Songkran in Thailand

Lonely Planet Travel Editor Tom Hall is on a mission to discover 52 of the most awe-inspiring places to visit across the world. This week Tom joins in with the world's biggest water fight to mark Thai new year.


You’re in Thailand. It is mid-April, which means everyone’s celebrating New Year. It is hot, very hot. At some point in the country’s history some bright spark had the idea of pouring water on people’s heads and shoulders as a blessing. At a later point, someone presumably threw some back. This simple act has led to the world’s biggest water fight, now unbreakably tied to Thai New Year celebrations and also known as Songkran.

When is Songkran and how is it celebrated?

If you’re in Thailand during Songkran (between 13 and 15 April each year) then you should expect to get very wet. Assailants charge around with water pistols or lurk on street corners with hosepipes and buckets.

Strangers, especially foreign ones, are considered legitimate targets. Expensive electronic equipment should be left in your hotel. Songkran is marked throughout Thailand but celebrated with the most gusto in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

After four days of non-stop dousings you may be ready for a break, in which case hop on a train to the south of Thailand. There’ll still be water fights going on, but you should be able to find a quiet beach to dry off on.

Planning your trip to Thailand

Start with Tourism Thailand for general information on visiting Thailand. Individual cities and islands also have specialist sites run by tourist offices, local businesses or expats.

©2009 Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd