Exciting and Attractive People Playing: The Real Songkran Festival in Thailand

By Mark Wiens 9 Comments

The Songkran Festival in Thailand (traditional Thai New Years) is the biggest and most sought after holiday on the Thai calendar.  Songkran is usually thought of as a few inebriated day of throwing buckets of water and shooting water guns where everyone is a target. 

However, with 66 million Thai inhabitants, there must be a bigger picture, so I turned to 27 of my Thai students to get a more local picture of what characterizes Songkran.

Tallying the results and analyzing the trends I came up with a single sentence that I think sums up what the Songkran Festival is for many Thai people.

Songkran is a long holiday to spend time being happy and excited with family and friends, respecting elders, going to the temple, playing with water, and eating seafood.

Below are the results with what I think are the most interesting answers, followed by the highest number of responses.   I will let the interviews speak for themselves and hope you enjoy!

Songkran Festival Thailand
Songkran in Thailand
photo courtesy of Takeaway

“Best Holiday in Thailand” – 18 of 27 Students think that the Songkran Festival is the best holiday in Thailand.

1.  What is the first thought that comes to mind when you think of “Songkran”?

exciting and attractive people playing, water wet laugh, funny wet enjoy, water (5), happy (2), exciting (2), visit my family (2), water funny, water festival, water in Silom, water and friends, water and people, hot, fantastic, exciting water, happy relaxation, don’t work, long holiday, time to relax

2.  Do you mostly spend time with family or friends?

family (18), both (5), friends (4),

3.  What is the Songkran Festival for you?

a time for me to get wet, enjoy people in Thailand, it’s time for family, go out and eat at some restaurants, meet my family (10), play water with my friends (4), have a party with my family (3), a time relax (3), drink, a time that I go to my house, a time to see movies

4.  What kind of food does your family usually eat for Songkran?

Thai food (my grandma cooks for everyone!), ice drinks, ice cream, Thai dishes and perhaps some alcohol, seafood (12), Chinese food (3),  pizza (2), many kinds of soup (2), seafood- crab/shrimp/squid, Issan food, grilled seafood, roasted chicken, tomyum gung, same food as usual, suki yaki, noodles, som tam

5.  What is your favorite thing about Songkran?

i’m soaked, everyone is happy, put the water with water gun to people, shooting water guns and eating seafood, playing water (6), visiting my family (2), playing water with friends (2), stay home and play games, going everywhere in Bangkok, walk on Khao San road, go to the temple, meet new people, going back home enjoying the long weekend, go out with friends, holiday to relax

6.  Do you or your family have any traditions?

build sand castle at temple (old Thai tradition), go to the temple (17), anoint parents and grandparents (5), anoint Buddha (4), give foods to monks (2), go to grandmothers house on first day (2), stay at home and make dinner, talk to each other, go to the beach, drink wine with my family, visit relatives, make merit, have lunch together, go to the sea

An interesting tradition that one of my students mentioned is the annual sand castle (pagoda) building at the temple.  Though not all temples hold to this custom, some families still go to build an intricate sand castle to make merit.

7.  Where is the best place in Thailand to spend Songkran?

Bangkok/Chiang Mai-more funny people, anywhere- because Thai people are really happy for the long weekend, Chiang Mai (6), Silom, Bangkok (4), Temple (3), Pattaya (3), Khao San Road (2), Koh Samui, Hua Hin, Auksa road, Koh Chang, Serom road, anywhere up country.

9 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • Steve

    11 years ago

    When I was in Thailand a few years ago I heard that some of the locals were trying to downplay the festival to tourists. Apparently some of them took it way overboard and were dumping huge bucketfuls of windows all over the place. I didn’t actually get to see the festival when I was there, but it would have been fun.

    • Mark Wiens

      11 years ago

      That’s too bad about going overboard. This year, I was in Krabi, a smaller town, and everyone there just seemed to be having a great time and just playfully throwing water. Hope you get to come back for a Songkran Festival at some point!

  • pagbung

    11 years ago

    They’re living in Nakhon Si Thammarat, my hometown. If you want to try the real “Kanhom Jeen Namya” food paradise, which has variety of soups. You should find from Southern .. And my hometown is the best one LOL. Hope you enjoy Songkran in Krabi 🙂

    TC ka

  • Mark Wiens

    11 years ago

    Yah Dave and Deb: I thought some of the answers and popular responses were pretty interesting as behind the scenes information about Songkran. It really seems to be a family oriented holiday for fun!

    Flip: I think I will definitely waterproof all of my valuables before stepping outside! Should be a great time, looking forward to it.

  • flip

    11 years ago

    i’ve only had a chance to experience songkran once, and i didnt know about it then. damn! my passport got wet hehehe but it’s really fun!!!

  • Dave and Deb

    11 years ago

    This is a fantastic post! We were in Chang Mai in 2004 for Songkran and it is wonderful to have the perspective of what your students think of the holiday. Beautiful!

  • Pagbung

    11 years ago

    umm ..

    Talking about Songkran .. I imagined people have fun, enjoy, and forget about discriminating. And that’s great!

    I usually stay at my grandparents house, being with family and relatives. Go to the temple in the morning, anoint parents and grandparents in the afternoon, and then play water until the night 😉

    AHHH!! and also eat “Kanhom Jeen Nam ya” (ขนมจีนน้ำยา) my food paradise!!

    Happy long vacation!

    • Mark Wiens

      11 years ago

      Thanks Pagbung,
      Do your grandparents live in Bangkok? I need to try some more kanhom jeen nam ya, I think I have only had it once a long time ago and if you say it is your food paradise, I need it. I hope you have a great Songkran!