I have a feeling by day 2 or 3 I’d find it a bit tiring… Sounds like you had a great time though!

    1. Hi Cassie. I will admit that by day 3 it was quite tiring. You literally have to be prepared to be soaked every time you step out of the door! Just embrace it though, it’s not often you can act like a child for three days!

  4. I love love love songkran, I celebrated it for the first time about 2 years ago, and I’m currently in Phuket and will still be here when Thai New Year comes around! So excited for this 🙂

  5. This looks CRAZY! I’ve heard about this but I’ve never seen it in action. Thanks for sharing your pics/experience! It looks really slippery though with the water and clay- did anyone fall or get hurt?

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