I’m so hungry – really need to eat! But, straight ahead from my Hostel, the ‘moat’ road holds a traffic jam with gangs of armed water shooters on the back of pick ups. Some of them even have buckets. Passing motorcyclists don’t have a chance. Welcome to Songkran Chiang Mai 2018!
Along the pavement there are 2 ‘red zones’ which consist of hose pipes and two large buckets holding lesser buckets. The scarier ones are accompanied by a VAT of ice. I glance down the road to see a 5 foot 2 Thai women with a cheeky grin going for the neck of a dry make Westerner with a Buddha offering bowl full of iced water that makes him scream like a girl. This is the reality of Songkran in Chiang Mai. No where is safe!
Day by day breakdown of Songkran Chiang Mai 2018
Day 1 – I’m intrigued by the ‘pop up’ super soaker shops that are miraculously arriving on street corners. Kids getting that look of excitement in their eyes like they have on Christmas Eve. So cute and exciting!
Day 1 Songkran Chiang Mai:
We headed to a temple to find a stash of ‘squirt guns’ at the gates!
Day 2 – I’m loving it! My accomplice is Mexican photographer Gustavo who is a pro with a squirt gun. He hides behind a group of girls and then goes in for the kill, ending up in a group of people drenched, cracking up and taking loads of selfies. We progress to a ‘base camp’ where we have our own bucket and hose pipe courtesy of a local restaurant owner. We are revelling in our victories and filming it on the Go Pro!
Day 3 – Buddha parade! Starting from Wat Phra Singh, I got to watch the amazing ceremony where the Buddha is removed from the temple and boarded the chariot ready for the parade. Buddha was doused in water, turmeric oil and herbs by the mayor and other important people in the city.
Day 4 – ok, this is now the third day of me being drenched through to my undies. The passport and money are drying out on the balcony and I literally peel off my clothes. I try to temple seek and go flying slipping on the steps of Doi Suthep because my hiking boots are soaked through. From my Hostel I can see people swimming in the moat! Enough is enough now surely.
Day 5 – I’m too scared to leave my Hostel, I am a lone westerner now unarmed as the My Little Pony squirt gun died within 48 hours of purchase. Screams from outside are getting louder. They say it should be over tomorrow, but I can no longer live in a war zone. I jump in a GRaB Taxi to arcade bus station and get a ticket outa here! Sukhothai here I come!
What is Songkran?
Songkran is Thai new year celebrated in April every year. It usually goes on for 3 to 5 days involving Buddha processions and massive water fights. There is a religious significance to the water – it is about purification.
Where to spend Songkran
The main sites are in Bangkok and Chiang Mai where it gets crazy, but it is celebrated all over Thailand. In Pattaya, it has been known to go on for up to 10 days. I feel that I got the best Songkran experience in Chiang Mai, but as you can see I’d had enough after day 5. My advice would be to be flexible in your travel arrangements. Also remember that travel prices and traffic may be affected by Songkran. Grab Taxis can be 3 x as much as usual.
Songkran Chiang Mai Survival tips:
1. Get armed!
You gotta get yourself a squirt gun to join in the fun! My concern was that it’s so much plastic crap that could end up in the ocean, so I encouraged places I stayed at to store squirt guns for next year so that they are reused. A lot d then break quite quickly as they are poor quality.
2. Remember that westerners are prime target!
You gotta go out expecting to come back drenched. Don’t try to resist it – it just won’t work!
3. Research the religious celebrations and processions in your area.
It was amazing to see the Buddha ceremony at Wat Phra Singha.
4. Protect your Electronics!
Put cameras and gadgets in a plastic bag inside your backpack – it will get soaked through. Buy a waterproof phone case so that you can still use it and take pictures.
5. Wear steady Footwear
I recommend walking boots because they will support your ankle and have better grip. Flip flops in Songkran is asking for it – you will be sliding all over the place!
If you’re visiting Thailand, you might also like to read about the temples of Chiang Rai.