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Songkran – The cultural side

Songkran “Prapeni Pi Mai Mueang Chiang Mai”

In an earlier article we talked about the party side of Songkran, Thailand’s traditional New Year celebrations. But don’t forget the festival has many cultural aspects and traditions too. This article on the TAT website Prapeni Pi Mai Mueang Chiang Mai

Traditional Songkran clebrations in a temple - source WikimediaAs well as the water festival, people celebrate Songkran as a Buddhist festival. Many go to a wat (temple) to make merit by praying and giving offerings to the monks. Another ritual is bathing Buddha images to cleanse them and bring good luck, this is done by pouring fragrant water over the body and feet of the statues (not the head) to bring good luck for the New Year. In Chiang Mai, parades are held where Buddha images from several temples are carried through the streets on ornately decorated carriages so people can bathe them as they pass by. Another Songkran ritual is bathing the hands of elders with scented water as a mark of respect.

In their party exuberance westerners, particularly newbies visiting Songkran in Thailand for the first time are sometimes oblivious to the cultural niceties and etiquette. Here are a few Songkran do’s and dont’s

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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