by Rupert Marquand
There are water fights and then there are water fights, and then there is Songkran!. Describing Songkran as a water fight doesn’t really do it justice, it’s more or less a civil war across the whole country fought with water and it rates as one of the most spectacularly fun festivals in the world.
Chiang Mai is arguably the best place in Thailand to experience this festival, which usually takes place during the middle of April in order to celebrate Thai New Year.
The city explodes into action with the majority of people heading to the moats surrounding central Chiang Mai to soak one another using water guns, buckets of water, high power hoses and anything else that can carry the liquid. Visiting the city during this period and staying dry is literally impossible, but it’s all part of the fun.
The celebration lasts for three days and the endless soakings, splashing and spraying’s barely stop except for a brief respite in the evening, but this isn’t a rule set in stone so it’s not recommended to put on your favorite jeans before heading out into the night.
Catching a tuk-tuk around Chiang Mai is a fantastic way to dart around the city aiming at the crowds and making a quick escape until stopping at a set of traffic lights will turn you into a sitting duck for the masses looking to soak anything and everything; an experience that will always make you laugh.
It is also worth considering that Chiang Mai Hotels book up very quickly in the run up to the festival and it is essential to book in advance to avoid disappointment.
The other place in Thailand with a reputation for Songkran chaos is Khao San Road in Bangkok. Although this road has a reputation for being chaotic all year round, Songkran takes it to another level entirely. Thais, backpackers, expats and more descend on Khao San Road and it instantly turns into a torrent of water drenched fun with a sprinkling of alcohol.
White mud is also a big part of the festivities as people streak it on their faces and it almost takes on the role of war paint when playful battles are fought out. There are plenty of Bangkok Hotels in the neighborhood but if you’re looking for somewhere to escape from the pandemonium it would be a good idea to stay slightly outside the Khao San area.