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Surviving Songkran: Tips for Thailand’s Largest Water Fight - Poplar Travels
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Apr 14 2016

Surviving Songkran: Tips for Thailand’s Largest Water Fight

If you’re enjoying Songkran this week, first of all, have fun! You’re going to have an exhausting, amazing experience fighting and laughing with thousands of strangers in celebration of the Thai new year. Several Southeast Asian countries celebrate Songkran by pouring water on each other as a blessing. Temples will be packed with patrons and streets filled with water fights.

 

Chiang Mai is home to one of the most rambunctious and largest celebrations, but you can participate all over the country. We ended our time living in Chiang Mai with the Songkran festival and it was an incredible way to wrap up a wonderful year. If you ever get the chance to participate, you should take it. That being said, Songkran can be overwhelming and there are a few key things that will help you get through it smoothly.

 

Songkran

 

How to survive Songkran

 

First of all, you will not stay dry. If you have a problem with walking around soaking wet for three days, avoid Chiang Mai during this time. If you are traveling to or from or within Thailand during the festival, be aware that your luggage is going to be a huge target. Try to arrive a day or two before to avoid drenching everything you own.

 

When you prepare for the day, you should basically dress like you are going swimming in your clothes. Wear shoes that are secure and light, quick-dry clothing if you can. Chances are you won’t completely dry off all day, but you can make yourself a little more comfortable. Before you walk out the door, look at everything you have on and everything you have in your hands and think to yourself, “If I jumped into a pool right now, would everything be ok?” Your phones, cameras, ID, money, everything should be in a dry bag or other waterproof case. Don’t wear makeup, don’t do your hair. Do wear clothes though, no one is walking around in a bikini. Anything you wouldn’t want to get wet – bags, cameras, etc. will be a walking target!

 

 

Our version of a waterproof camera case. It worked!

One of our immediate realizations was that we were afraid for our eyes. You’ll notice that hundreds of people are climbing down into the moat that surrounds the Old City of Chiang Mai to fill up buckets, water guns, jugs – anything they can find to carry water that they will then forcibly pour on you or shoot into your face. That disgusting moat water is propelled directly into your eyes and mouth unless you have protection. At the very least wear sunglasses, but you won’t stand out if you grab a pair of goggles. There were just as many vendors selling them as water guns, it seemed.

 

As soon as it starts, you’ll want to arm yourself. Keeping you head down, avoiding eye contact and attempting to look like you don’t want to participate is like carrying a giant sign that says “shoot me.” If you are dry, you are everyone’s next target. There is no sitting this out. You can escape the madness some by taking back streets inside the moat, but even there families, children, shop owners and tourists will be waiting with hoses, buckets and water guns. Jump right in and purchase a cheap water gun so you can fight back and get in on the fun!

 

Songkran2

 

You’ll quickly learn who has the most firepower. Groups will inch their way through crowds sitting in the back of trucks with huge coolers full of ice water. They’ll dump buckets on you if you get too close and spray you with hoses when you’re further. Walking under balconies is treacherous, too. All that ice water can make for a really cold day, so take some time to air dry in a bar if you’re chilly.

 

Avoid driving or riding a motorbike during Songkran. If you have to, do so very slowly and carefully. Moving motorbikes are another favorite target for big buckets of water.

 

Perhaps the most important tip for surviving Songkran is to have fun. Give yourself time to rest and post up at a bar or restaurant for a few hours during the day. You won’t realize how worn out you are until you get away from the adrenaline for a few minutes. Since you’ll spend the entirety of the multi-day festival soaking wet, sunscreen won’t do you much good so be aware of sunburn. Enjoy yourself!

 

Have any great Songkran stories? We’d love to hear them! Share any other tips you have in the comments.

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Evanne Allen
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Evanne co-founded Poplar Travels after quitting her job in Washington, D.C. She got itchy feet at a young age and has never lost the urge to explore the planet. A previous museum employee, she is apt to drag travel partners into several cultural institutions anywhere she goes. She wishes she could speak every language and loves meeting new people.

32 Comments
  • Carrying a camera to festivals like this and Holi has always been a challenge for me. Did your survive?

    April 14, 2016 at 12:57 pm
  • Wow, great event and nice patent with your camera 🙂

    April 14, 2016 at 1:18 pm
  • OMG I never would have even thought of HALF of this stuff!!! Especially carrying a backpack! I like your point: “If I jumped into a pool right now, would everything be ok?”. That’s the best thing you can ask yourself!

    April 14, 2016 at 1:33 pm
  • I have a lot of friends i Thailand who have been recommending the same to me, I am planning a trip in October!

    April 15, 2016 at 6:51 am
  • This looks really fun! I have decided to plan a trip to Bangkok next year for Songkran. I recently saw a video where by someone use a condom to wrap the phone to keep it waterproof during Songkran.

    April 15, 2016 at 9:49 am
  • Haha! Damn! Songkran is exactly similar to a festival back home in India called ‘Holi’ – also played with lots and lots of water (balloons and guns and buckets and tanks and what not) and lots of color.

    April 16, 2016 at 1:16 pm
  • Hahahah! Great story! I must be fun, but actually you have to watch out your electronics! Photo camera protection required! hahaha 🙂 thanks for sharing

    April 16, 2016 at 2:33 pm
  • It’s so funny–I never heard about this water fight until it recently exploded on social media this year. Definitely adding this to my bucketlist for next year!

    April 16, 2016 at 7:38 pm
  • Hahaha the camera!!! Good tips, I haven’t been but I’d love to go. Note to self to always keep a drybag with me! haha. What a fun day. Wouldn’t want that moat water to get into my mouth, though :X

    April 16, 2016 at 8:59 pm
  • Oh, wow, this looks like fun! Thanks for the tips on how to stay waterproof! If I would go, maybe I’ll just bring a waterproof camera and nothing else. 😉

    April 17, 2016 at 2:11 am
  • This seems like such a cool and fun experience! And i’ve never heard of it! Great advice as well. Kind of reminds me of the Tomatina festival in Spain.

    April 17, 2016 at 7:01 am
  • That looks so fun! I am sure you enjoyed it 🙂 Hope to see this one day too! There is something similar in Italy btw during the longest day of the year in august! Fun!

    April 17, 2016 at 5:17 pm
  • Hahahah this is amazing! I can imagine all the children having so much fun getting the westerns! What a great way to ring in the NEW YEAR! Will have to organise a trip to Chaing Mai during this time! How could I not experience this! x

    April 17, 2016 at 11:26 pm
  • I heard a lot about this festival – and never someone saying they didn’t like it. It looks like fun – and a special experience. Lovely photos as well!

    April 18, 2016 at 3:18 am
  • ahhh! I LOVE this and am so jealous. Looks way too fun. Definitely on my bucket list. 🙂

    April 18, 2016 at 10:21 pm
  • This is every year something to look forward in Thailand. Ive been there but never had a chance to attend the event. Im sure its going to be crazy and fun! Take care!

    April 19, 2016 at 3:22 am
  • This water fight will be filled with fun as Holi and the difference about this from holi will be use of water instead of colours,and a waterproof camera will be a good companion if we visit for this water fight

    April 19, 2016 at 7:56 am
  • haha! this is great! I’ve been to Thailand several times, but I’m not familiar with it. Man oh man does it look like a good time. plus, i know how hot it can get there so I imagine its quite refreshing too 🙂

    April 19, 2016 at 10:37 am
  • The Lavish Nomad
    Reply

    Unfortunately I came back from Chiang Mai before Songkran but I’m from India so I get to celebrate Holi every year and its amazing. But I bet Songkran has a different feel to it as well and I hope I can be there on time next year 😀

    April 20, 2016 at 2:08 am
  • This festival reminded me so much of our very own Sinulog festival here in CEBU where people from all ages and walks of life are celebrating to the point of getting you wet with beer, paint and water.

    April 24, 2016 at 11:06 am

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