Songkran, the Buddhist New Year. Mini guide on how to stay alive and dry.

A few words about the Songkran – the Buddhist New Year

There are plenty to be said about the Buddhist New Year but if I start going into details about the origins and meanings of the rituals I would literally have to write a Ph.D. dissertation and this is not the place to publish that. In short, Songkran originated in India, and it revolves around the purification needed before entering a new year. In everyday life, it is rather a collective water fight – a very welcomed celebration considering the high temperatures of April in Thailand.
In the morning, people go to the temple to symbolically wash Buddha’s statues and the monks’ hands. The monks, on the other hand, give blessing to the devotees coming to visit them. Once the religious commitments are done everyone embarks for the water fight. Some fill the barrels and keep them handy on the sidewalks in order to get the water by the bucket and splash it on any passing human, animal, car or bike. Others jump the barrels in the back of their trucks and drive around the city all day long scattering the purifying liquid randomly on passengers of other trucks or those hanging on the sidewalks. Only old people and monks are spared. Policemen never.
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In Northern Thailand, the Songkran is celebrated for three days. April 13 is the last day of the old year. Splash! April 15 is the first day of the New Year. Splash! As per April 14… well this is the passage day, it does not belong to either of the years, it just hangs somewhere in time. Splash!

My advice for getting out of the Songkran alive

  • Always keep your phone and camera in plastic bags. Zip bags are better. Dry bags (just like the ones divers use) are perfect.
  • Leave your passport at the hotel, carry only a copy.
  • Leave your wallet in the hotel room, grab just a little bit of money and keep it somewhere dry – either in the same dry bag as your camera and phone or under the bike saddle.
  • If you drive a motorbike and you pass by a water-scattering group do not accelerate, it will only get worse. A bucket of water poured on your head while you are going 20 km per hour is very different than having it splashed on you at 50 km per hour.
  • Wear a helmet. Wear a helmet. Wear a helmet.
  • Do not yell at people with the intent of making them forget about throwing water on you. It rather has an opposite effect.
  • If you plan to spend the whole day away from the accommodation, carry some dry clothes with you (dry bag comes in handy again).
  • Ladies who do not wish to show all the details of their beautiful bodies are strongly advised to wear dark clothes.
  • Use a waterproof camera or put on an underwater case. You can also find a secluded place and use the zoom for shooting.
  • If you want to keep dry, stay home and read the Songkran on
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    Thailand Songkran 2
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