If having a three day water fight, being fully immersed in Thai culture and drinking too many afternoon beers sounds like an event you want to experience, then Song Kran is right up your street. Thai New Year (or Song Kran) runs from the 13th to the 15th of April each year and although it’s celebrated nationwide, the most popular area to celebrate Song Kran is in Chiang Mai – a city found in the North of Thailand. With Chiang Mai’s moat marking the edge of the old city, there’s an endless supply of water waiting to be thrown at even the most unsuspecting visitors. Bangkok and Hat Yai are two other popular areas to party throughout Song Kran and you’re sure to have a blast in either of these places too! There is, however, no place to match Chiang Mai so book your tickets and accommodation early to escape the mad rush of travelers flocking up north.
Traditionally, the festival originated through the gentle pouring of water over your elders’ shoulders – blessing them, washing away any ‘badness’ and welcoming the New Year. Although the premise is still the same, spend one day in Chiang Mai and you’ll know that no longer is it a case of gently pouring away the water. You’ll get buckets thrown over you regardless of your age, even if you’re driving a vehicle. And if you miraculously manage to avoid one set of water fighters, there’ll be another set waiting for you only metres away.
There truly is no escape, so keep your phone, wallet and passport well hidden – there seems no end to the amount of people who lose, break and damage their belongings during Song Kran; don’t let it be you!
Song Kran lasts at least three days and, being a national holiday, many businesses close accordingly. Both the Thais and foreigners alike use this as an excuse to cool down from the April Thai sun (40 degrees +). There’s nothing quite like a bucket of ice-cold water in your face to immediately remove your headache from yesterday’s party. With Thai people being such a thoughtful bunch, the water throwing ceases around sunset, when it tends to get cooler and people settle down for some evening food. Grab a nice shower, put your gladrags on and head out into the town; just try to avoid rowdy party animals, who tend to cause havoc long into the night!
Put Song Kran in your calendar for April 2012, it may be the best trip you ever take. Just remember, bring a sense of humour, a huge water gun and a waterproof camera! If you’re going to learn any Thai, learn this – “Sawaa di Pi Mai”; Thais love people attempting their language and with “Happy New Year” under your belt, you’ll be well prepared – just expect to be on the receiving end of a large quantity of water, and a heart felt blessing for the New Year.