Sawasdee bii mai! is Thai for 'Happy New Year!' and something travelers can expect to hear a lot of over the three days of Songkran. Stretching from April 13 to 15, Songkran is not only the kingdom's biggest and most important holiday, it's something that lovers of Thailand should experience at least once.
During Songkran, many Thais visit family, party with friends and make merit at their local temple. Most Bangkok residents travel upcountry to their hometowns, leaving the city unusually quiet and traffic-free for the duration of the celebration.
Anyone familiar with Songkran knows it by its most boisterous tradition: water play. Derived from the Buddhist act of blessing with a sprinkling of water, the practice has today evolved into fully-fledged water fights.
Across the country, streets transform into water battle zones with people in Hawaiian shirts wielding high-powered water cannons and buckets of iced water. Following a thorough dousing, people are then smeared with chalk powder as a further blessing.
Travelers visiting Thailand during Songkran can expect an experience quite unlike anything else. To really get into the spirit of Songkran, here are a few indispensible items with which travelers should equip themselves.
5 Essential Songkran Items
1)A Hawaiian shirt of any color or pattern. These can be bought from street stalls or supermarkets for around 79 THB.
2) A water gun. Plastic water guns of all shapes and sizes go on sale months before Songkran. Pump-action canons require the least downtime for refueling, though a bucket is also very effective.
3) Plastic wallet/phone holder. When venturing outside, travelers should carry their money and their phone in a plastic waterproof case. These can be bought cheaply from market stalls and street vendors for 20 to 50 THB.
4) Flip-flops. Trainers and other closed shoes are not a viable option when standing for hours in talc and water in Thailand's hot season.
5) Water proof camera. This is the most colorful and chaotic time in Thailand and it would be a shame not to have any photos. Rather than risk ruining an expensive phone or camera, disposable single-use cameras can be bought from 7-Elevens or supermarkets.
Where to go for water play
• Khao San Road in Bangkok. Just entering Khao San Road is consenting to involvement in the most rigorous water play in the city. The party here starts early every day and goes well into the wee hours.
• Chiang Mai around the Old City moat and gates. Chiang Mai is one of Thailand's most popular Songkran destinations with parades and various merit-making activities.
• Pattaya. Songkran starts later in Pattaya with water play lasting until April 19 this year. Only the most devoted water play enthusiast should visit Pattaya at this time of year.
• Phuket. Patong beach is the epicenter of water play in Phuket, with traffic at a standstill as youths in pick-up trucks launch water at pedestrians by the bucket-load.
• Pai in Mae Hong Son province – Walking Street here offers a comparatively subdued Songkran, with a more laidback approach to water play. Pai is also one of the most picturesque parts of the country and a mainstay retreat for backpackers and eco-travelers.
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Note to Editors
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