Songkran at Chiang Mai moat

Songkran is the most famous and most popular of all Thai festivals. Commonly known as the Thai New Year, it marks the beginning of a new astrological year and its exact dates are determined using the old lunar calendar of Siam. In 2008, the three-day holidays fall on 13 to 15 April.

The Songkran festival has its roots in Buddhist heritage, the washing of Buddha images, merit making, traditional family values and the pouring of water as wishes for good luck and happiness for the elders. Traditionally, the water is poured respectfully onto the palms. These days, the ritual has turned into a full out water war for fun seekers, both Thais and foreigners.

In Bangkok, soft chalk powder is often used, often applied to the person’s cheeks. However, for the sake of fun (or “sanuk”), this powder is now often used to decorate the whole person or the whole vehicle in white. This has become a serious problem and in recent years, the Thai authorities have been urging a stop to this indiscriminate use of white powder.

In Chiang Mai, the old city moat turns into wells of unlimited ammo for water combatants. The water would have been disinfected and certified clean for throwing before the start of Songkran, as only clean water can be used for this ritual. Pickups loaded with tanks of water, often chilled with ice, circle the old city, splashing water at everyone. Young pretty ladies are the most popular targets. And if you’re defenceless, wide open on a motorbike, you’re gonna be prime target too!

There are many concerts scattered around town too. The biggest and the best are probably on Huaykaew Road, just in front of the Kad Suan Kaew shopping mall. Check out the blog for some videos.

In Chiang Mai, the festivities of Songkran last for four days: April 12 to 15. On the 12th, the traditional Songkran procession is held – a parade of floats touring round Chiang Mai from the Nawarat Bridge to Wat Phra Singh.