Water Festival of Songkran on Koh Chang

Songkran on Koh Chang

If you’re in Thailand between the 13th and 15th of April  then prepare yourselves for Songkran, Thailand’s famous new year festival. If you’ve been here before then you will probably know what to expect; celebrations, entertainment and lots and lots of water. If this is your first time then here is your Songkran on koh Chang survival guide.

Songkran is Thailand’s biggest public holiday and celebrates the Thai new year. For convenience these days Thailand uses the international calendar and the year (this year is 2552) commences on January first. But Songkran marks the date of the traditional Thai new year. The date was originally linked to the lunar calendar but is now fixed.

The festival is a time of renewal and the paying of respect to Buddhist images and elders. Traditionally this was expressed by the ritual of the pouring of a few drops of water over a person to display respect. But, perhaps because Songkran occurs in the fierce heat of Thailand’s hot season, this rite is now interpreted as the wholesale throwing of water over anything and everybody, so expect to get wet.

There are two basic approaches. If you don’t want to get a soaking then stay inside during daylight hours, during Songkran on Koh Chang the water throwing is focused mainly on the road so you might, just might, be safe on the beach. Alternatively leave anything that doesn’t like water such as passports, cameras, phones and the like in a safe place or seal them in a plastic bag and go and join in the fun. You can buy water guns, buckets and other “weapons” at many local stores. All of the groups of celebrants lining the road will be happy to welcome you into their armies. It is common for people to rub your face with dabs of talc, again a tradition denoting respect. Be warned, however, that it turns into a caustic goo that you do not want in your eyes. Watch out also for the groups who are using freezing cold water chilled by small icebergs of ice – a direct hit from one of these buckets is a bracing experience.

By sunset things are generally wrapping up as people go home to clean up and change into dry clothes for the evening. Make sure you don’t  soak them then as it won’t be appreciated. Also remember that Songkran is by far the most dangerous time of year on Thailand’s roads and hundreds of people die annually. Drive with care and be careful about drenching passing motorists.

So have a fun and happy Songkran on Koh Chang. Sawat Dee Pee Mai! Happy New year!

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