Last Updated: August 16, 2023

Songkran Day Festival Thailand (All You Need To Know)

Planning a trip to Thailand during Songkran Festival?

Find Out All Info about Songkran Day or Thai New Year (Thai Water Festival) before you book your expensive flight to Thailand!

Songkran Festival – When is it and How is it celebrated?

What is Songkran?

Songkran Festival is the Thai New Year’s Festival which takes place every April. It is also Thailand’s biggest and most famous water festival in Thailand. It marks the start of the traditional Thai New Year.

Songkran is derived from a Sanskrit word saṃkrānti which literally translates to “astrological passage” and means ‘passing’, ‘approaching’, ‘change’, or ‘transformation’.

The official holiday runs from the 13th up to the 15th of April but the festivities may last a week or more.

The traditional way of celebrating the water festival involves Thai people splashing water on

  • their elders
  • family members
  • close friends
  • neighbors

as a way of looking for good fortune. They also visit temples and pay homage to the images of Buddha.

songkran day wet activities

Modern Songkran Day Celebrations

The celebration of Songkran has evolved over the years and is now characterized by crowds of people, including tourists, roaming around and soaking each other. This involves gathering along the streets using water pistols, water hoses, and super soakers, throwing buckets of water, and basically soaking anyone they can see around them.

Although the celebration of Songkran may have evolved, a lot of Thai people still use this holiday as an opportunity to head to their hometowns and spend time with their families and relatives. Buddhists, on the other hand, visit temples and pour water on the images of Buddha and on the hands of Buddhist monks as a sign of respect.

When is Songkran Festival?

Songkran Festival will take place on the 13th to the 15th of April. Before Thailand adopted the international New Year’s Day in 1940, Songkran was dependent on the Lunar calendar of the Thai. Now, it is fixed every 13th to 15th of April for each year. The festivities vary depending on which part of the country you are in.

Where to go for Songkran?

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1. Bangkok

The Thai capital celebrates Songkran in different parts of the city and it is called Bangkok Songkran Splendors Festival. The official opening ceremony is held at Wat Pho, an important Buddhist temple in Thailand that houses a golden giant reclining Buddha.

On the first day of the festival, ‘Buddhasihing’, a Buddha image, is brought out from the National Museum and brought along the streets to Sanam Luang (located opposite the Grand Palace) so that people can sprinkle water on it. The image is placed there for three days.

Songkran Bangkok

Large and wild crowds fill the streets of Bangkok for the celebration. Khao San Road, a popular area for backpackers, and Silom, the street known for Patpong, are packed with the largest and wildest crowd where thousands of Thais and tourists throw water using water guns, water hoses, or anything that can spray water and get soaked in the middle of a party. 

For the more traditional way of celebrating Songkran, Thais build sand stupas and decorate them with colorful flowers and flags which can be seen around key temples within Rattanokosin. In Phra Phradaeng District, the Thai Raman communities carry on with their traditional Songkran traditions which take place a week later than the celebration in central Bangkok. Enjoy an array of cultural activities such as floral floats parade, Raman dances, ‘saba’ game, Thai-Raman flag ceremony, boat races, and a whole lot more.

Beauty pageants and food fairs are held in Wisutkasat area.

2. Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai hold’s Thailand’s biggest Songkran celebration, the Chiang Mai Songkran Festival. Songkran is generally celebrated throughout the city. It kicks off on the 12th of April with a procession around the city.

There are cultural celebrations, traditional performances, street food, and water throwing all throughout the city. The most popular places for the water throwing are the Chiang Mai Gate and the Thapae Gate although there are also celebrations around the canals, the Ping River, and the moat.

Songkran Chiang Mai

3. Phuket

Songkran wet street parties start with light-hearted water fights in Phuket town at around 10 am. The wet street parties turn into water dogfights in the afternoon in Kata and Karon and in Patong. It ends in a full-scale wet war zone in Bangla road until late at night. The crowd is divided into two camps:

  1. those who stay inside the pickup trucks lined at the side of the road with their beds filled with ice-cold water and splash water to the passerby on the side of the road
  2. those at the roadside with a lot of water ammunition to fight back those that are inside the trucks.

4. Pattaya

The famous water festival in Pattaya is a week-long battle that starts a week before the actual Songkran and several days after that. Beach road is filled with foam parties, buckets of ice water, and high-pressure soakers. During the week, there are infrequent ambush points on the streets which are usually around bars and they gradually develop into a full-blown water war.

The main celebration of Songkran in Pattaya falls on the 19th of April which is also known as “Wan Lai”. There is a big splashing event every 19th of April to celebrate Pattaya Songkran Festival. The ‘Kong Khao’ parade takes place during the day in appreciation of the Goddess of Rice.

There are also beauty pageants being held where ladyboys are allowed to join the contest. After the parade, they run cultural shows and showcase authentic crafts and Thailand’s rich culture. Thais create amazing sculptures and sand castles at Bang Saen beach.

The traditional celebrations such as spring cleaning at home, spending time with the family, venerating the elderly, and lightly sprinkling or gently pouring warm water on relatives, neighbors, and close friends to wash away the bad luck of the previous year and to give a fresh start for the future.

5. Ayutthaya

Songkran Ayutthaya

Head over to Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya to have a unique experience of Songkran Festival in the country’s ancient capital. Elephants are painted with colors as they join in the water fights and the festivities. The elephants are given drums of water to soak passersby.

You can also join the traditional ethnic activities like offering donations at 7 in the morning to 999 monks dressed in saffron robe in front of Vihara Phra Mongkhon Bophit before freeing fish and birds into the wild and bathing the Buddha with water from a bamboo pipe.

The water splashing can be experienced in the afternoon every day in front of the old city hall.

6. Khon Kaen

Khon Kaen is located in Northeast Thailand and is known as the “Sticky Rice” capital. There are also water splashing activities that take place alongside a parade of food fairs, decorated ox carts, and Petanque competitions.

The main venue for Khon Kaen Songkran is Khao Niew Road. A parade of Flora cart takes place, as well as beauty pageants, and other kinds of entertainment. There are also demonstrations of Thai dances and folk plays.

The water splashing takes place on Khao Nieo Road and the area around Kaen Nakorn Lake.

7. Koh Samui

There are two different types of Songkran experience in Koh Samui. If you want to experience the traditional Songkran, head over to Nathon or in the towns on the west coast where there are only a few resorts and tourists. The celebration is more focused on the traditional aspects but you can still see water splashing on the streets that is much calmer and tamer.

It’s a no-holds-barred water war in the east coast resorts such as Chaweng and Lamai. There are a lot of beach, pool, and foam parties taking place during Songkran and all the clubs and bars in and around Soi Green Mango participate where the nightlife street becomes a gauntlet of water gun crossfire.

Bophut Beach and Maenam Beach on the north coast are for those who want to experience both as these resorts have the perfect family-friendly atmosphere with the right amount of water splashing too.

Tips for Surviving Thailand’s Songkran Festival

  • Plan ahead and book your accommodation early depending on where you want to celebrate Songkran. Hotels get fully booked during Songkran.
  • Play by the rules. Fight with clean water and fight only with water. Do not use ice cubes or other things that can injure other people. You can fight with water guns, cups, buckets, garden hoses, water balloons, etc. Be careful not to hit others on the eyes or other sensitive parts of the body.
  • Dress appropriately. You will get soaked in water no matter what. It’s not advisable to wear white. Dress up as if you are going to the beach. You can wear a swimsuit underneath and wear light clothing that can easily dry and will still make you feel comfortable no matter how wet you are.
  • Bring a waterproof bag. Put all your valuables and gadgets in a waterproof bag to make sure that they won’t get wet. Using a Ziploc is possible.
  • Use a waterproof camera. Capture those crazy moments while enjoying all the chaos using a waterproof camera.
  • Be prepared to be targeted once you step outside. Just be cool about it. Be prepared and don’t complain once you get soaked in water. Beware though of people coming up to you and putting wet powder on your face.
  • Avoid swallowing the water to avoid stomach problems.
  • Do not ride a car or motorbike to avoid accidents.

Songkran is a festival with a mixture of traditional and modern culture enjoyed by Thai locals and tourists alike.

There are different ways to celebrate Songkran in the different cities of Thailand. It really depends on what you want to experience. It’s best to choose the city where you want to experience Songkran and make your reservations as early as possible to ensure you have somewhere to stay (things book out quickly).

About the Author Roger Timbrook

Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!

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