The people of Thailand work hard in a very hot climate, so it only makes sense that their biggest party is the world's largest water fight. Falling from the 13th to the 15th of April, Songkran celebrates the Thai New Year in style, with music, dancing and tons of splashing, as the typically mellow populace explodes into wild celebration. Picture Time Square right after the count-down, only extend it for three days, add 40º C heat and an endless amount of water guns, buckets, bottles, or any other instrument that allows you to soak a perfect stranger while shouting "Sawadee Pi Mai!" aka Happy New Year! After traveling Thailand, one of the most enduring images was that of a novice monk, maybe only eleven or twelve years old, looking poised and regal in his saffron robes while hurtling buckets of water at cyclists on the street of Pi and laughing his little shaved head off.
Songkran isn't only about partying and beating the heat. It is a time of making resolutions, washing household Buddha images, and reconnecting with friends and family. Traditionally, Thais would pour small amounts of water into a person's hands or onto their head as a gesture of respect. The water is a symbol for cleansing the experiences of the previous year, and of starting fresh.
Songkran happens everywhere in Thailand. I was in Pi and would recommend it, as it's a lovely little place in the North to enjoy the New Year without experiencing the full extent of either the crowds or the heat. We enjoyed transport by local first class buses, which have attendants who distribute snacks as if you were on a flight, and had films, unfortunately not in English, but they were slightly cheaper than other tourist modes.
Odds n' Ends
Both tourists and residents have been warned by the government to "revel within bounds" and could face arrest should they touch strangers faces with talc or throw ice cubes during Songkran. The splashing of passing motorcyclists and tuk-tuk drivers, as well as the wide-spread alcohol consumption, has lead to many accidents. The "backpacker's gettho" of Kohsan road often sees the worst of Songkran-related excess, so plan accordingly and party responsibly.
From the glorious chaos of Bangkok, head to the serene mountains of Northern Thailand. Trek through the jungle with your guide and learn firsthand about life in a hilltribe village. After the trek, trade in the mountains for beach life in the south. Hang up your hammock and enjoy the sounds of the sea in your own tropical island paradise.
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It's quite possible that the saying shop till you drop originated from the Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok. Sprawling over 35 acres and comprised of an estimated 5,000 - 9,000 vendors, Chatuchak is a bargain hunters dream come true. If you’re not entirely accustomed to bartering, Chatuchak is the perfect environment to develop your skills. The best method is a respectful and pleasant demeanor, with a hint of unworried confidence. Any and everything you can imagine for sale can be found here. Plants, apparel, furniture, art, food, jewelry, pets, crafts and the list goes on and on. Over 400,000 people ...8 miles away.
Thailand blends the exotic with modern convenience: Bangkok is a gleaming city with a robust traditional cuisine and a culture of devout Buddhism, while the ancient city of Chiang Mai is spa central. When you're done lapping all that up, move on to cloudy mountains or lounge around on the pearlescent sand of those famous beaches.
Despite the setbacks suffered by the Thai economy in recent years, Songkran will still be celebrated with the same enthusiasm and abandonment as it has in the past: possibly with even greater vigour, as many Thais will see this season as a new beginning.
For Songkran festival, Thai people clean everything, i.e the house, the previous year bad actions, the Buddha statues, one's own spirit. But nowadays Songkran festival is better known for its splashing water madness.
Bangkok is a danger zone this weekend. Many foreigners flee. Middle-class Thais stay cautiously in their homes. The usually gridlocked streets are strangely empty -- except for roving bands of armed youths.
April 8-15. Thai New Year celebrations during which, traditionally, people pour water on the hands of elder people to get their blessings. Today, young people arm themselves with high-velocity water guns, buckets, and hoses for the mother of all water fights.
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