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► FAQ | Everything about Songkran

Q. What is Songkran-Officially?
A. Songkran is the Thai New Year Festival and the most important holiday of the year for the Thai's. It corresponds with the Thai Lunar New Year calendar and the dates used to differ each year slightly based on this but are now fixed. Songkran is, officially, a time to become closer to Buddha, respect and visit your elders and monks with a slight dabbing of water on their foreheads or shoulders, a time to clean the house from top to bottom and a time to spend with your family. It is a national holiday and most Thai go home for the official dates to spend time with the elders in their community and family. In cities like Chiang Mai, the Buddha images from the temples are paraded through the streets so one may lightly douse them in fragent water to clean them and show respect.

Q. What is Songkran-Unofficially?
A. Songkran has, in most villages, remained the same traditional festival with a day of mild water play. However, in Pattaya, Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai and some of the other larger cities, Songkran has become known as the worlds wildest water fight and one of the worlds biggest parties. From giant water cannons, to water pump trucks with massive hoses, to foam parties, to ice cold water, to copious amounts of drinking, Songkran has it all. Chiang Mai is the place to go to see the most traditional aspects of Songkran and experience one day of water wars.

Q. Ok, tell me more about this water war...What are the rules?
A. There really are none, at least not in the tourist hot spots of Pattaya, Phuket, Khao San Road, etc. Vendors will be selling water guns of all shapes and sizes in the streets which many people will be equipped with. You are as likely to be shot with water by a six year old as you are a 90 year old street vendor. Everyone participates. There is NO OPTING OUT if you are outside and Songkran is in effect. Yes, in many countries, this would be assault if you simply walked up and threw a bucket of ice cold water on someone's head that you did not know. In Thailand, it's part of the festival. The people who fuss and get upset about getting hit with water only make themselves bigger targets. The moment someone shows they are not enjoying the festival or shows they are angry will cause dozens of people to attack that person with water. It's best to play along. In Bangkok, the heaviest area is easily Khao San Road, other parts of the city, minus the 15th, the main day in the city, are not as full of water warring. However, if you are doused with water during the Songkran days in a quiet part of the city, it's still part of the festival.

Q. Ice water?
A. Yes. This is mostly true in Pattaya, Phuket and tourist parts of Bangkok but in Pattaya you will see giant ice trucks driving around all day selling ice to bars to chill the water. Many people dislike this aspect of Songkran. One suggestion is that the final day of Songkran in Pattaya, on Beach Road, is mostly ice water free. The reason is that the entire Beach Road is shut down and ice trucks cannot get to all the folks with water guns and the barrels on the street. Most of the water here was warm last year and allowed one to really enjoy the festival. Of note, Songkran is the hottest time of the year so you may actually miss that Ice Water when it's over.

Q. What are the dates of Songkran?
A. The official dates, celebrated in 90 percent of the country, are the 13-15. The 13 and 14 are mostly days of cleaning and respecting your elders, visiting the wats, etc. The 15th is the countrywide water war day which ranges from mild in the villages to wild on Khao San Road...except for Pattaya.

Q. Except for Pattaya? What are Pattaya's dates?
A. Pattaya starts around the 11th or 12th and culminates on the 19th. Each day picks up in the level of the water wars, starting with mild play on the 11th and 12th mostly confined to Soi 7 and Soi 8, picking up with Soi 6 and Drinking Street on the 13th to the 15th and by the 16th the entire town is playing. The 19th is the big day in Pattaya and the entire city is shut down. Beach Road, from Walking Street to the Dolphin Roundabout is shut down. Dozens of concert stages are set up and hundreds of unique food vendors, etc, are set up along the Beach Road. Tens of thousands of people visit Pattaya specifically for this date, the vast majority Thai's. Tons of musical artists perform, mostly popular Thai artists, all up and down the road. Every street, soi and alley participates. Every truck seemingly made in the country is on the prowl on the roads with dozens of people in the truck, having running water wars with other trucks and families. A significant note is that it is IMPOSSIBLE to travel on the night of the 18th and day of the 19th.

Q. Wait...Why is Pattaya a week longer than the rest of the country? Why do they celebrate their day on a different day? Why does it look and sound like just a big drunken party and not a cultural festival?
A. You'll get a lot of different answers for this. The most consistent answers are that A, it allows time for everyone who went home for the official dates to come back to Pattaya for the big party and B, it's good for tourism. Many businesses actually close the entire week of Songkran as the potential water damage is major and the fact that many employees have no way to make it to work dry. Some businesses thrive during this time, mostly the bars on Soi 7 and Soi 8, many of the restaurants, mall stores, etc, struggle as nobody wants to go through the freezing malls soaking wet. Last year, Central had a policy that no wet people could come inside....the mall was empty as unless you drove a car to the mall's garage, you had no way of getting in dry. Pattaya is NOT traditional is about non stop water battles and drinking. I got a notice in my hotel room the night before the 19th warning me that the entire town would be drunk by noon on the 19th and to be careful. This is not far from the truth.

Q. What if I take a baht bus and have grocery bags, am well dressed, etc. People will leave me alone, right?
A. No. The Baht Busses are the biggest single targets, especially on the dates before the 19th. People will line the sides of the road and launch buckets of freezing water at the people on the baht busses. Most of the time, the baht bus folks cannot defend themselves as they are stuck in traffic. It's fun to take a baht bus if you're drunk and want to experience being the biggest target out there, but woe to the folks who think they will be safe on one.

Q. If I'm on a motorbike, nobody would possibly throw a bucket of freezing water in my face, right?
A. Again, no. It's very common to watch both Thai and falang launch buckets of freezing water right at someone driving a motorbike. It's insane, it's unsafe, it leads to hundreds of deaths every year in Songkran, but it hasn't stopped. I would strongly suggest NOT to take a motorbike during Songkran dates, especially the 18th and 19th.

Q. I've heard the water wars end at night, is this true?
A. For the most part actually, yes. Last year, 99% of people behaved from my personal experience and stopped throwing water when the sun went down. Yes, once in a while someone may still do so after dark, but it does normally stop. A significant exception to this is the night of the 18th, morning of the 19th. The moment midnight hits and it's the 19th, it's officially Songkran in Pattaya and it's open war. Walking Street is especially intense this night with nonstop battles all over the street. Expect soaking wet people in the discos, etc, this night.

Q. Do hotel prices increase during this time?
A. Nope. If you know a hotel that does, they are trying to inflate prices. This is considered low season. Many of the extra people in Pattaya are Thai's from Bangkok come down for the fun.

Q. Are there less girls in town? Do they all go home?
A. This question cracks me up! Yes, some girls do go home for the 13th to the 15th but nearly all are back by the 16th. This is one of the reasons the dates in Pattaya are different. The bargirls REALLY love Songkran. Think about many times a year in your home country can you hit your customers with water and paint their faces with clay? It's the one time of year they can really break loose and dance, drink and party, especially on Soi 6, 7 and 8. There are plenty of girls to choose from and more importantly, they love Songkran, especially the Pattaya version. You also get thousands of girls who come from all over the country to come to Pattaya specifically for the Pattaya version of Songkran. I had my best ever non working girl from Songkran last year.

Q. What about prices for the girls? Are they more expensive?
A. Some individual girls may attempt to charge more but prices are the same as all of low season, detailed in other threads. In fact, because there are so many tourists and Thai natives in Pattaya to see the event and one of the wildest parties on Earth and because so many expats and monger residents go into lockdown mode and don't leave their homes many girls get more eager for customers and will be even more attentive to your needs and to coming with you for a night.

Q. I've heard it's difficult to get a girl on the 19th....
A. You've heard right, at least up until the discos late at night where it's game on.. The 19th is the biggest day of Songkran in Pattaya and the biggest party in all of Thailand for Songkran. Pretty much no girl wants to short time or work this day...per say. If you long time before the 19th and are clear on spending the day together this is the best way to go if you don't have a group of friends or board members to keep you company. If you get real lucky she'll take you on Baht Bus Wars with her family if she lives locally or has relatives/friends locally. See below for more details on this. Again, many bars are open this day but most of the girls won't be short timable due to being too busy drinking and playing. As stated elsewhere in this FAQ, most gogo's are closed or will be empty of girls. The devils den is normally closed on the 19th.

Q. What was that about clay?
A. Part of songkran is also dabbing a persons cheeks with a clay mixture for good luck and karma. You will have beautiful young women, and some not beautiful, dab this mixture on your cheeks all throughout Songkran. Do not back away or act upset, to do so is rude and shows you are rejecting a blessing. Now, yes, a small minority of troublemakers do use itching clay and colored clay that stains your skin. LOOK at their bucket before they paint your face. If it's pink, it's ok to decline it. The pink clay is a pain to get off your skin and will stain it for a period of time. Of note is that less than 1% of people try to be a troublemaker with this aspect.

Q. What was that about baht bus wars?
A. If you have the opportunity to do this, I strongly suggest to try it, it adds a different perspective to the events. On my first Songkran I long timed a gogo showgirl for a few days before Songkran and she invited me on the day of Songkran to "go with her family". I didn't know what she meant but agreed to do so. She was a local girl, born and raised in Pattaya, rare actually for a Gogo girl, and brought me to her home on the Dark Side. I was greeted by a giant pickup truck with four barrels of ice cold water and multiple water weapons inside. I gave greetings to her whole family and friends, all fifteen or twenty of them, most who spoke no English. In we went into the back of the truck, stuffed like sardines, and we spent the next seven hours cruising around Pattaya, Chon Buri and Jomtien engaged in furious rolling water wars with other pick up trucks, some at high speeds. I drank heavily of Thai whiskey and got wasted with the teenage boys and we had a blast. I was one of the few falangs I saw in the trucks and I was the biggest target out there for the Thais...and it was a blast. 95% of local families engage in this for Songkran and roam the streets, targeting everyone. You might pay for the refill of the water, but for me it was a cheap 200 baht.

Q. Can you rent a truck for water wars?
A. Sure can, there are signs and postings around before the events and the big days. This year, 2012, myself and several board members are planning on renting a truck for Pattaya Addicts to reign down havoc on the 18th or 19th. Some folks even rent out the water refill trucks with the fire hoses and cruise down the road with that...essentially a tank in a battle with people with sticks. We saw a few people do this down Soi 7 and 8 last year and it was quite epic to watch dozens of people team up to attack the folks on the water trucks. On the 19th, actual fire trucks will be used to douse people with water and certain hydrants are opened and let loose throughout Beach Road and the major roads, literally throwing water dozens of feet into the air.

Q. Is this event safe for kids?
A. I would say yes. There are thousands of kids around and like any big cultural event, most of them are having the most fun. I'll warn you, they can be some of the most devious with that ice water, especially the little ones! They LOVE to shoot falangs! Keep the kids off the motorbikes.

Q. How much will a water gun cost me?
A. Depends on the size you get. You can get a small one for about 100 baht, up to well over a 1000 baht for the double tank packs with super distance. A special exception are the water cannons...see the next post.

Q. What's this about water cannons?
A. The cannons are the most hated by those who hate Songkran and the most loved by drunken folks who are "playing to win the war." They are about 600-800 baht and is literally a high powered cannon that releases a heavy, intense and hard blast of usually freezing cold water. A shot to the face, especially the eye, at point blank range can be quite painful and has led to many fights. Most people use this weapon respectfully, but I have seen some folks aim right at the heads of the motorbike drivers point blank and unleash the entire cannon. This is a fairly deadly weapon if used wrong and as a result last year the police were all over the place confiscating them. If the police see you with one, they will take it. As a result, you saw a lot less last year then prior years, but they are still out there, especially on Soi 7 and 8 for the most intense water wars on the 17th and 18th.

Q. You said it's impossible to travel on the 18th/19th. Can you explain?
A. Sure. The 19th, due to seemingly a million trucks on the road having water wars with each other, means that a cab ride to the airport or to Pattaya is not happening. Do not schedule the 19th as your final day or the 18th to come to Pattaya at night. A cab ride is easily 8-9 hours. I'm quite serious. Arrive on the 17th or leave on the 20th. If your tickets are non refundable and you fly out on the 19th, spend a day in Bangkok. Commuting in Bangkok on the 19th is fine, as it's not Songkran there! Do not even consider traveling on the 19th from Pattaya to Bangkok. Most Taxi services are not even in service.

Q. What if I don't want to participate/get wet?
A. You need to prepare to stay indoors for a few days. The most critical days in Pattaya are the 16th to the 19th when the entire town is playing. Even a quick trip to the market can get you wet. Purchase enough food and drinks and have enough entertainment to keep yourself busy. The event ends, hard, on the 20th. In fact, many people seem to wonder where the water went when they are struggling with the heat of the 20th. There is no way to opt out if you are on the streets.

Q. How do I protect my wallet, phone, etc?
A. Vendors will be selling waterproof pouches all over the city, starting on around the 11th. I suggest buying two of these, they are not the greatest waterproof pouches in the world so one in the other is a better idea. DO NOT STORE THE POUCH IN YOUR POCKET. THEFTS OF THESE POUCHES ARE COMMON. WEAR IT AROUND YOUR NECK AND INSIDE OF YOUR SHIRT. ESPECIALLY IF YOU PLAN ON GOING TO ONE OF THE HUGE CONCERTS AT CENTRAL FESTIVAL, ETC, WHERE THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE ARE IN A CROWD. A good friend of mine got his pouch, stored in his pocket, stolen last year. A Waterproof pouch is about 100 baht, if not less.

Q. What about infections from the water? Is the water clean?
A. Use precaution. I have never gotten sick on Songkran from the water but some folks do. Earplugs are fine. Some folks wear goggles. Don't be a tool and wear a trash bag, you just look like a douche. However, nobody looks oddly at folks with earplugs or goggles. The water is the same water used in the tap, which means it is not good for you to drink but shouldn't be a big deal in terms of being soaked from it all day.

Q. Where do I go if I want the wildest water wars?
A. Soi 7 and 8. Even with the construction on Soi 8, Soi 7 is the best place to go to experience nonstop chaos and water throwing. They also start the earliest, by the 13th, the streets are warzones.

Q. Where's the biggest party on the 19th?
A. Central festival, no doubt. Starting from mid afternoon until well after the sun goes down thousands, yes thousands, of people gather in and around the giant stage area in front of Central for a wild and crazy techno, hip hop and Thai concert with non stop water showering down from you from cannons, hoses, water dusters, etc. Fire trucks roll up and soak the whole crowd, etc. If you do not like massive concert/Ibiza like parties, best to stay away from this one. Also, watch your valuables...this is one of the biggest gatherings and parties in Thailand and pickpockets abound. Here's a video, not my own..

Q. Anything else I should see?
A. I'd strongly suggest to get to the Hard Rock Hotel and see their Songkran Stage which is more impressive every year on the 19th. It's set up like a fire station with some of the most impressive...and powerful...water soaking devices raining down on the street and crowd while hip hop artists and DJ's perform and people dance in the streets. On either side Hard Rock sets up a massive street foam party which leads to people playing in six foot deep foam and all sorts of chaos.

Q. Are there areas that are less intense?
A. On the 19th, no. On the earlier dates, you can easily get in and around 3rd road, most of the LK Metro, the lodges on Pratumnak, etc, without getting wet.

Q. I've heard the night of the 19th most places are closed....
A. Yes. Because 99% of the girls are too drunk to work, most of the gogos are closed this night. The big discos will be open and this is where to go if you can still party. Mixx and Insomnia were both doing great business last year.

► Highlights of the Songkran Festival

Bangkok Songkran Splendours Festival
Songkran Festival in the Capital include pouring scented water on Buddha images, sampling delicious Thai cuisine, and enjoying cultural performances at Nagaraphirom Park. Songkran is also the perfect time to visit royal temples including Wat Phra Kaeo, Wat Pho, Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn), Wat Ratchaorasaram, Wat Ratchaphradit, Wat Ratchabophit, Wat Bowornniwet, Wat Suthat, Wat Phraram Kao, Wat Chanasongkhram, Wat Saket (The Golden Mount), Wat Rakhang, and Wat Kanlayanamit.  Visitors can also join in the Songkran Festival activities at Rattanakosin Royal Square, as well as in the neighboring areas including Bang Lamphu, Khao San Rd., Phra Athit Rd., Santhichaiprakan and Wisut Kasat. From 9 to 17 April 2012, from 10.00-18.00 hrs., visitors should go to the information booth at each temple to receive a souvenir passport for collecting a stamp from each location. Once the passport is filled with stamps, visitors can receive a special gift at Wat Pho.

Chiang Mai Songkran Festival
Chiang Mai is renowned for holding one of the grandest Songkran celebrations in Thailand. Visitors can participate in the Opening Ceremony for the Songkran Festival by joining in the wonderful procession that takes place around Chiang Mai city. They can also pour scented water on a Buddha image and willing elders, delight in cultural performances and traditions that reflect the Northern style and enjoy a variety of foods available along the streets.

Chon Buri Songkran Festival
There are four key venues for the Songkran festival in Chon Buri province, which are Ko Si Chang, Wan Lai Bang Saen, Wan Lai Pattaya, and Si Maha Racha. The "Kong Khao" religious ritual, which is also related to the Thai New Year, includes a procession of ‘kong khao’ floats and Buddha images, plus the ritual bathing of Buddha images. Visitors should also make sure they see the tradition of local men carrying a lady to the sea and back at Ko Si Chang, which is followed by a folk dance.

Hat Yai Midnight Songkran Festival, Songkhla
In the south of Thailand’s largest city, Songkran includes water-splashing, beauty pageants and other activities such as Phra Phuttha Sihing Buddha image and Songkran Goddess procession. The Midnight Songkran Festival also features late-night fun on Niphat Uthit Road and Odian Intersection in Hat Yai.

Isan Songkran Festival, Dok Khun Siang Khaen Festival, and Khao Niao Street
Khon Kaen lies in the heart of the Northeast. Here, visitors can experience the longest human wave in the world and take part in the  water splashing on "Sticky Rice Street or Khao Niao Street" and watch the Flora Cart and Songkran Procession that starts out from Fountain Park. There is also a variety of entertainment to choose from; a mountain bike competition, volleyball tournament, petanque competition for the Royal Cup from HRH Princess Sirindhorn, cooking contest, OTOP product fair, folk plays, and a food fair at Kaen Nakhon Lake in Khon Kaen.

Maha Songkran Festival – Hae Nang Dan Muang Nakhon
Visitors to this southern province can participate in the Songkran festivities by bathing the Phra Phuttha Sihing image. Other highlights include the Nang Kradan procession and a Swing Ceremony to welcome the god Shiva. Exciting activities will take place at Wat Phra Borom That and Si Thamma Sokarat Park, Sanam Na Muang, Phra Isuan Hall, and Phra Narai Hall.

Nakhon Phanom Songkran Festival
At Sai Thong Sri Kottabun Beach in Muang District and Renu Nakhon Municipality, Nakhon Phanom, visitors can join in a Buddha image bathing ceremony at the birthday pagoda. To encourage good fortune, they can pour some flower-scented water on the seven pagodas that signify the seven days of birth.  Other activities include creating a sand pagoda and participating in the Buddhist ceremony, and making offerings to Phra That Si Khottabong in Lao PDR. For a special cultural experience, visitors can join in making a sand sculpture that is believed to bless people with good health, as well as watch a procession done in the Renu Nakhon tradition.

Nong Khai Songkran Festival
Visitors will find the beautiful procession at Wat Pho Chai enchanting and can see water being sprinkled on the sacred Luang Pho Phra Sai Buddha image in Nong Khai province.  Of course, there is plenty of water splashing, while the cultural heritage of the Mekong River area is celebrated through ethnic performances and entertainment.

Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Songkran Festival
In Thailand's ancient capital, Songkran celebrations take place at various sites around the Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya City Island.  Visitors can experience Buddhist merit-making and join elephants and their mahouts for some Songkran water-splashing fun.  Mon Songkran Celebrations will also be held at Wat Tong Bo in Sao Kradong in the Bang Pa-In district of the province.  For great photo opportunities, visits should not miss the procession of swan and centipede flags, as well as the Mon-style Buddha image bathing ritual.

Phra Pradaeng Songkran Festival, Samut Prakan
This is one of the few places in Thailand that celebrates the Songkran Festival in the Thai-Mon style.  The not-to-miss highlight is a magnificent parade. Visitors can learn how to play saba, enjoy a Mon folk play and many other forms of entertainment, and also see a procession of swan and centipede flags.

Songkran on the Beach, Phuket
Visitors can join in a communal Thai New Year merit-making ceremony, witness a procession of Phra Phuttha Sihing Buddha images along Patong Beach, and pay homage to elders with scented lustral water. A range of events will be held at Loma (Dolphin) Public Park and the port, and the Jungceylon activity plaza overlooking Patong Beach.

Sukhothai Songkran Festival
The Songkran celebration in Sukothai includes a variety of entertainment and performances, a parade, and food fairs at Si Satchanalai district, as well as at the Sukhothai Historical Park, and Thai Phuan Buddhist Ordination on Elephant’s Back at Ban Hat Siao. Visitors who want to truly experience the the roots of traditional Thai culture must not miss exploring this city.

Suphanburi Maha Songkran
Along Nean Kaeo Road in Suphanburi, in the heart of Thailand's central region, visitors can enjoy a procession featuring the golden Luang Pho To Buddha Image, along with other processions put together by public and private entities in the province. There will also be folk music performances, a Miss Songkran beauty contest, and water splashing with Suphanburi artists.

Monday, January 18, 2021