Songkran Spectacular: Delve into the Heart of Thailand’s Water Festival!

Songkran Spectacular: Delve into the Heart of Thailand’s Water Festival!

Come April, it’s time for Thailand to show the world how to beat the heat in style once again in the Songkran Festival. And for this year, the celebration of traditional Thai New Year is just getting bigger and better.

Songkran is Thailand’s largest nationwide celebration of the Thai New Year, which usually begins on April 13 through to April 15. The word “Songkran” means “a transition,” referring to the official transit of the sun to the zodiac sign of Aries, which takes place on April 13 annually. Akin to Christmas, Songkran is probably Thailand’s busiest and liveliest national holiday, with signs of festivities such as people sporting the “Songkran look” of flower-patterned shirts or traditional Thai costumes, jasmine flower garlands or large water tanks around their necks, painting their faces with white clay paste, or splashing water at random strangers almost everywhere. But before all the fun begins, Songkran usually starts with the cleaning of one’s residence, including any figurine of Lord Buddha, which will be gently wiped with a clean cloth and given a “bath” of traditional Thai perfumed water (Naam Ob) once every year.

Do take note, though, that traditionally, water is neither meant to be roughly thrown/splashed/squirted at just about anyone, nor should it be ordinary straight-from-the-hose water, but rather to be put aside in an ornate container and mixed with Naam Ob or traditional Thai perfumed water, with a little bit of fragrant flower petals sprinkled in it, and poured gently over the hands or shoulders, especially if you encounter an elderly person and seek their blessings for the coming new year.

Nowadays, the practice, which is known as the Rod Naam Dum Hua ceremony, is mostly limited to family members, and once you step outside your home, it’s all water war zones out there. If you arrive in Thailand during this period, make sure that you’ve made hotel and transport reservations well ahead of time, as locals would flock the airport, bus terminal, train stations, and the roads, to either embark on an extended vacation elsewhere or heading back to their hometowns to reunite with families and friends.

And visitors to Thailand are just in luck this year. To celebrate UNESCO’s recent recognition of Songkran as one of the world’s “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity,” the government of Thailand is launching “The Maha Songkran World Water Festival 2024” countrywide almost throughout the month of April. So be sure to check out these following major spots to experience your best Songkran ever:

2024 Thailand’s Top Regional Songkran Splashing Sites

Running from 11-15 April 2024, this 5-long day celebration in the capital city of Thailand is packed with spectacular cultural activities, all planned by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, which is almost the sure-fire sign of lavishness.
What to expect: Tons of activities for international visitors in the Old City part of Bangkok. Procession parades with over 1000 performers showcasing unique Songkran traditions of Thailand’s five regions, led by a celebrity dressed up as the Nang Songkran goddess on April 11, with starting location on Pan Fa Lilat Bridge on to Rachadamnoen Klang Road and ending at Sanam Luang.
The Spots: Silom Road, Khao Sarn Road, Central World, Sanam Luang, Waterbomb Bangkok Festival, Siam Songkran Music Festival, Wat Po, Wat Arun 

Chiang Mai
Dubbed in the northern Thai dialect as “Pa Way Nee Pee Mai Muang Chiang Mai,” this year’s Songkran celebration in Chiang Mai would be the longest ever. The 13-day festivity starts from April 4 and will not end until April 16, 2024. Stay within the Old City Wall area for the action. Start off from Tha Pae Gate to catch the action and then work your pace along the streets, make a frequent stop at temples to catch your breath and refill your water gun ammo. Repeat for the next few days.
What to expect: Buddhist merit-making activities, plenty of revivals of ancient northern Songkran traditions, entertainments from local folk artists, food festivals, processions of several holy Buddha figures, distribution of blessed holy water from Chiang Mai’s nine sacred water sources, and lots of fun.The Spots: Tha Pae Gate, Chiang Mai Gate, Ping River, Wat Phra Singh

Chonburi and Pattaya
Traditionally called “Wan Lai” or “Flowing Day” rather than Songkran, the moniker is more commonly used with the areas of Chonburi on Bang Saen Beach and throughout Pattaya. Again, the celebration in this region tends to start about a week later than the traditional holiday. This year’s Wan Lai in Chonburi will take place from April 16 and 17, and on April 19 for Pattaya.
What to expect: A huge music festival in Pattaya with leading pop and country artists, the making of “sand pagodas” at temples, cultural performances, beauty contests, and lots of water splashing.
The Spots:
For Chonburi: Bang Saen Beach
For Pattaya: Beach Road, Walking Street, Central Festival Pattaya Beach 

Khon Kaen
The 8-day long Songkran celebration in Khon Kaen kicks off at the Kaen Na Korn Lake from April 8-15, 2024, followed by the famous Thanon Khao Neaw “Sticky Rice Road” and around the Khon Kaen City Shrine from April 12-15, 2024.
What to expect: Daily concerts and traditional music performances from local artists on 10 stages, a Songkran procession parade headed by Miss Thailand Universe 2023 on April 15 at Thanon Khao Neaw, and the infamous “Human Wave” movement.
The Spots:Kaen Na Korn Lake, Khon Kaen Walking Street, Wat Nong Wang

Samut Prakarn
Also known as “Songkran Phra Pradaeng” or “Wan Lai Pra Pradaeng,” the province of Samut Prakarn’s trademark celebration tends to start one week later than the traditional Songkran, starting on April 19 and lasts until April 21 every year. Pra Pradaeng is home to the Mon ethnic group in Thailand and still retains one of the most traditional patterns of Songkran celebration up to this day.
What to expect: Buddhist ceremonies at temples, traditional sweets making, Khao Chae (a Mon traditional dish of rice soaked in fragrant water and eaten with condiments), food markets, and Mon ethnic games and entertainment.
The Spots: Phra Pradaeng

Unlike other major cities, Phuket will hold only a one-day celebration of the Thai New Year on April 13, 2024, on Deebuk Road. Determined to keep the festivity clean and safe for everyone, the municipality of Phuket decides to throw a “No-Alcohol Songkran” theme this year.
What to expect: A concert by “Paradox,” youth live music performances, participants dressed up in traditional Thai costumes, an alcohol-free, smoke-free, and drug-free, good clean fun atmosphere.
The Spots: Patong Beach, Bang La Road, Wat Chalong, Wat Pho

Who is Nang Songkran Goddess?
Every Songkran procession parade is usually headed by a lady dressed in ornate traditional Thai costumes to represent the mythical figure unique to the festival called the Nang Songkran goddess. According to Thai folklore, Nang Songkran goddesses are the seven daughters of Lord Kabillaphrom, a powerful deity who lost his bet to a clever young boy called Dharmabal Kumara who solved his complex riddles correctly and consequently had to sacrifice his own head. However, letting Lord Kabillaphrom’s head touch the ground would also mean earth’s demise, therefore each year, one of his daughters (who each is assigned to a particular day of the week and dressed differently) would take the turn to make a procession of their father’s holy crown for 365 days before passing on the duty to the next sister. As this year’s Songkran falls on a Saturday, the Nang Songkran goddess would be the one called Mahodhara Devi.