Every April, while we’re still scoffing our Easter chocolate, Thailand is celebrating the New Year with one of the best water fights in the world. So, here’s the Songkran festival, in a nutshell…
What is is? The Songkran festival, otherwise known as the Thai New Year - one of Thailand’s most raucous holidays.
Wait, didn’t New Year happen months ago? Well, yes, but only for us Brits. Thailand, like many countries in South East Asia, actually celebrates the New Year much later than us - and this year it falls between April 13th and 15th.
So how do they celebrate? By chucking water all over each other. Seriously. Just imagine Spain’s famous Tomatina festival but replace the tomatoes with water and, instead of one small village, imagine it happens all over the country.
Amazing! Sounds like organised chaos! Maybe less organised, more chaos? A three day holiday, plus the hottest time of the year, plus water pistols, equals an electric atmosphere. People just want to enjoy themselves, and the feeling of community is incredible, but sometimes it can get a little dangerous…
Water fights are dangerous now? You’re starting to sound like my mother! No really, if you’re out and about during the festival anyone can hurl water at you, at any time. Including when you’re driving a tuk tuk – actually it’s really common to spray drivers as they come past you. There have been quite a few accidents and fatalities.
Right, avoid Tuk Tuks. Anything else? If you don’t want to get wet – then stay indoors! Just because you’re a tourist, doesn’t mean the locals won’t involve you in the mass soaking. But that’s the point - thousands of people travel to Thailand just to experience the exhilaration on the streets. The best advice you can really have is ‘embrace it’, everyone is in a good mood, and everyone wants to have a good time. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to get a good water pistol either.
One more thing, why on earth does Thailand get an awesome country-wide water fight in April when all we get is some chocolate? Yes, it’s probably one of the world’s coolest festivals, but there is a lot of meaning in Songkran. On one level, the water represents cleaning away the old and welcoming in the new. Traditionally, the water was used to cleanse Buddha, and then collected from the statues and used to bless families. That’s how the water fights began. Now, it’s still a really important festival for family, and religion - images of Buddha are still washed in preparation and people go to wats (temples) to give food to monks.
Follow us @MaptheGap