Volunteer in Thailand with Friends for Asia

Happy Songkran 2016

Songkran: Thai New Year

Volunteering in Asia gives people the opportunities to see cultures in a unique way. Being embedded in the culture allows volunteers to avoid tourist traps and see what life in Thailand is really like. One way volunteers get to see the true face of Thai culture while living in Thailand is during one of the many festivals and holidays. Thailand is home to some amazing festivals but none quite capture the hearts of Thais and foreigners alike like Songkran. Celebrated in April, Songkran is characterized by large water fights but there is also a lot to this holiday under the surface. Rooted in tradition and legend, this is truly a unique holiday.

Volunteer and Intern in Thailand


As with many holidays in Thailand, Buddhism and ancient Indian traditions play a major role in the origins of Songkran. Thais celebrate Songkran on April 13-15, which has its roots in ancient astrology. This is when the sun passes through the sign of Aries and would mark the beginning of a new calendar year. Songkran falls during the hot season in Thailand. During this time of year farmers are free from their normal duties before the rainy season arrives and splashing water may have been a way to keep cool this time of year.


Songkran in Thailand marks the beginning of a new year and with this comes many traditions that Thais still observe. While at first Songkran seems like just a giant water fight, the holiday traditionally focuses on new beginnings. Monks use this time to wash the Buddha statues in the temples and this could also be where the water splashing tradition came from. The monks use scented water for blessings and to honor the elders. Also in the temples, monks build small sand stupas with buried coins inside. After completed, monks decorate the stupas with ribbons, candles, flowers, and shells. Many temples also hold markets with food, traditional music, and performances.

Songkran is also a very important time for families to be together in Thailand. Thais take this time to visit family and pay respects to their elders. The younger generations wash the hands of their elders with scented water. The elders in the family will then tie a small white string onto the wrists of the younger family members for good luck.

For Thais, Songkran’s traditions are based in these much gentler rituals. These cleansing rituals have evolved into the Songkran that we know today. People armed with water guns and buckets line the streets awaiting people to walk within range. Splashing water on someone is seen as a blessing and everyone is in high spirits. Buddha statues are removed from their temples to be paraded around town accompanied by music and drums. Songkran is celebrated throughout Thailand but many believe Chiang Mai and Bangkok to be the best places to enjoy the holiday.


Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai offers a Songkran experience you simply cannot find in other parts of the country. The Old City of Chiang Mai is surrounded by a moat. During Songkran, the road around the city center is surrounded by people marching and spraying each other with water. Families will load up the truck with ice water and drive around the city, splashing people on the side walks. Keep in mind, the moat makes refilling water ammunition easy but the water in the moat is typically unclean. Other parts of the city have a lot going on as well.


The Nimmanheiman area is popular for both locals and foreigners. Many bars and restaurants have parties here and the water is from the tap, so it’s considerably cleaner than the water fights in the Old City. The splashing continues last throughout the day but people usually give it a rest by sundown. At night it’s easier to avoid the water which will still be going on at some concerts around town.


So well known around the world for its parties and festivals, Bangkok certainly doesn’t disappoint when it comes to Songkran. All over the city people hit the sidewalks and get ready to splash people walking by. While all city is taking part in the festivities, there are certain parts of the city that will give you different kinds of Songkran experiences.


Silom is where you can find perhaps the biggest crowd in Bangkok. Hundreds fill the street to take part in the fun but you can stay relatively safe by using the BTS skywalk above the road. From there you can look down and see the spectacle in all of its immensity. The packed crowd slowly moves down this 5km stretch that’s filled with vendors selling food, drinks, and water guns.

Khao San Road

Khao San Road is the backpacker district in Bangkok and one of the most popular backpacking spots in all of Southeast Asia. It’s safe to say that Khao San gets pretty crazy during Songkran and it’s a great place to enjoy the fun with other travellers. Hostels, bars, and restaurants have parties until late at night and the splashing will continue after the sun goes down.

Phra Pradaeng

Phra Pradaeng offers more traditional Songkran celebrations. You will get splashed here but this is a great place to see communities practice Songkran traditions. Floral floats parade down the street as people pour water on the float as a blessing. You’ll still get wet but you’ll also get to see the more reverent side of Songkran.

Safety & Tips

Staying safe during Songkran is easy if you keep a few things in mind. Firstly, don’t drink too much. It’s easy to get caught up in the festivities but always drink responsibly. Unfortunately, Songkran is also the most dangerous time to drive in Thailand and many accidents are caused by drunk driving. It’s best to avoid riding motorbikes or with anyone who looks intoxicated. When in doubt, get a taxi or take public transportation.

Caregiving at a Home for Single Mothers in Crisis

Overall, it’s safe but sometimes the water can get a little intense and some people like to wear eyewear. Vendors sell waterproof bags all over the place and these are a must have for keeping cash and electronics dry. And make sure you’re armed with a water gun or you won’t stand a chance out there!

Do’s and Don’t’s

Avoid splashing monks, babies, or the elderly out of respect. Splashing people on motorbikes should be avoided to prevent traffic accidents. Don’t splash people when they are eating or cooking food. Buy a waterproof bag to keep your things dry and always keep an eye on your valuables. Used public transportation and avoid driving, especially if you’ve been drinking. And, of course, don’t forget to take part is as many things as you can. Seeing this holiday first hand is something you will never forget. Smile and have fun. Taking part in Songkran is a great way to see the culture of Thailand. Rarely will you ever see more joyful faces in one place!