If you are volunteering in Thailand in mid-April it is likely you will be free from your project to enjoy the Songkran New Year Festival. Due to all the festivities of Songkran, along with the Thailand School year summer (which runs from March to mid-May) our volunteer and intern projects are closed for the month. However, a fair number of volunteers come early, or depart Thailand long after the end of their project to engage in this culturally rich festival.
Modern Songkran is renowned for the massive water-fights that take place on the streets of the cities and towns around the country, often continuing for three days or more. While the origins of the festival are far more sedate (more on that later), today Songkran is a pretty boisterous affair.
This is a great time to visit Thailand, but it definitely pays to be prepared if you haven’t experienced it before. Here are some tips to get you through:
1. Go with The Flow
If there is one thing we can say with certainty about Songkran, it’s that you are going to get wet. Very wet. That is, of course, unless you want to lock yourself in your home or hotel room for three or four days. Bringing a sense of fun to the occasion and accepting the fact that you’re going to get soaked many, many times over makes Songkran an infinitely more enjoyable experience. If it all gets too much, find a quiet place to chill out and dry off before returning to the fray.
2. Protect Your Electronics
While Songkran is packed with excellent photo opportunities, it is advisable to leave high-end cameras and other expensive electronic equipment at home. It is also advisable not to carry your passport or basically anything that can be damaged by water with you. Street vendors sell handy waterproof pouches that will effectively protect your smartphone and your cash.
3. Equip Yourself
Street vendors also sell an impressive arsenal of water guns, buckets and anything else that can be used to soak passers by. Your weapon of choice is up to you. It’s best wear light, comfortable clothes that protect you from the sun. And if you really want to make like a local, be sure to invest in one of the very loud floral shirts you will see on sale everywhere.
4. Visit a Temple
While Songkran today resembles a massive water-fight, it wasn’t always like that. The more traditional ritual of splashing fragrant water on Buddha statues and on the palms of elders is still common today as a symbol of cleansing. Acknowledging the true spirit of Songkran by visiting a temple is a great way to escape the madness. If you are in Bangkok, check out some of the temples in the Rattanokosin area.
5. Plan Ahead
If you are planning to travel shortly before, after or during Songkran be sure to book ahead. Traditionally, this is a time when many Thais travel to their hometowns to visit family, so flights and even trains and buses can get booked up well in advance. Accommodation in certain areas, such as Chiang Mai, may also fill up quickly around Songkran.
If you would like to gain a greater understanding of the history, culture and people of Thailand, volunteer projects can provide unique insight into how this fascinating country really ticks.
At Friends For Asia we offer a range of rewarding volunteer opportunities in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Contact us today to find about more about the ideal Thailand volunteer project for you.