Songkran Festival Street Party

Songkran Festival:
Catch Bangkok’s liveliest Songkran festival street party scene on Khao San Road

If you hadn’t already heard, Songkran Festival Thailand is the kingdom’s most important – and fun – public holiday.

What is Songkran Festival? The word Songkran is derived from Sanskrit and means “Astrological Passage”, so it is a big largely public party to celebrate the Buddhist Era New Year.

A bit of Songkran festival history: Songkran marks the start of the new solar year but while the date of the festival was originally set by astrological calculation by Brahmin priests, today it is fixed. If these days fall on a weekend, the missed days off are taken on the weekdays immediately following, thereby creating a five-day national Songkran Holiday. When is Songkran 2023? Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 13, 14 and 15 April.

As for Songkran festival activities, you can join the fun in several ways. Find a public place where the people are playing Songkran in the streets – dousing each other with cold water, painting each other’s faces with cooling talc and dabbing their cheeks with fragrant jasmine water. All while wearing the brightest-colored clothing and dancing to everything from local folk songs to hiphop. Leave your best valuables in the safe, keep your money, phone and ID in something water proof, and go for it. After all, April is Thailand’s hottest month, so dousing each other in cold water makes good sense.

If you prefer something more spiritual, the temples are the places to go and make offerings, enlist the spirits’ support and contemplate eternity. Besides all the crazy water flights, Thai people will also visit their local temple during the holiday to pray and give food to the monks. They will also cleanse the Buddha images at their local shrine, as Songkran is a time for cleansing and renewal. Similar to the Western New Year, many people will also make new year resolutions.

As Songkran is also the longest public holiday in Thailand, it’s an opportunity for up-country people to return home from Bangkok, and the Thai capital is remarkably quiet during the holidays, its infamously chaotic traffic calmed for a few days.

Chiang Mai in the North of Thailand has a big Songkran festivities reputation but you would be hard pressed to beat Bangkok where the best places to celebrate Songkran include Silom, the heart of the central business district where the whole 5km street is packed with thousands of people carrying water guns as well as Siam Square where Songkran and fashion go hand-in-hand.

But nowhere is this most high-spirited of water festivals celebrated in a more carnival spirit than the backpacking favorite, “Khao San Road”, just a 15-minute Tuk Tuk or taxi ride from Prince Palace Hotel which is the best place to stay to make the most of the Songkran spirit day and night – early reservations are recommended to avoid disappointment.

Now that Covid restrictions are well and truly lifted, though mask wearing is still widely practiced voluntarily, the entire 410-meter length of Khao San Road will be chocker for three solid days and nights from Thursday April 13 to Saturday April 15. Here Thais and tourists alike get to enjoy the wild water play of Songkran Festival Thailand in full swing. Call it a wonderful mix of Thai tradition and fun travelling spirit where decoratively painted elephants walk the streets and everyone is fair game for a soaking.

Of course, being a celebration of everything Thai, Songkran is also a wonderful time of year to be a Thai food and beverage fan, especially in and around Khao San where the street food, pub and nightlife scenes are particularly vibrant.

Sanam Luang area opposite the Grand Palace, not far from Khao San, is another hot Songkran spot. Here, celebrations are more respectful. On the first day of Songkran the Buddha image “Buddhasihing” is taken from the National Museum and escorted along the street to allow people to sprinkle on water before it is left on display for the next three days to enable people to pay their respects. Then there’s Phra Pradaeng District, another place to head to if you want to enjoy a more traditional Songkran. In addition to getting splashed with water, here you will have the chance to join in more cultural activities like Raman dances, ‘saba’ game, the Thai-Ramn flag ceremony, and parades.

A word to the wise: as it’s hot, and clothes are likely to get ruined by sustained water and talc attacks, it’s advisable to wear as little as possible and to leave precious items of clothing in one’s luggage. Near-nudity is frowned upon, however. So put things like your mobile phone and watch in a plastic bag and have a ton of fun.

Oh and remember to bid everyone you meet Sawasdee Pee Mai – Happy New Year!