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Best Places to Celebrate Songkran Festival in Thailand

Songkran festival takes place from the 13th to the 15th April

Songkran is Thailand’s traditional new year, and its biggest and most important public holiday. It’s also known as the Thai Water Festival, since it involves taking to the streets with water pistols, cannons and buckets, in what is probably the biggest water fight you’ll ever encounter. (It takes place from the 13th to the 15th April – the hottest time of the year – so being doused in water here is not only fun but a blessing).

Get a taste of the action in one of these top six Thai Songkran destinations.

#1 Chiang Mai

The ancient northern Thai city of Chiang Mai plays host to the biggest Songkran celebrations of all. While the festival takes place throughout the rest of Thailand over one weekend, Chiang Mai stretches it out for a week. Follow the parade around the tree-lined streets of the Old Town – which is bordered by a misty, square-shaped moat – and join the locals pouring jasmine-scented water on Buddhist shrines. You can build sand pagodas on the streets, watch dance performances and taste Thai street food from stalls along the Urban Culture Street. You can also tap into a rowdier side to the revelry, joining people lowering buckets on strings into the moat and filling them up to hurl at passers-by, or utilising supplies from tuk-tuks loaded with barrels of water.

#2 Bangkok

Heading to the Thai capital is a guarantee of a lively Songkran, with enormous water fights taking over the normally traffic-choked streets. The Khao San Road is where the tourists congregate, dancing to DJs while soaking each other, while places like Silom Road and Banglamphu Market attract a more local crowd and host traditional Songkrans. Wherever you go, there’ll be parades showcasing Thailand’s cultural diversity, elaborate costumes, entertainment and an infectiously-celebratory atmosphere.

#3 Phuket

For a beach-based Songkran, the mountainous and rainforest-covered island of Phuket is your best bet. Here, the festival is a day-and-night affair and the biggest of its kind in the south of Thailand, with Patong Beach throwing the wildest, most hedonistic parties and Bangla Road the most intense water fights. The streets are filled with trucks loaded with ice-cold water, with revellers unleashing water guns, cannons and buckets upon each other. If you need a timeout, the celebrations in areas like Rawai beach or even the island’s capital – Phuket City – tend to be more local-oriented, with fragrant water spritzed on shrines and traditional Thai dance performances.

#4 Pattaya

Like Chiang Mai, Pattaya’s Songkran extends for about a week, sometimes longer. Lined with beautiful beaches, this coastal city makes a superb setting for the fairly raucous scenes of the festival to unfold. Pick your weapon – bucket, water gun or water cannon – and get ready for the water fight of your life, culminating in a grand finale on the 19th when the fire department parks up and fills tanks up with water as ammo for everyone. There are cultural events, parades and live music to keep you entertained in case you’ve had enough of getting soaked (unlikely).

#5 Koh Samui

If you’re up for a beach Songkran but on a smaller scale, Koh Samui’s celebrations are relatively tame but infinitely entertaining. Everyone joins in the fun, with the obligatory buckets, hoses and pistols. But there are significantly fewer people participating and the atmosphere is more toned down; local children often add dyed powder into the mix for an added thrill, and the water they hurl tends to be melted ice, which can actually be sweet relief in the humid April heat. If you want an even more authentic island experience, certain parts of the west coast host quiet celebrations where you can join in with the local fishing families for a traditional Songkran.

#6 Pai

This small town in northern Thailand’s Mae Hong Son province has one of the most laid-back atmospheres in the country. The town is full of cheap guesthouses and restaurants with spas and elephant camps. Outside of town are several waterfalls and a number of natural hot springs. It is also just about 3 hours away from Chiang Mai on a curved and winding road up on the mountains. This place is where you can relax but also still enjoy the local festival. The good thing about Pai is you can get to observe how the locals celebrate it. People can be friendly enough to invite you to join them too.

There’s a WWII Memorial Bridge that is popular with the locals during Songkran. This area is where they go to bath, eat and just enjoy the festival. There are fewer tourists and you can get away with not getting that soaked if you politely smile and say no. Along the road, people will also wait for people passing by to throw sometimes really cold water.

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