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Songkran Festival, Traditions New & Old

Songkran Festival in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya

Thailand’s yearly Songkran festival is quickly approaching and much like New Year’s celebrations here in the States, this is one that’s not to miss. According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s director to the Northern Region, Mr. Wisoot Buachoom, an estimated whopping 60,000 holidaymakers are expected to arrive in Chiang Mai this year alone.

Whether you’ve already booked your trip to Thailand during the month of April or you’re currently clicking the ‘Buy Now’ button on one of our hot travel packages, we’ve got the scoop on the 2013 Songkran Festival.

What once was a simple tradition of sprinkling scented water on elders for good fortune has now become an all out, friendly, water war for those celebrating Songkran in Bangkok. Locals and tourists alike take to the streets soaking each other with water guns, hoses and buckets as a symbol of washing away misfortune.

To start the festivities off right, be sure to add Nagaraphirom Park’s Opening Ceremony to your list of places to visit. Want to be in the heart of the action? Then make your way to either Silom or Kao San Road. There you can experience the best of the water wars as well as Bangkok’s premier Songkran party scene.

monks

Festival traditions still remain strong in Bangkok, however. Over the course of the 3-day festival, Thais take time to connect with family and friends as well as give alms to Monks and their revered Buddha at any number of the cities Temples. Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn or Wat Saket, known as the Golden Mount or ‘Phu Khao Thong’ are all ideal places to watch people bathing Buddha relics and making merit.

If you prefer a more customary way of celebrating the festival, not to worry, Chiang Mai has held strong to Songkran traditions. In this Northern version of the New Year festival you can partake in the Opening Ceremony, which includes a procession around the city, the sprinkling of water on the Buddha & elders and the carrying of sand to the temple, along with several cultural performances.

The importance of food to Thais doesn’t take a back seat during the festival either. Snacking on street food between water fights or indulging in traditional Thai fare is just as important to both celebrations as all other customs.

No matter which city you prefer to spend Songkran in, one ritual remains the same, the dousing of participants in water. Whether it’s a full-scale water fight, or a friendly splashing, bystanders are sure to be relieved from the heat.

Songkran Festival in Chai Phra Kiat Temple, Chiang Mai

Our insider tips are these; the water used for bathing Buddha relics and seniors is regarded as sacred, so be sure to use clean, scented water when giving alms. It is customary to apply chalk powder commonly called ‘Din Saw Phong’ to one’s face or body. Keep in mind though that in Thai culture it is considered uncivilized to touch a person without their permission. Also, be sure to keep your electronics, money and other belongings in waterproof bags to keep from being ruined.

And of course, have fun!