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songkran waterfight

Songkran Festival in Phuket

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Songkran is Thailand’s most famous Festival and possibly the largest water fight in the world.

WHEN IS SONGKRAN?

Songkran Festival starts 13 April 2018. In some areas of Thailand it only lasts for three days, the 13th, 14th and 15th, and in other areas it lasts for seven days.

Songkran is not only Thailand’s most famous festival but it’s also one of the most important events on the Buddhist calendar. The event marks the beginning of the traditional Thai new year.

WHAT IS THE MEANING OF SONGRKRAN?

The festival originated centuries ago as a purification rite, in both a physical and spiritual sense.  Temples, Buddha images, and houses where tidied and cleaned as a way to clear away negative influences. Traditional celebrations involved a gentle sprinkling of scented water.

HOW IS SONGKRAN CELEBRATED?

Over the years, Songkran like many other centuries-old festivals has become commercial. Water guns and bright-coloured Hawaiian shirts (more on these later) are on sale in shops weeks before the event and every marketing department scrambles to get their Songkran message heard through a downpour of advertising.

songran festival crowds

Songkran has become arguably the biggest water fight in the world. The throwing of water (er, mass water fights) have become a huge part of the celebration over the past two decades everywhere in Thailand, so don’t be surprised if you get splashed with icy cold water, well when we say splashed, we mean drenched in water, shot at you from every angle form a variety of colored water pistols, buckets and anything else that can hold water. You will also become covered in powder, which is… Well, even to this day after being in Thailand for eleven years, I have no idea what it is.

WHAT IS SONGKRAN LIKE IN PHUKET?

The whole of Phuket island stops on the 13th of April when families, friends and communities set up make-shift water splash stations on the side of every road. Think of a fun road stop checkpoint, with blaring music coming out of a 1980 speaker which has been blown out ten years ago, and everybody drenched in water and covered powder, dancing around in these bright Hawaiian shirts. Everyone from 3-year-olds to 87-year-olds is out having fun and of course, smiling.

These “Fun Stop Checkpoints” will stop every single motorbike and car so they can throw water with anything they can find to use as a water container, and don’t worry the powder is also used. Cars, motorbikes, and people come away from each “Fun Stop” wetter and covered in more powder, and then 100 meters down the road, you get to the next one.

If you have ever been to Thailand you will notice that there are more pickup trucks on the road than you get in the whole of the southern states of the good old USA, and one of the reasons to have a pickup truck is for the Songkran Festival.

Pickup trucks are filled with Thais, expats and tourists wearing bright Hawaiian style shirts with huge construction-sized buckets of water, mostly with a chunk of an iceberg floating in them to make the water as cold as possible, and everyone is armed to the teeth with some of the largest water guns you will ever see. Although everywhere on Phuket celebrates Songkran, the main water fight generally takes place in Patong with Bangla Road being the epicenter and continues late into the night. It is an amazing place to be with music blasted out from every bar and restaurant, people laughing, dancing and having great fun, while soaked from head to toe.

If you’re looking for more of a cultural experience then head to Phuket Town where they have live music and many traditional performances, but you will still get wet. Many of the local beach clubs will also have more controlled Songkran parties including water splash free zones which are great if you just want to take a break from the unforgiving water attack.

My first experience of Songkran was within my first two months of moving to Phuket. I had heard about Songkran and to be honest I was not that interested in being drenched all day and all night. The plan was for a few friends and me to jump in a tuk-tuk and just head around the island to see what all the fuss was about. As soon as we got in the tuk-tuk we came to a “Fun Stop” and a hose was feed into the back of the tuk-tuk by a very handsome young man, yes he was in a bright Hawaiian shirt, who just smiled and shouted Happy Songkran as four of us were hosed down.

TOP TIP: Waterproof phone cases and waterproof bags will be your best friend during Songkran.

It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, if you are out and about during Songkran, you will end up getting wet, in fact getting soaked, but it’s amazing fun and a true bucket list experience.

Having spent most of his life travelling the world teaching sailing, Jay anchored down in Phuket, Thailand, where he now does creative marketing, events and a radio show.

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