Songkran is the world’s biggest friendly water fight, bringing Thailand to a halt for three days. Here’s how to get the most out of Songkran in Bangkok
Songkran at Silom Road, Bangkok © James Antrobus
What is Songkran?
- Songkran is the Thai New Year — a three-day holiday that’s celebrated around the country. As one of Thailand’s most significant holidays, Songkran results in most of Thailand’s offices and schools shutting down so that parents and children get a welcome break from work.
- The dates for Songkran 2016 are officially Wednesday April 13 to Friday 15. Quite often festivities begin on the previous two days so that it becomes a whole week of holiday
- Although Songkran is best known as the world’s biggest water fight, the significance of water goes way beyond just having fun. People have historically splashed water on each other for Songkran to cleanse away the past and bring luck, prosperity and health for the future.
- For most Thais, Songkran means a mix of fun and family time. Families from all around the country often travel significant distances to spend time together. The first days of Songkran are National Elderly Day and National Family Day, respectively.
- Traditionally, the water throwing Songkran is known for was mostly limited to families, who would pour water over each other to bring luck and good health. As with most festivals, it’s since grown into an event that’s much bigger than anyone ever expected.
- Songkran takes place in the middle of April, which is the hottest time of year in Thailand. As such, the three-day water festival doubles as a great excuse to have fun and cool off from the often uncomfortably hot April weather.
Although every city in Thailand celebrates Songkran, you’ll find the biggest Songkran parties in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Pattaya. Read on to learn where to celebrate in Bangkok, which hotels to book if you’re travelling to Thailand, and how to stay safe during Songkran.
Best Areas in Bangkok to Celebrate Songkran
Songkran is celebrated almost everywhere in Bangkok, but certain neighbourhoods are a lot more fun than others. We’ve picked the two locations below mostly for the fun factor, as both offer the biggest crowds and most active parties during the three-day holiday.
Songkran Festival Silom © YANG HAI
Outside of Songkran, Silom is Bangkok’s busy financial district and nightlife zone, home to rooftop bars and infamous party streets like Patpong. For Songkran, Silom transforms into the city’s busiest, biggest and most impressive water fighting zone.
From April 13th until 15th, the entirety of Silom Road is closed to traffic, with people and their various water weapons occupying the street. Even the skywalk and footbridges are covered with people, most of whom will try to snipe you with their supersoakers as you walk past.
Silom is Bangkok’s busiest place to enjoy Songkran, offering day-until-night parties and plenty of places to shop for water weapons of all designs. It’s busiest in the evening, and after 7 pm it can be difficult to make it down the street due to the humungous crowds.
The markets along Silom Road and close to Lumpini Park are great place to buy supplies for Songkran such as plastic cellphone pouches, water guns and chalk. There’s also lots of street food and beer on offer along the entire length of Silom Road.
Since Silom is closed to traffic during Songkran, getting to the area from any other location in Bangkok by taxi can be tough. Take the MRT to Si Lom Station or the BTS to Sala Daeng and you’ll be dropped off right in the action.
Key Songkran Locations in Silom:
- Silom Road is closed to traffic and constantly packed with people, making it the most crowded spot. The area around Patpong is normally the most crowded, especially in the evening.
- Soi Thaniya, normally known for its seedy karaoke lounges, is one of Silom’s best streets for Songkran. Quieter and less crowded than Silom Road itself, it’s still full of people and easy to access.
- Surawong Road, which runs parallel to Silom and is connected by Soi Thaniya and Soi Patpong, is another hotspot for celebrating Songkran. As the road is still open to traffic during Songkran, it’s important to be on the lookout for cars and motorcycles.
Best Luxury Hotels in Silom
- Dusit Thani Bangkok Hotel
One of Bangkok’s most popular five-star hotels, the Dusit Thani Hotel is perfectly situated in the heart of Silom Road’s Songkran party area. Rooms are comfortable and facilities great, but the hotel’s proximity to Silom Road means it can be a little noisy during Songkran.
- Banyan Tree Bangkok
The Banyan Tree Hotel is located on Sathorn Road, a five-minute walk from all the Songkran action at Silom. The rooms and suites are spacious and luxurious, while the rooftop restaurant and bar is a great place to enjoy the sunset.
Best Mid Range Hotels in Silom
- Glow Trinity Silom
Glow Trinity Silom is a four-star hotel located on Soi Pipat 2, a short walk from the action on Silom Road. Its comfortable rooms, central location and rooftop pool make it a great hotel for enjoying Songkran.
- At Ease Saladaeng by Aetas
Located on Saladaeng Soi 1, At Ease Saladaeng is a short walk from the parties on Silom Road. Its convenient location and affordable but comfortable rooms make it one of the best mid-range hotels for Songkran in Silom.
Best Budget Hotels in Silom
- Everyday Bangkok Hostel
Everyday Bangkok Hostel is a clean and simple hostel that’s a short walk away from Silom Road. Located close to Wat Hua Lamphong, it’s close to Silom Road but far enough away to avoid most of the noise and crowds.
- Orchid Hostel
Located on Rama IV Road, Orchid Hostel is close to the heart of Silom. Simple dorm beds and a selection of clean and comfortable guest rooms make it a great choice for travellers in need of conveniently located budget accommodation during Songkran.
Khao San Road
Khao San Road, Bangkok’s backpacker hotspot, is one of the best places in the city to enjoy Songkran. Huge crowds of people, live music, cheap food and drinks and no shortage of fun water fights make Songkran on Khao San Road a blast.
Getting to Khao San Road during Songkran can be difficult, since many of the nearby streets are closed to traffic. If you’re travelling to Khao San Road by taxi, expect to get out a block or two away and make the final walk — usually through plenty of water pistol fire — on foot.
The market on Khao San Road is busy as usual throughout Songkran selling water guns and protective plastic containers for phones and accessories. Make sure your phone is covered up before you go, since it will definitely get wet if it’s left out in the open.
All of Khao San Road is transformed into a water fight zone during Songkran, with stages set up throughout the street and DJs playing a selection of tracks. The street can get extremely crowded during the afternoon and evening, especially around the stages.
There are police checkpoints set up around Khao San Road and officers will confiscate any cans and glass bottles you bring into the street. Drinks are available from the numerous bars along Khao San Road, as well as the usual backpacker snacks and Thai street food.
Best Mid Range Hotels in Khao San Road
- Baan Chart Hotel
Baan Chart Hotel is located on Chakrapong Road, a one minute walk away from Khao San Road itself. With spacious rooms decorated in a mid-century style and a rooftop pool, it’s a convenient and comfortable hotel for anyone staying on Khao San Road during Songkran.
- Chillax Resort
Chillax Resort is actually located a short walk from Khao San Road in Samsen, which makes it perfect for enjoying the water fight during the day without dealing with the noise at night. A four-star hotel, Chillax Resort offers spacious rooms and a fantastic rooftop swimming pool.
Best Budget Hotels in Khao San Road
- Laksameenarai Guesthouse
Located less than one minute from Khao San Road, Laksameenarai Guesthouse is a short walk from the water fighting but far enough away to be quiet once the sun sets. The outdoor terrace is a great place to relax after an afternoon spent participating in the water fight.
- 3Howw Hostel at Khaosan
3Howw Hostel at Khaosan is a comfortable backpacker’s hostel located less than ten minutes from Khao San Road on Samsen Soi 4. Female and mixed dormitory beds are available, as well as a good selection of private rooms.
Songkran Festival © Wyndham Hollis
Tips, Tricks and Etiquette to Survive Songkran
Songkran can seem like an intense holiday and first, but with the right attitude and preparation it’s easy to enjoy the three-day water fight and avoid most safety hazards. Use the following tips and tricks to have a fun, safe and faux pas-free Songkran experience:
Safety and Practical Tips
- Make sure all of your electronic devices (phones, cameras, etc.) are inside waterproof plastic pouches before you go to Silom or Khao San Road. Pouches are available for around 100 baht near Silom, Khao San Road and other popular areas
- Most workplaces in Bangkok shut down during Songkran, meaning you probably won’t be able to get much done if you’re visiting on business. Temples are usually crowded with Thai families, making Songkran a bad time for sightseeing.
There’s a huge influx of tourists in Bangkok shortly before every Songkran, making it important that you book hotels ahead of time. Book very early, especially if you want to stay close to the action in Silom or on Khao San Road.
- Songkran is a fun water fight, not a competitive one. Avoid spraying people who make it clear they don’t want to be a part of the water fight and try not to spray people in the face.
- Fill your water pistol with tap water, not ice cold water from a vendor. While people do use the ice water (mostly Thai teenagers), spraying someone with freezing cold water is a great way to make yourself a target for even colder water.
- Don’t spray monks, elderly people or very young children with your water pistol. Most people in Silom or Khao San Road are fair game and happy to take part in Songkran, but many older people sit out most of the water-based festivities.
- Don’t ogle girls with wet clothing. Likewise, don’t be an idiot and pee inside the bottle of your water pistol. Never spray water at people riding motorcycles, since it’s easy for someone to lose control if they’re blinded.
Have fun and feel free to have a few drinks, but avoid getting raucously drunk if you’re celebrating Songkran in a public area like Silom or Khao San Road. Injuries happen at an alarming pace when slippery surfaces and lots of alcohol are combined.
Songkran Outside Bangkok
Not in Bangkok for Songkran? No problem. Just about every town and city in Thailand has a Songkran celebration of some sort, ranging from small and unorganised water fights to huge city-wide festivals.
Songkran in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is one of Thailand’s best cities for Songkran. Most of the action is focused around the old city, with Tha Pae Gate the hotspot. Lots of people in Chiang Mai spend Songkran in the back of a pickup truck, roaming around the city in search of people to spray.
Songkran in Pattaya
Pattaya celebrates Songkran a little later than Bangkok, making it a great city to visit once the festivities are over in the capital. Songkran in Pattaya takes place on the 19th of April, with the Beach Road area transforming into a giant water fight zone for locals and tourists alike.