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Written by Rushenka Christopher on April 27, 2020 Share on

Songkran Festival in Chiang Mai: Indulge in a Super-fun Water-Battle

Chiang Mai, the historical capital of the Lanna Kingdom of Thailand, is one of the most culturally rich cities in the country. It is home to some of the most beautiful and colourful tribal villages and the misty mountains offer the best backdrop for your vacation photos. It’s a serene yet active city that offers the best of both worlds in terms of relaxation and activities. The best time to visit Chiang Mai would be during April as this is when the city is all geared for the most-awaited Songkran festival. The multi-day Songkran festival marks the Thai new year and this is when the entire city participates in a water-battle. This is one of the most cheerful events that take place in the city and you can feel the energy soaring through the skies.

A brief history of the Songkran festival

The Songkran festival, Chiang Mai
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

Indian Brahmins established a tradition based upon the belief that the beginning of a year is when the sun passes into the Aries. The 15th of April thus marks the beginning of the new year also called as ‘Wan Payawan’. The nationwide water battle signifies showering blessings and positivity upon one another. The word Songkran is a Sanskrit derivative which means ‘moving forward’. People dispose of all the belongings that are thought to have brought negative vibes in the previous year and they set resolutions for the upcoming year.

Most fun things to do during Songkran in Chiang Mai

Join the water battles at Thapae Gate

Thapae Gate, the entrance to the old city is where you can find thousands of locals and foreigners come together to join in the water battle. You can find people of all ages with their water pistols just frantically spraying water on anyone and everyone. People truly let go and just enjoy being there as a community and it’s a wonderful thing to experience. The locals dress up in traditional Thai clothes and perform various rituals and dances.

Head out to the Moat

To indulge in some serious water fights, head out to the stretch along the Moat where you can find local Thai bands perform on the road while the water battle is going on. You can also find some amazing street food and local shops that sell souvenirs. This is definitely one of the most fun things to experience while you’re there.

Water battle festival, Chiang Mai
Image by Portraitor from Pixabay 

Check out the Nimmanhaemin Road

Given this is the posh area of Chiang Mai, you can treat yourself with yet another water fight but amidst DJs. The scene here is very upbeat and colourful as one would expect.

Offer Alms to Monks

It’s the time when people make merit by offering alms to the monks and receive their blessing for the new year. You can find them clad in orange robes almost everywhere you go. If you want to experience the rituals, you might want to wake up early to watch the rally of Monks on the streets as they head towards the temples.

Monks during Songkran festival
Image Source: Flickr

Witness the Buddha Procession

The Buddha statues are taken out of all the temples and are paraded through the streets. This is a truly spectacular event to be a part of as you can see people sprinkling water on these statues wishing for blessing and prosperity in the new year. Musicians and dancers make this event even more cheerful as they perform during this joyous parade.

Visit the temples

The Songkran is when the locals visit the temples to perform rituals and pay donations as a mark of respect. They pray for blessings in the upcoming year and cleansing of the Buddha statue is considered a very precious moment for the Thai people so head out one of the many temples in Chiang Mai to witness people carrying colourful flags and buckets of dirt which signifies replacing the earth that carried people’s feet last year.

Enjoy bar hopping in the evening

During the day, you will not find a lot of drinking happening anywhere as the festival happens under close monitoring and the city wants it to be a safe space for people of all ages to enjoy. Although in the evenings, you can find all the bars and cafe’s lit up. Enjoy a chilled beer or your favourite sundowner and party the night away!

A few tips that will come in handy

  • Make sure to NOT wear your best pair of clothes because you are going to get drenched whether you are a part of the water-battle or not
  • You can get water pistols at 7 Eleven or any of the local shops even on the day of Songkran so do not worry about not having equipment
  • Make sure to waterproof your phones and cameras with a plastic bag or with protective bags that you can purchase at 7 Eleven
  • Be mindful of the water that is being sprayed. Keep your mouth covered as much as you can to ensure you’re not swallowing dirty water
  • There will be stalls that sell beer but drink responsibly to have a good time
  • The law requires you to carry your passport at all times so your best bet would be to take a photocopy and laminate it so you can keep it on you during the festival
  • This is going to be a fun but long day, wear comfortable shoes and clothes to make the most out of this festival

What better way to celebrate new years than to get into a water fight with the whole city? This is definitely a very unique experience that people of all ages will enjoy. Check out Pickyourtrail’s Chiang Mai travel packages or Thailand tour packages and get it customized as per your needs and buckle up to celebrate New Year’s Chiang Mai style!

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