Songkran is the most celebrated day in Thailand. Also known as the water festival, it is a lot of fun with tourists and locals joining in the festivities.
The annual event marks the start of the traditional Thai new year and officially lasts for 3 days starting on the 13th April, but up in the northern regions, the partying can go on for a week. In Phuket we are more practical, and it only lasts for one day.
November is a pleasant time to visit, it’s quiet and the temperature perfect. The rains are nearly over, the sea bids farewell to the rolling surf and return to a calm oasis, and even if the skies are gloomy there’s plenty of sunshine in between showers to enjoy time at the beach.
Prepare for Water Fights
A few days before the event you’ll notice colourful plastic water guns of all shapes and sizes for sale everywhere. You really need to buy the biggest water gun you can find, otherwise, you’ll end up regretting it as everyone blasts you with their huge weapons and you’ll be embarrassed to retaliate with a small squirty pistol.
You will get soaking wet on Songkran, there’s just no way out of it and no excuses accepted. Preparation is the key, wear light beach clothes, sunglasses or goggles to protect your eyes, and sun cream against the midday sun. Fill your water gun and let’s go.
As soon as you leave your hotel you can expect to be sprayed with water, sometimes there may have some added ice, which is a real shock when you’re not expecting it. April is the hottest month of the year, so everyone welcomes a cool down!
If you have to take your phone or some money, then buy a small plastic wallet to keep them safe and dry. You will get wet, very wet, willing or not, so just go with it and join in the fun. The only way to keep dry on Songkran is to stay indoors and miss the most exciting festival in Thailand!
WILD STREET PARTIES
Most businesses are closed for the holiday, but the bars and some restaurants will be open, huge plastic tubs filled with water sit on the pavement outside and you can stop by to refill when you run dry. Packed with happy people dancing all soaked to the skin and covered in powder it’s a real street party kind of vibe. Everyone is welcome, feel free to stop and join in the party.
Pumping out heavy bass and Thai tunes pick-up trucks, crammed with people jumping to the music and clutching their guns, travel the streets looking for targets. The atmosphere is contagious and hard to resist, you’ll soon find yourself bopping along with your new friends and laughing along with everyone.
If a Thai person waves you down, stop, and allow them to give you a blessing, this involves daubing your cheek and forehead with coloured clay powder and wishing sa-wat-dee pi mai‘, or ‘Happy New Year’. The powder is a symbol of protection, said to ward off bad luck, sadly, not the barrage of water…
The odds are they’ll then pour a jug of water over your head anyhow and send you on your way. All this is done with a big smile, they are just as wet as you are. Nobody is exempt from Songkran’s boisterous high jinks.
Patong Beach is the craziest and most lively place in Phuket to celebrate. The streets are packed with a mix of rowdy locals and tourists come to enjoy the happy atmosphere and orgy of water throwing. The roads are blocked with cars and motorbikes inching their way through the town whilst being blasted with water from every direction. It is noisy, wet mayhem and only for the serious party animals.
If you really want to enter into the spirit of the celebration, you’ll need to buy the Songkran uniform, a vividly coloured, flowery shirt. There’ll be plenty for sale or just wear your brightest coloured t-shirt.
April is the hottest month and traditionally Songkran celebrates the end of the dry season and welcomes the imminent rains. It’s a religious festival when Thai people take the opportunity to honour family traditions, pay gratitude to elders and visit temples to pray. Many Thai people spend Songkran with family and travel all over the Kingdom to get to their home provinces, as much as it is a carnival of colour and water, it is still a deeply cultural time and respect is as abundant as is fun.
Songkran is a very special time to visit Phuket, the atmosphere is one of happiness and hope and demonstrates the Thai people’s positive outlook on life.