According to the Thai Buddhist calendar, Songkran, literally means ‘astrological passage’. It can be interpreted as ‘change’ and ‘cleansing’, a time to usher in a new year and to purify one’s soul and also to do some spring-cleaning. It is also a time to enjoy family togetherness and some fun and exciting festivities too.
Don’t be surprised to see thousands of Bangkok-based Thais flocking to the bus terminals or joining the traffic for the long drive back to their hometowns to see their families and old friends to enjoy the Songkran celebrations together. Each province and each community has its own unique way of celebrating the festival, so the activities vary from province to province.
Top tips to get the most out of Songkran:
In the morning, make merit and listen to temple sermons to understand and benefit from the spiritual side of the festival. Remember that during the New Year festival, the temple activities are the most important aspects of the celebration.
To purify or bathe the Buddha or other statues, water should not be poured directly onto the head of the relic, rather on other parts of the statue’s torso. This is a unique ritual which for centuries has celebrated the significance of water in Thai culture and society as a symbol of purity, prosperity and happiness.
The custom of pouring water onto the hand of elders’ (people above 60 years old), is to show respect and seek their New Year blessings. This custom is called the Rod Nam Dum Hua ritual.
Water used to splash on others should be clean or mixed with Thai traditional fragrances. Avoid throwing water aggressively or using high-pressure water guns or hoses. Don’t throw water with ice in it as this can cause injury as well be unpleasant.
Women should be wary of wearing tight clothes or ones that are light in colour and/or made of thin fabric. When wet, such garments can become quite revealing, raising the risk of sexual harassment.
Here are some of the locations to celebrate Songkran where ancient traditions are still being observed.
**Look out for regular updates on the exact dates at each location which will be provided once they become available.
Sanam Luang: The famous Phra Buddha Sihing image from the National Museum will be taken on a parade around the Bangkok Municipal Administration to be installed at Sanam Luang for the public to bathe and pray to – this tradition only takes place once a year. The public will also have the chance to purify Phra Phuttha Sihing image as well as nine other sacred Buddha statues from famous temples in Bangkok with scented water. There’s also a mass alms-giving ceremony to mark the beginning of the Thai New Year.
Songkran Wisutkasat: The legendary Songkran celebration in Bangkok since 1935, Songkran Wisutkasat on Wisutkasat Road (Bang Khun Phrom intersection) is best known for being the origin of Miss Songkran Beauty contest in Thailand. The traditional festival has been held annually for over 70 years along with several other cultural activities taking place at the event.
Songkran Bang Lamphu: Join the merit-making and cultural performances with the locals on Phra Athit Road and watch the parade along Suan Santi, a small town strip along the Chao Phraya River behind Khaosan Road.
Experience Bangkok’s most joyous Songkran celebrations where both local and tourists from all over the world soak each other at the famous Khao San Road.
In addition, for the urban ways of celebrating Songkran, go to the street of Silom, where revellers will swarm the area in search for a riotous good time.
Join locals in celebrating Songkran in the ancient capital of Ayuttaya with merit-making activities around town, with highlights at Viharn Phra Mongkolborpit. Enjoy the procession of Miss Songkran and elaborately-decorated floats, bathe the Buddha images, join Rod Nam Dum Hua ritual and many other religious and cultural activities.
Phra Pradaeng is home to one of the Kingdom’s most famous Songkran celebrations. The ethnic Thai-Mon people of Phra Pradaeng, just in the outskirt of Bangkok, celebrate the festival at later dates than in the rest of the nation. Visitors can enjoy a procession of magnificent floral wagons, contests of Miss Songkran and Mister Loi Chai, as well as learn about the cultures of ethnic Mon through their folk plays and game of Saba.
Meanwhile in Bang Nam Phueng district, highlights include Miss Jumbo-Nam Pheung and a Miss Songkran contest, local comedy and plays, as well as many cultural activities.
Sangkhlaburi: the unique Mon’s Songkran celebrations. Highlights include the ceremony to purify the revered Buddha statues via bamboo pipes that can be kilometres in length, and the indigenous beliefs and practices of the local people of Sangkhlaburi where men will voluntarily lay down on the street to make a human bridge for monks to walk upon to the purifying area both before and after finishing the ceremony. The monks are then carried back to the temple by the village men. Join other merit-making activities; such as, bringing sand into temples to build the Mon’s sand pagoda, and bringing waters to giving an evening bath to elders who are observing religious precepts or rite in the temples.
Nong Prue district will celebrate Songkran with the Wax Castle Procession. Other activities are merit-making ceremony, Rod Nam Dum Hua ritual, and local plays.
The biggest venue for Songkran celebration is on Nane Kaew Ton Tai Road, in front of the Suphanburi bus terminal. Join the procession of the highly-revered Luangpor To, the sacred golden Buddha image of Suphanburi which will be paraded around town. Enjoy cultural, merit-making and fun-filled activities, shopping and food fair throughout the event.
The Prapeni Pi Mai Mueang lasts five days. Highlights include joining the procession of Chiang Mai’s prominent Phra Buddha Sihing image as well as bathing the image, and taking part in a parade bringing sand and Sali (the Bodhi tree) clutches to temples, cultural events and performances, international food festival and fun fair.
Join the worshipping ceremony of Phra Maha Thammaracha I and the royal dynasty as well as enjoy the Lady Oi Tan – Miss Songkran competition and the Chang Pho Mueang parade at Sri Satchanalai Historical Park. In addition, there will be a Songkran celebration in remembrance of Sukhothai as an ancient capital of Thailand, also at Sri Satchanalai Historical Park.
Phra Buddha Sihing image from Wat Phra Singha will be taken on a parade for the public to bathe and pray to. Join the procession of Miss Songkran, sand pagoda building contest and a range of fun-filled local shows.
‘Salung Luang, Klong Yai, Pee Mai Mueang Lampang’, experience the celebration in traditional Lanna style at Lampang, enjoy strolling and shopping in replicas of cultural villages and ancient markets, bathing the Buddha image, ‘Salung Luang’ procession, a Miss Songkran contest, a floral horse-drawn carriages competition, cultural shows, light and sound performance, OTOP products sale and exhibitions.
Mae Hong Son
Join the procession of the Buddha image and Miss Songkran as well as enjoy various fun-filled activities including Songkran fancy parade, local sports, and cooking demonstration of local snacks and sweets.
Join the Thai-Myanmar Songkran celebration on the banks of Moei River. Highlights include the Muay Kaad Cheuk matches between Thai and Myanmar fighters. This is an ancient Thai martial art in which the fighters wrap their fists and forearms in hemp rope and strike using fists, elbows and knees.
Bathing the highly-revered Por Pu image in which devout Buddhists pour fragrant water over the image to mark the coming of the New Year, worship the provincial shrine in Mueang district, and learn the captivating history of Phichit in the magnificent light-and-sound presentation.
So-called ‘Dok Khun, Siang Kaen Songkran and Khoa Niew Road Songkran Festival, Khon Kaen is recognised for its exciting and joyous Songkran celebrations. Highlights take place on Khao Niew Road with a lot of exciting and fun activities as well as a floral parade, traditional Issan-style dance, enjoy the fun of water splash to the max, stage shows and performances throughout the event.
A traditional Issan-style of Songkran can be observed at Mueang district and Tambon Renu Nakhon in Nakhon Phanom. Observe the Thai-Lao Songkran cultural celebrations at the ancient local market, Songkran water fun on Khao Pun Road, folk games, a ‘Saba Toy’ competition, colourful parade, cultural shows and Miss Songkran contest.
Bath the revered Luang Por Phra Sai Buddha image as it is paraded around the city. Join a party on the Thailand-Laos Friendship Bridge that signifies the unity between the two nations.
Bath Buddhist monks and Rod Nam Dum Hua ritual, as well as savour local dishes at the avenue of food, staging especially to showcase the best flavours from around the town.
Join the spectacular Songkran procession, merit-making activity, Rod Nam Dum Hua ritual, local plays, and stage entertainment from leading Thai artists.
This is where Thailand, Lao PDR and Vietnam jointly celebrate Songkran with spectacular procession that highlights the characteristics of the three Mekong nations, as well as the long-standing friendships between the peoples. Join the merit-making ceremony and Rod Nam Dum Hua ritual.
Bang Saen: the unique Songkran celebration in Bang Saen is called “Wan Lai.” Traditionally, it was a New Year celebration of the fishermen. A traditional merit-making activity that descended down to these days is sand pagoda building which today has become an annual competition as part of Songkran celebrations. Several other fun activities also await visitors there.
Pattaya (Na Klua): Songkran in Pattaya is also held a bit later than other places. Also known as ‘Wan Lai’, the festivities take place down the coast as far as Bang Sean. Observe the ‘Rod Nam Dam Hua’ traditional ceremony, a Miss Songkran contest and cultural activities throughout the event
Meaung district: Watch a parade of the ‘God of Death’ statue into the sea to chase away bad luck
Sri Racha: Join traditional events, including a rice pagoda parade and performances of local plays
Ko Chang: Songkran at Ko Chang is called ‘Ko Chang Wan Lai’. There is a religious ceremony to bathe 45 Buddhist images monks along with other merit-making activities. Visitors can also enjoy stage plays and performances during the event.
Hat Yai: Best known for ‘Midnight Songkran,’ this is the only place in Thailand to celebrate Songkran at midnight. Enjoy the full fun of Songkran from midday to midnight with various merit-making along with fun-filled activities including a Songkran procession, ‘Rod Nam Dam Hua’ activities, Phra Buddha Sihing parade, local sports, a Miss Songkran contest, shows and various entertainment.
Join the local people and tourist folks at Phuket for “Songkran on the Beach” at the famous Patong beach. There will be several merit-making activities such as Rod Nam Dum Hua ritual, the parade of Phra Budha Sihing image, cultural shows, and various competitions and fun-filled entertainments.
Nakhon Si Thammarat
This is another unique Songkran celebration where visitors can enjoy the colourful procession of ‘Nang Dan Mueang Nakhon’ to welcome ancient the gods and goddess according to ancient beliefs. Also, join the bathing of the highly-revered Phra Buddha Sihing image, join the Rod Nam Dum Hua ritual, local plays, ancient city tour, light and sound presentation and cultural activities.
Ko Samui: Samui Beach Songkran Festival highlights the water play along Chawang Beach Road and Samui Muay Thai Angels matches.