Inside Songkran: A Thailand Tradition

  • All is fair game at Songkran

    Dousing traffic at Songkran

    Songkran is the Thai New Year Festival, celebrated from April 13-15 this year. Historically, the festival pays homage to elders and to the temple, as well as marking the transition from the hot and dry season to the coming of rain and planting of the new crops. Traditionally, Buddha images were bathed and young people poured scented water onto the hands of their family elders, with the water signifying the washing away of bad luck and spirits. These days, it's mostly all about the party though, as Thailand and much of the rest of Southeast Asia celebrates the world's biggest water fight, with three days of squirt guns, water cannons and plenty of good cheer. With temperatures usually in the 100s at this time, it's a pretty welcomed event!

    Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

  • Shoot 'em up at Songkran

    Summer fun at Songkran

    Everyone loads up with plastic squirt guns of all shapes and sizes for the massive party, which gets crazier as the festival goes on. It's a time of letting off steam and stress, and cooling off from the sizzling April temperatures.

    Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

  • My gun's bigger than me!

    Young lad with a big weapon

    All ages get involved in Songkran, from elders to young toddlers. The holiday is both a family, community and greater nation time. 

    Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

  • Pouring it on at Songkran

    Look out for the wave!

    While the holiday was originally "soft core," with water being poured on family member's hands, these days its full on, with everyone trying to outdo each other with a bigger splash. In Bangkok, authorities have had to step in to stop people from using large cannons with frozen ice water, which can cause a lot of damage. 

    Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

  • Ready for a party

    Color and fun at Songkran

    There is plenty of color and fun to be had during the Thai New Year. Most of the country is on holiday, and everyone puts on something they can afford to get soaked, dyed and get thrown away after three days of wet partying.

    Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

  • Mom look at me now!

    A big mess at Songkran

    Besides water, people also smear chalk on each other. Chalk was traditionally used by monks to write down blessings, so it has found its way into the celebration, but more recently young folks have started using dirt and engine grease as well, ensuring for one very messy time!

    Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

  • Getting doused at Songkran

    Taking a bath at Thai New Year

    Unfortunately, road fatalities at Songkran are at their highest, with plenty of drinking and driving, along with masses of cars on the highways heading home and out for the longest holiday of the year. Sensible motorcyclists know to go slow and accept getting doused rather than trying to rev it up and escape the inevitable.

    Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

  • Armed and ready at Songkran

    On the prowl at Songkran

    Shops specializing in large plastic water guns do a thriving business at this time and there really is no end to the sizes, shapes and methods of the wetness, from hoses to buckets to giant squirt guns.

    Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

  • Getting a New Year's Splashing

    Cooling off at the New Year's party

    While not called Songkran, this New Year celebration also takes place in neighboring Southeast Asian countries. Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar all have their own water festivals and parties. In Luang Prabang in Laos, the "Phii Mai" New Year's festival lasts not three but seven days!

    Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

  • Getting wet and even at New Year

    World's biggest water party

    In Yunnan Province in Southern China, the Tai minority also get into the splashing act with a massive water party. While Songkran does entail a few caveats such as putting cell phones and wallets into plastic bags, and not wearing good clothing, it really is a tremendous cool blast and a festival worth putting into your travel calendar if you've never experienced it before.

    Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis