Millions of tourists flock to Thailand every year for many reasons: sandy beaches, lush jungles, and one of the finest cuisines in the world just to name a few.
Foreigners are also attracted to Thai culture — Thai society is welcoming and open towards tourists and celebrates a series of spectacular festivals and holidays that show the importance of religious values and connection with nature for the Thai community.
The most famous Thai festival is Songkran or Water Festival. It’s a very unique way to mark the beginning of a new year (according to the Thai calendar) and the end of the past one. Celebrations are grand across the country and Thai people enjoy time with family and friends.
Many consider the Songkran festival the best time to visit Thailand. In this article, you’ll find useful information to plan your Songkran visit, including:
- When and where Songkran is
- The history behind Songkran and its symbolism
- How to travel to Thailand for Songkran
When Is Songkran 2020?
The Songkran festival coincides with the beginning of a new Thai year, which usually falls around mid-April. Officially, the celebrations and public holidays last for 3 days but it’s not unusual in some parts of the country to keep the party going for up to 8 days.
In 2020, the Songkran festival will be celebrated between April 13th and 16th.
Are Shops Closed During the Songkran Festival?
The Songkran festival is one of the most important festivities in the country. Not only is it a public holiday but it’s one of the most actively celebrated by the Thai people.
Office buildings, banks, restaurants, chains and family-run shops will be closed for Songkran. In big city centers, however, you’ll be able to find some big malls open.
What Does Songkran Symbolize?
Saluting the new year, the Songkran festival is about purification and renovation. ‘Songkran’ literally translates as ‘moving or passing into’, signifying bidding farewell to the old year — with all its joys and pains — and moving into the new one with a clear mind and heart.
Songkran is also called the Water Festival. That’s because Thai people perform a series of cleansing and bathing rituals including pouring water over Buddhist statues and monks, cleaning the community elders’ hands with scented water and even start ‘water battles’ in the streets using pump-action water guns and buckets. They also clean their houses to prepare themselves for Songkran.
However, Songkran is a whole experience made of much more than water rituals. You can expect music and parades, beauty contests and traditional food, and sports competitions.
Where Is the Songkran Water Festival Held?
The Water Festival is celebrated across Thailand and the vast majority of towns and villages will have some Songkran plan in place for the festivity. However, there are some centers that are especially famous for their grand and spectacular Songkran celebrations.
Where to See Songkran in Bangkok
The Bangkok Songkran opening ceremony, for example, is held at Wat Pho, one of Thailand’s most important Buddhist temples and home to the world-famous reclined gold Buddha. Khao San Road (already popular all year round with tourists) fills up with one of the greatest water battles in the country.
Where Can I Celebrate Songkran in Chiang Mai?
Chiang Mai’s Water Festival is considered one of the greatest in Thailand. Locals and foreigners alike meet at Thapae Gate for an epic water fight — Thai attendees of all ages often wear traditional Thai costumes.
Believers also parade Buddha statues and images across the Old Town’s streets and gently sprinkle water on them.
Planning Your Trip for Songkran
April is still considered peak season in Thailand. Add to that the fact that Songkran is a popular time of the year for traveling both for international tourists and locals and you’ll see how important it is to plan your Thai holiday in advance.
It’s not only about applying for a Thai visa and buying plane seats before prices skyrocket. Accommodation and local transportation sell out fast and it’s a good idea to make arrangements well in advance in order to avoid disappointments.
If you intend to participate in the celebrations and watch the most popular parades, make sure to arrive early so that you can get the best spots and enjoy Songkran hassle-free.