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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Rules for "playing" Songkran in Thailand:

Songkran, or Thailand's New Year celebration, happens every year on April 13-15.  When I visited Thailand in 2004 with my brothers we were unaware of this holiday and all that it entailed, so this time I made sure I was armed and ready.
These days, Songkran is pretty much one giant water fight for locals and farang alike, but it hasn't always been this wild. For some historical context, I'll hand it over to my good friend Wikipedia: "The throwing of water originated as a way to pay respect to people, by capturing the water after it had been poured over the Buddhas for cleansing and then using this "blessed" water to give good fortune to elders and family by gently pouring it on the shoulder." Today, it's pretty much grab a water- gun/hose/bucket/chunk of ice and throw it on anyone who may decide to cross your path. Thais refer to the celebration as "playing Songkran" (it's pretty obvious why) and although it's a nationwide celebration, the real place to party is up north in Chiang Mai where people play Songkran for a whopping 6 days.

So what are the rules for playing Songkran? In my humble opinion...

  • Be prepared. If you go outside, you will get wet. Mai pen rai, don't get mad, get even. Be ready with a waterproof bag to protect your money/phone/camera, and don't wear anything that can't handle a little, ok a lot, of water.
  • Be armed. Don't expect people to be nice to you because you are unarmed. You're going to need a weapon. Emily, Amy and I pretty much bought the first set of water-guns we laid eyes on when we got off the plane, but they were not of high quality and only lasted about 25 minutes before they started to leak more water than they could spray.  My next weapon of choice? A bucket.  The perfect tool for grabbing some of the muddy canal water and tossing it to the crowd. 
  • Be creative. The party pretty much stops at night, but you can never be too sure when you round a corner that there won't be someone waiting to douse you with water.  The last night of Songkran, the party was still raging when we decided to head out to dinner so we made some mad dashes across streets, down alleyways, and entered a restaurant from the back entrance crossing an abandoned parking lot in order to avoid getting wet. 
  • Have fun.  Songkran is a celebration unlike anything I've ever participated in, in America or any other country I've traveled to.  If you can't have fun in a giant water fight when it's 100 degrees outside, we're probably not meant to be friends.  Thai people know how to have a good time, and taking part in this celebration is seriously one of my favorite experiences in my 25 years on Earth.  Being able to take part in this nationwide party, and watching Thai people turn an entire city into their personal playground, is a beautiful thing.  Sanuk mak mak! 
Now for some visuals:


  1. Hey Sarah! My name is Kelsey and I was just accepted to CIEE's Teach in Thailand program for the fall of 2011. Your blog is awesome and I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions about how you chose CIEE over other programs. If you wouldn't mind e-mailing me at kpnawalinski@email.wm.edu, I would greatly appreciate your feedback! Thank you thank you!

  2. soooo cool! so jealous! looks like an amazing time!

    1. Meghan, you have every reason to be jealous, I love Songkran. It is wild and so much fun. Now it tends to run for nearly a week of intense saturation. Hard to keep up with the kids. Tip, Be careful of ice cold water getting into places that is normally not used to it. Every town and city fire up. It is great.


Thai Baht for your thoughts....

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