Songkran Festival, which takes place nationwide in Thailand, is an event where boisterous fun and ancient traditions go hand-in-hand. For tourists, the event offers a chance to enjoy a huge celebration where water parties break out in the streets of Thailand’s towns and villages. For locals, it is a time when they can spend precious time with families and visit the temples to observe ancient rites and make merit. There’s no doubt that it is a fascinating time to be in Thailand wherever you travel.
So here’s a region-by-region round-up of some of the best nationwide Songkran Festivals to be enjoyed in 2018.
Songkran in Bangkok
- Grand Songkran Celebration 2018 at Lumpini Park (12-15 April): The famous Phra Buddha Sihing image from the National Museum will be taken on a parade to be installed at Lumpini Park – this tradition only takes place once a year (normally to Sanam Luang). During these dates, the public will have the chance to Song Nam Phra or purify Phra Phuttha Sihing image with scented water. There’s also a mass alms-giving ceremony to mark the beginning of the Thai New Year, as well as the Thai tradition of being blessed by elders or Rot Nam Dam Hua.
- Songkran Wisutkasat (12-13 April): The legendary Songkran celebration in Bangkok since 1931, Songkran Wisutkasat on Wisutkasat Road (Under the Rama XIII Bridge) is best known for being the origin of Miss Songkran Beauty contest in Thailand. The traditional festival has been held annually for over 70 years along with several other cultural activities taking place at the event.
Songkran in the Central Region
Songkran Phra Pradeang, Samut Prakan (20-22 April): Taking place at the Phra Pradaeng City Hall, this is one of the most fascinating ways to celebrate a Songkran near Bangkok. Phra Pradaeng is where the local people observe Mon ceremonies in a traditional way, and their New Year traditions are very different to those found in the rest of Thailand. For a start, the celebrations here take place a little later, and feature a range of cultural activities including a spectacular floral procession, a parade of the local Mon people in their colourful traditional outfits, a Miss Songkran parade and Mister and Miss Songkran Beauty Contest. Visitors will also have the chance to join merit-making activities in the local temples, pay respect to community elders and enjoy folk plays and cultural performances.
Ayutthaya Grand Songkran Celebrations 2018
- Songkran at the Ancient Capital (13-15 April): Thailand’s former capital – Ayutthaya is another place worth visiting during the Songkran festival. The province is inviting both local and foreign tourists to celebrate Songkran in the most unusual exotic way – water splashing with the elephants in the very Thai environs of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ayutthaya Historical Park. Tourists can celebrate Songkran with the elephants along the road in front of the TAT Ayutthaya Office. Several cultural activities will also be held such as pouring water over the sacred Buddha images, sand pagoda building, and the chance to enjoy the traditional Thai dances with the locals.
- Mon Songkran of Ayutthaya (13-15 April): The Mon people have their own traditions when it comes to celebrating Songkran and many of these can be seen in the Bang Pa-in district of Ayutthaya where a range of activities take place around the temple of Wat Thong Bo. Visitors will get the chance to make merit by donating food to the local monks and watch the ceremony in which the main pagoda of Wat Tong Bo is covered by sacred fabric. One of the more unusual aspects of the Mon ceremony is the bathing of the local Buddha images which is done via long bamboo pipes.
Songkran Supanburi 2018 (13 -14 April): To appreciate how Songkran is celebrated on Thailand’s central plains, visitors should head to Supanburi which boasts one of the biggest New Year celebrations in the country. Many people come here to cool off with the water splashing but there are also many traditional elements of Songkran to appreciate. You can see the golden Luang Poh Toh image as it’s paraded through the streets of the town and appreciate cultural displays from ten different ethnic groups from the region. There will be a contest to see which of the displays in the parades are best as well as a Miss Songkran pageant. Throughout the festival there will be concerts from well-known Thai artists and folk and cultural shows performed by local students.
Songkran in the Northern Region
Sukhothai Grand Songkran Celebrations 2018
- Thai Puan’s Elephant Ordination Tradition at Baan Had Siew (7 April): Taking place at Wat Had Siew in Si Satchanalai district, “The Elephant Procession Ordination” is an ancient ceremony which makes the ordainment of monks from the Thai Puan tribe in Ban Had Siew. It’s a tradition that all local men must become monks for at least 7 days and every year, the ordinations take place on this date. The men prepared in the traditional way are taken to the temples on elephants while wearing local headgear. This ritual is based upon the tale of “Phra Vessandara Chadok” one of the Lord Buddha’s former incarnations. It is a colourful parade and all the people of the town come to see. Most of the men leave the temples on Songkran day on 15 April to enjoy New Year with their families.
- Song Nam – Oi Tan Ceremony, Songkran Si Satchanalai (8-12 April): Taking place at the Monument of Phra Mahathammaracha I (Lithai) in Si Satchanalai district, the highlight of the Song Nam – Oi Tan ceremony is a procession to pay respects to Phra Maha Thammaracha I, who was a king of Sukhothai from 1347 to 1368. Oi Tan, is a phrase that means to make a donation and relates to the good morals of the people of Sukhothai. So each year, there is a Lady Oi Tan beauty competition and cultural parades from the 10 local communities and tasty northern food to enjoy.
- Songkran and Sawan-khalok Food Festival (13-15 April): The Sawan-khalok Songran and Food Festival takes place at the Public Health Park in Sawan-khalok district. Here visitors can Song Nam Phra the 3 highly-revered Buddha images from three most important temples of the district, including Wat Sawang Arom Worawihan, Wat Sankaram, and Wat Klong Krajong. The event of course is a huge draw for Thai food lovers who come to enjoy tasty northern dishes and see cooking demonstrations.
- Retro Songkran Splendours, Sukhothai 2017 (12-14 April): At Sukhothai Historical Park, visitors can enjoy a range of traditional activities and games to celebrate the Thai New Year. One of the most popular events is the sand pagoda building contest in which families compete to make stunning designs. Here, the Songkran festival celebrates the ancient city’s status as the cradle of Thai civilization; so many visitors embrace the old-style features of the event with traditional costumes and age-old games, parades and merit making. Visitors too are invited to wear traditional Siamese clothes and enjoy the old world feel.
- Flowery Shirt Songkran on Khao Tok Road, Sukhothai (12-15, April): Visitors to Thailand during the New Year celebrations can hardly fail to notice how so many celebrants are clad in colourful Hawaiian-style shirts. These have become a firm Songkran tradition and in the weeks prior to April, shops are stacked high with these gaudy items. This year the flowery shirts are being celebrated on Sukhothai’s Khao Tok Road where people are invited to parade in their shirts at the Sukhothai city and Sukhothai public park. There will also be a float procession and the chance to pay respects to the Buddha images, water fun, retro Thai circle dance activities and the usual beauty contests.
- Sukhothai Songkran at Wat Sri Chum (13 – 16 April): Wat Si Chum is probably one of Thailand’s best known temples and its iconic Buddha image draws people from around the world who come to pay their respects and apply gold leaf to the statue. Now the 13th Century temple is attracting people during the Thai New Year who want to make merit. There are a range of Songkran activities taking place in Sukhothai Historical Park over the three days of Songkran and a visit to Wat Sri Chum should be on the list of things to see for anyone who appreciates Thai culture.
- Hae Nam Kuen Hong Ceremony and Chao Muen Dong Bathing Rite (17-19 April): At the Monument of Chao Muen Dong, Baan Toek sub-district, in Si Satchanalai district, there will be a special sacred ceremony to pay respect to the Buddha image of Chao Muen Dong at Baan Toek. This is aimed at giving visitors the chance to make merit for the year to come. As well as the ceremony itself, there will be folk plays and a procession of elephants. The mighty beasts will even bow to the famous Muen Dong The elephants are also given a health check as part of the event and there will be cultural parades from 14 local communities.
Paweni Pi Mai Muang Chiang Mai Songkran Festival 2017 (12-15 April): The best-known Songkran celebrations in the whole of Thailand take place in the northern city of Chiang Mai. Here you’ll find a wonderful balance of water-based fun and sacred ceremonies that show the religious importance of this festival to the Lanna people. In Chiang Mai, Songkran is often called Paweni Pi Mai Muang. Highlights include the procession of Chiang Mai’s prominent Phra Buddha Sihing image as well as bathing the image, and taking part in a parade bringing sand and Sali (the Bodhi tree) clutches to temples, cultural events and performances. There is also a lot of tasty northern cuisine to enjoy in retro Thai Lanna market.
Salung Luang Songkran Festival in Lampang (9 – 13 April): Experience the Lanna tradition of Songkran in Lampang, at Khelang Nakorn Park on Tha Kraw Noi Road. Enjoy a huge parade called the Salung Luang procession as well as the Miss and Mister Songkran Contests, floral horse-drawn carriages competitions, cultural shows and a many local performances. Many people take the chance to buy local goods and try unique Northern foods.
Songkran in the Northeastern Region
Pleasant Songkran, Thailand-Laos’ New Year, Nakhon Phanom (13 – 15 April): Organised each year in Nakhon Phanom with activities taking place at Laan Phanom Naga in Muang district, the event is based on the traditions of seven tribes who traditionally settled in this area. Many of the traditions mirror those found in the rest of the country including almsgiving for local monks and the building of sand pagodas. But there is also the chance to take part in religious activities that originate in Laos such as the Bai Sri Su Khwan spirit blessing ceremony believed to bestow happiness and prosperity on others.
Grand Songkran Isan Nong Khai (13-15 April): During this festival, visitors get the chance to bathe the revered Luang Por Phra Sai Buddha image as it is paraded along Jenjobtid Road, to the Naga fountain, to Prachak Road and finally Wat Pho Chai the Royal Temple in Mueang district. This procession of Luang Por Phra Sai is held only once a year for worshippers Thai and Lao to pay homage to this sacred Buddha image. As well as the parade there are many other traditional Songkran activities taking place many with a distinct Lao theme.
Dok Khun, Siang Kaen and Khao Niew Festival (8-15 April): This is one of the biggest and certainly the best known of the Songkran events in the Northeast of Thailand. As usual, this year there will be a lot of activities to enjoy that reflect the rich local culture, including a flower procession and contests to find the best blooms, water rituals to pay respects to images of the Buddha and seniors and a fun water splashing event at Bueng Kaen Nakhon and Sri Chan (Khao Niew) Road. There will be lots to eat and buy too, with demonstrations of local handmade products and crafts.
Songkran in the Southern Region
Phuket Grand Songkran Celebration 2018
- Songkran on the Beach (11-13 April): Join the local people and tourist folks at Phuket for “Songkran on the Beach” at Phuket’s famous Patong beach. There will be several merit-making activities such as Rot Nam Dum Hua ritual, the parade of Phra Budha Sihing image, cultural shows, and various competitions and fun-filled entertainments. In Phuket town there are flower parades, dancing and cultural shows, and the ever-popular Miss Songkran Contest.
- Songkran No L (13 April): Phuket’s lifestyle mall, Limelight Avenue Mall, is hosting a clean, alcohol-free Songkran party to encourage tourists and locals to celebrate the holiday in a responsible and safe manner. The one-day Songkran No Alcohol party offers family-friendly fun in safe zones where there are restrictions on alcohol, high-powered water pistols, powder and water dyes.
Songkhla Grand Songkran Celebration & Hat Yai Midnight Songkran 2018 (12-15 April): In Thailand’s south, the Songkran fun takes place in Hat Yai, so head downtown if you want to join in. The main action takes place on the streets of Nipat Uthit 3, Sanehanusorn and Thammanoon Vithi. Here there will be free music and concerts as well as other entertainment throughout the event, every day between 10:00 – 23:00 Hrs. with the highlight being the Songkran Carnival parade.
Songkran in the Eastern Region
Sand Pagoda Ceremony on Lai Day, Bangsaen District, Chon Buri (16 – 17 April): This charming event celebrates not only Songkran but the gorgeous natural sand of the district. People of the Sansuk district flock to Bangsaen beach to build sand pagodas in a tradition known locally as the ‘Tam Bun Wan Lai’ day. The event sees local people come and celebrate together with activities such as sea boxing, pagoda competitions. As well as the sand pagodas, other amazing sculptures are made during the festival using the sand on the beach with many teams working all night to create unique pieces of art such as dragons, historical tableaus, elephants and amusing scenes. There is also a competition to choose the best sculpture before the sand is returned to its natural state.
In addition, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is also encouraging local and international tourists to join the Amazing Songkran 2018 events in five emerging secondary destinations known for unique traditions in celebrating the Thai New Year: Sing Buri, Chanthaburi, Kamphaeng Phet, Kalasin, and Nakhon Si Thammarat. Dates also vary between 11 and 17 April.
For more information, call TAT Contact Centre 1672