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Ten days to Songkran

Songkran 2013 in Chiang Mai

As the hot season really starts to bite, Thailand’s annual crazy week of Songkran is only ten days away.  And this is the time Thailand’s northern city of Chiang Mai undergoes it’s metamorphosis from laid back garden city to the full blown party capital of Thailand. Chiang Mai has become famed for its wild and wet celebrations of Songkran, which centre around the moat surrounding the old city.

Chiang Mai Songkran - Source WikimediaFor the un-initiated, Songkran is the annual Thai New Year festival.  What started as a Bhuddist tradition of pouring water on Bhudda statues and the hands and feet of elders to cleanse and show respect, has now become anything but respectful.  For three days it seems the entire population is out on the streets attempting to drown each other with as much water as possible in the world’s number one water fight.

The local population is swelled by many from surrounding towns or returning home for the holiday from Bangkok, add to them the throngs of tourists who come to join in the fun and the city is packed.  Enthusiasm for the festival means it unofficially starts earlier and runs for nearly a week (Government offices and many businesses will not re-open until 18 April). The main party places are Thapae Gate and outside the Kad Suan Kaew shopping complex.  Between these venues a constant parade of vehicles, slowed to walking pace, fill the inner and outer moat roads.

This year’s holiday officially starts Saturday 13th and runs until Monday 15th. Tuesday 16th is an additional public holiday – not normally a day for throwing water but you never know. Also, Songkran starts early in Chiang Mai; there is certainly a risk of getting wet on the 12th in downtown areas and around the moat.

Flights, buses and trains to Chiang Mai are often full, as are many hotels and guest houses.  If you are planning a trip here to enjoy Songkran, book today and don’t delay or you may be disappointed.  For gay accommodation options in Chiang Mai check out our accommodation pages. Or, if your favourite hotel or guest house is already full see our recent article on other accommodation in Chiang Mai’s Santitham district.

Traditional Songkran clebrations in a temple - source WikimediaThis year the Chiang Mai City authorities want to make Songkran more traditional and restore cultural values.  They have banned the sale, carrying and consumption of alcohol around the moat and main party areas.  For a full list of the formal cultural events for Songkran see the municipality’s listing here on City Now.

For some great pictures of last year’s Songkran, including some more cultural moments, check out

A few Songkran Do’s and Don’ts


  • DO Expect to get wet anywhere you go – carry any personal belongings in sealed plastic bags (especially Cameras and phones!)
  • DO Remember sun block – the sun can be very intense at this time of year.
  • DO Wear shoes that can get wet and not slide around – e.g. decent strap on sandals.
  • DO Be careful of your valuables in crowded places
  • DO Dye your hair bright orange and wear colourful clothes – the Thai’s seem to like that
  • DO Visit temples, make merit and enjoy some of the cultural and traditional parts of Songkran
  • DO Respect alcohol free zones around the moat and main party areas.


  • DO NOT Drink and Drive under any circumstances.  Thailand is getting much tougher on this – if caught you will wind up spending Songkran in jail.
  • DO NOT squirt people in the face or head with high powered water pistols and remember never to touch a Thai person’s head – it is a cultural no-no.
  • DO NOT throw water at monks, babies or the elderly
  • DO NOT throw water at people on moving motorbikes
  • DO NOT throw water with ice or dirty water (e.g. moat water)
  • DO NOT throw water after sunset (unofficially it used to be after 5 p.m. but that has got stretched in recent years)


Our top tip for Songkran: find some Thai friends and go play with them out in the suburbs or even back in their home villages.  We guarantee you will have a fun and memorable time enjoying Songkran as it was meant to be.  It seems the main party areas downtown have turned into an overcrowded disarray with a few drunken idiots (sadly usually farangs) spoiling it for everyone.

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