The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is joining Thai people nationwide in marking the most important celebration of the Thai lunar calendar, the New Year Songkran Festival between 5-20 April, with unique activities and festivities that pay tribute to the role of water in Thai culture and society.
For centuries, the Songkran Festival has been observed as a symbol of hospitality, love and the importance of maintaining strong relationships within families, communities, and society as a whole. Timed to coincide with the Aries period on the astrological chart, the auspicious occasion is intended to help people cool off from the mid-summer heat, show respect to family elders and receive their blessings and pray for near and dear ones who have passed away.
Sand pagodas are built as a way of making merit, young people and children enjoy water fights and perhaps most importantly, a special cleaning day is held in homes, towns and villages nationwide. This greatly contributes to the sense of community.
Mr. Thawatchai Arunyik, Governor of TAT said, “Though a distinctly Thai celebration, Songkran has become popular with people from around the world who love coming to Thailand for this, sometimes boisterous, often moving festival.
“This is a special time when families travel long distances to spend time together, perform traditional merit making ceremonies at the temples and reconnect with loved ones. Songkran allows everyone to take a well-deserved break and the TAT wants to ensure that both Thais and foreigners alike enjoy a happy and memorable Songkran.”
This year, the date of the Maha Songkran or the ‘New Year’ is set for 13 April, when day and night are of equal length. This will be followed by Nao Day (Middle day) on 14 April, and the New Year itself on 15 April.
The Joyous Songkran Splendours, specially organised by the TAT and local organisations from the public and private sector, will take place in the following locations:
- Khao San Road, Bangkok, 13-15 April 2014, 10.00-23.00 hrs.
- Silom Road, Bangkok, 13-15 April 2014, 10.00-00.00 hrs.
- Around the City Moat, Chiang Mai, 12-16 April 2014, 09.00-22.00 hrs.
- Pattaya (North, Central and South Beach), Lan Bodhi Park Na Kluea and Chon Buri, 11-20 April 2014, 09.00-00.00 hrs.
- Khao Nieo Road, Khon Kaen, 5-15 April 2014, 10.00-20.30 hrs.
- Patong Beach, Phuket, 12-13 April 2014, 10.00-22.00 hrs.
- Hat Yai Midnight Songkran at Nipat Uthit 3 Road, Sanehanusorn Road and Wat Mahatta, 11-15 April 2014, 10.00-23.00 hrs.
- Songkran Ko Samui (Chaweng Beach), 13 April 2014, 09.00-22.00 hrs.
Here are some of the other most interesting locations for foreign visitors:
- Songkran Wisutkasat: Get soaked at Wisutkasat (Bang Khun Phrom intersection), under the Rama 8 bridge, 13-15 April.
- Banglamphu: Join Bangkok’s young people in traditional Thai attire and enjoy merit making and cultural performances at Suan Santi Chaiprakarn, Phra Athit Road, 13-15 April.
- Lan Khon Mueang: Merit making and fun in front of Bangkok City Hall, 13-15 April.
- Songkran ‘Song Nam Oi Tan’ in Sri Satchanalai, Sukhothai: Beauty contests, a vibrant parade and cultural activities at Phraya Li Thai Monument and Si Satchanalai Historical Park, 6-16 April.
The Central, Eastern and Western regions
- Sand pagoda ceremony on Lai Day, Bang Saen District, Chon Buri: Cultural activities, including sand sculpture contests along Bangsaen beach, 16-17 April.
- Songkran in the ancient capital city, Ayutthaya: Probably Thailand’s most unique Songkran celebration with elephants joining the fun! In front of TAT Ayutthaya Office, 13-15 April.
- Songkran in Sangkhlaburi, Kanchanaburi: A traditional Mon-style Songkran celebration which differs greatly from those elsewhere, at Wat Wangwiwekaram, 13-18 April.
- Songkran in Phra Pradaeng, Samut Prakan: Meet the locals, mostly ethnic Mon, resplendent in traditional outfits. Make merit, join a colourful parade and take part in fun activities in front of the Phra Pradaeng district office, 18-20 April.
- Songkran Splendours, Suphan Buri 2014: A colourful Songkran procession from 10 districts, beauty contests and concerts, in front of Suphanburi Bus Station, 12-14 April.
- Pleasant Songkran, Thai-Lao’ New Year, Nakhon Phanom: The joint Thai-Lao Songkran festival showcases the cultures of seven different ethnic groups in Nakhon Phanom province. Join in merit making by offering sticky rice to the monks, by Kankrao market, 12-15 April.
- Songkran in Renu District, Nakhon Phanom: Watch the famous traditional dance called ‘Ram Phu Tai’, together with a magical ‘Bai Sri’ ceremony where locals welcome visitors by tying a small string on their wrists, 12-15 April
- Thailand-Laos Friendship Songkran, Nong Khai: Get a sense of history at the first Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, water the Luang Por Phra Sai, the highly-revered Buddha image of the Nong Khai people and experience a merit-making ceremony at Wat Pho Chai, Nong Prachak Road, 6-18 April.
- Songkran ‘Nang Dan’ Parade, Nakhon Sri Thammarat: Watch the spectacular Nang Dan cultural procession, join the locals in paying homage to Phra Maha That Chadi Nakhon Si Thammarat, and purify the Phra Buddha Sihing at Suan Si Thammasokarat and Hor Phra Shiva, 12-14 April.
Top Tips to get the most out of Songkran
- In the morning, make merit and listen to temple sermons to gain their blessings. As this is a New Year festival, temple activities are the most important aspects of the celebration.
- To purify the Buddha or other statues, water should not be poured directly onto the head, rather on other parts of the statue’s torso.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. There have been complaints about this in past years.
The Songkran festivities make April one of the most important months in the Thai tourism calendar. In April 2013, Thailand welcomed a total of 2,013,012 international visitor arrivals, representing a 19.38 per cent increase over April 2012. The top 10 markets in April 2013 were China, Malaysia, Russia, Japan, Korea, Australia, India, United Kingdom, Vietnam and Lao PDR.
The unique activities and festivities of the Thai New Year (Songkran)