The Songkran Festival that coincides annually with the Thai New Year is, among other things, a no holds barred water fight that has left many an unsuspecting tourist scrambling to find a towel. Traditionally, young Thais have long celebrated the lunar new year by seeking the blessing of their elders by pouring scented water over their hands (and bathing images of the Buddha), after which all bets are off and a good-natured aquatic battle ensues.
Held at the peak of Thailand’s hot season in mid-April, Songkran is an opportunity for the entire country (tourists and locals alike) to take a collective dip and blow off some figurative steam. If you’re planning a trip to the region during the month of April, this festival will likely be one of the most memorable highlights you’ll encounter.
Sand sculptures are constructed in the courtyards of the monasteries, birds and fish are set free, water balloons are let loose and hoses are turned on passers-by. Some of the best places to experience the pandemonium of Songkran include the northern city of Chiang Mai (where the intensity of the festivities is legendary); and the famous seven-tiered waterfall at Erawan National Park, where revelers splash happily in the many pools that form beneath the different levels of the falls. The festivities in Bangkok are reputedly less intense, as much of the population will have left the city.
Keep in mind that no one is considered exempt from the soaking. If you want to avoid getting wet, plan your visit for some other time, or prepare to spend virtually all of your time in the safety of your hotel room.