Surviving Songkran in Chiang Mai
Songkran is an amazing 3-day celebration of the Thai new year which comes in the form of an epic 3-day water fight! I mean full on war, and no ones are safe. The elderly to Children participate and sometimes you will even find monks joining in on the fun. It is a great time Songkran happens every year from April 13th to April 15th with celebrations often spanning from the 12th to 17th.
Arrive before Songkran starts, 2 days preferably. Songkran officially begins on April 13th every year but you will find on the 12th some people have begun to celebrate. Which means you risk getting all your luggage soaked if you don’t arrive ahead of the festivities.
Don’t wear nice clothes
You will get soaked with sometimes questionably clean water so don’t bring your best. Beautiful dry clean only clothes should be kept away. Wear something that you are okay being wet in all day. I would suggest some light fabrics that don’t get too heavy or chafe you when went. Jeans are not your friend here.
Don’t Drink the Water
The water used for the fight is a combination of tap water which you will find in the streets and river/moat water which most trucks and tuk-tuks have filled up with. It is important to not drink ANY of the water as it is not safe for consumption. If you end up getting sick you can join the hundreds of other foreigners are the pharmacy.
Tha Phae Gate
The Tha Phae gate Is the hub of where the action takes place. It is located on the moat around the inner city. Here the water fight continues seemingly 24/7. This is due to its central location but more importantly how close it is to the moat. If you hang out in this area you should pay extra attention to keep your mouth shut as most of the water is from the dirty moat. You will see tons of people with strings tied to buckets here to easily get the water.
Go out the First day
The first day of Songkran is by far the most participated day. It was our favourite as it had the most energy going and the most people. Everywhere we went there were people ready to ambush you with icy cold buckets or mobs of people attacking tuk-tuk passengers as they went by. Bring your go pro’s and action cams out this day for the best footage.
Refilling your guns/buckets
During Songkran, you will find hundreds of businesses and local residents have filled up garbage cans and various large containers with water so that you can fill up for free with. Some people do want you to pay (5-20 baht) but keep on walking and you will find a free fill up. Just be warned a free fill up usually comes with the price of a few buckets being dumped on your head.
Alternatively, you can buy a bucket with a string and fill up from the river or moat. We opted to not stick around these areas as the water is disgusting (IMO). There is, however, no avoiding the moat water as most people riding in the backs of trucks will spray you with it.
There are various ways to participate in Songkran. The most common are on foot walking the streets and shooting everyone in sight. The most exciting is finding someone with the pickup truck and getting them to drive you around for the day spraying every passerby. If you actually need to get somewhere dry you need to be in a completely enclosed vehicle and be strategic where you get dropped off as you might be attacked as you exit the car. Tuk Tuks are not a good choice if you are hoping to stay dry.
Don’t forget to visit some temples
Because this is such an important holiday for Thai people you will find many have flocked to the local temples, to pour water on buddha and purchased various banners (They are to bring luck in the new year). It is a neat time to visit and see these new additions to the grounds. You can bring your water guns inside but don’t spray people. Please remember to dress appropriately, knees and shoulders should be covered while inside.
Do you want to go to Songkran? Have you been? How did you prepare? Let us know in the comments below!