How to celebrate the Songkran Festival in Thailand

Thailand Beaches

You’ll never find a better time to soak up Thailand’s rich cultural heritage than on their traditional New Year’s celebrations – Songkran. Derived from the Sanskrit word meaning “passing” or “approaching”, Songkran marks the beginning of the solar calendar. During this time, locals make merit in Buddhist temples by offering food to the monks and taking part in traditional rituals where they pour water over Buddha statues, younger siblings and their elders to receive New Year’s blessings in return.

In recent years, locals and travellers alike are now embracing this tradition in new and wonderful ways by taking to the streets with buckets, water guns and chalk to celebrate. With the 2019 Songkran Festival falling on 13 April 2019, your ultimate New Year’s adventure with family and friends is just a plane ride away. But don’t just take our word for it – read on for Holiday Planner, Yasmin Dookun recommendations on how to experience the best Thailand has offer during this festive period.

Thailand Yasmin

Where’s best to go for Songkran?

Chiang Mai

Known for its elephant sanctuaries and historic town centre, don’t let “the rose of the north” fool you. It may be blissfully peaceful on any other given day of the year, but Chiang Mai City is home to one of the largest and longest Songkran celebrations, lasting over 6 days in duration. Grab your guns and gravitate towards Thapae Gate for some soak-suds combat, or take a wander around its moat in Chiang Mai old town for more fierce water battles, local street food vendors and live music.

Bangkok

In a place where climate-controlled megamalls sit opposite Rattanakosin style palaces, this city of contradictions doesn’t disappoint when it comes to celebrating Songkran. Bangkok’s Songkran Water Festival even broke the Guinness World Record Books in 2011 for “The Largest Water Gun Fight in the World”, with 3,477 people participating outside one of its biggest shopping centres. We’d recommend fun-seekers head to the bustling streets of Silom where fire trucks ambush each intersection with their water hoses, or enjoy a more traditional Songkran at Wat Phra Chetuphon where a beautiful display of sand pagodas, “chedi sai” adorn their historic tiles.

Outer-lying Islands

If you’re looking for a cool island-vibe during Songkran, Phuket’s welcoming jade-hued waves and pearly white sands offer the ultimate water gun party. The epicentre for Songkran is on Patong Beach, where locals are invited to bring their guns, wear Thai costumes and offer food to 99 monks on the morning of 13th April. Later in the day, you can enjoy watching “Rong Len Ten Ram” – traditional Thai dancing with retro music at Bangla Park.  

The Island of Koh Samui is also a huge hotspot for international tourists and locals. Rent a bike in Chaweng and ride down the lively foam party high street accompanied by spraying elephants, or head to Choeng Mon and Maenam for a more traditional and family-friendly New Year.  

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Where’s best to stay?

Yasmin Dookan was quick to comment, “If you’re anything like me, you’d want accommodation that allows you to see as much you can during your time in Southeast Asia, with the flexibility to be active when you want and relax when you want.”

Heading over to Phuket for a work conference, Yasmin decided to extend her stay and book an extra two weeks leave to fully explore everything the Andaman Sea had to offer with her partner.  “I wanted to try local delicacies, but also have the opportunity to do my own cooking. Simple things like plugging in appliances such as phones, laptops, kindles and go pros when I needed, grabbing a book or put on some music and sunbathing, was something I wanted to be able to do as well. Basically we wanted a holiday where we could do what we pleased.”

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To see as many different islands as possible within a two-week period would mean multiple hotels and several flights which didn’t really allow for much time to relax. However, spending one week in a hotel and ticking off the must-see places by public transport and boats would also be a pretty costly option, so the pair decided to go for a Moorings yacht charter to get the best of both worlds; the relaxing time on board, coupled with an island-hopping adventure during Songkran to get the most out of their holiday!

Discover that much more

Yasmin and her partner chose to explore the Andaman Islands on a sleek Moorings 4000 3 Cabin Catamaran, getting unrivalled knowledge of the area from their local skipper, Harv. “It’s just like a floating villa, with all the comforts of home”, Yasmin mentioned. “From cooking appliances and crockery to paddle boards, kayaks and snorkelling gear it’s got everything you need for that perfect getaway, with air conditioning and a great sound system that topped our experience on the water. It may sound expensive, but with your standard charges including yacht damage waiver, fuel and cleaning costs, it really is great value for money.”

She continued, “The best part, is that the yacht takes you to secluded places you can only access on the water, away from all the tourists. Our favourite place was Ko Lanta, with its coral-fringed beaches, cascading waterfall trails and remote island vibe –we could have easily stayed there for a couple more days.”

The untamed, sleepy island of Ko Mook was also a firm favourite with the couple. They spent their morning relaxing on the mostly deserted Sivalai Beach and spent the afternoon swimming in the Emerald Cave, part of the Had Chao Mai National Park, where legend has it, used to be a hideaway for pirates to stash their stolen loot.

“The amount of ground you can cover in absolute comfort with the freedom to decide where, when and how long you want to spend in certain areas was amazing. You never felt rushed like you would on guided island tours, because everything you did was on your own schedule, 100% down to you – and you can get the top hotspots to yourself before anyone else arrives.”

Thailand Kayak

Reflecting on the experience, Yasmin comments,Harv, could not do enough for us. His knowledge of the area ensured we saw what we wanted. Travelling as a couple he really respected our privacy so much, but was on hand to take us to shore and collect us with just two buzzes on his phone. The ocean was like our back garden, whether we wanted to go for a dip in the sea during the morning, noon or night; drop the kayaks or stand-up paddle boards off the side of the boat to explore; cook or BBQ local food on board, or drop the dinghy into the water and motor over to land for a romantic dinner out with cocktails. What really made the experience for me, was the thought of staring up at the stars and poking my head up top to catch the sunrise, before returning back to bed as the skipper took us to our breakfast spots while we slept! If anyone asked us what is the best way to see Thailand, it would be without a shadow of a doubt, on a Moorings yacht charter.”

If you’re looking for a different way to ring in the traditional Thai New Year celebrations and see the best of Thailand, take a look at our Phuket itinerary to have a “Sawadee bi mai” – (Happy New Year), courtesy of The Moorings.

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