Songkran 101: Celebrating Thai New Year on Koh Phangan
The mercury is slowly rising, the sun in blatantly getting bigger and hotter and plastic water guns are teasingly dangling from the ceiling in the 7-elevens; Songkran is approaching and it can’t get here fast enough.
This is not your average New Year Celebration - this involves pretty much what you see; a massive country-wide water fight. The Buddhist calendar marks the start of the New Year on April 13th, and celebrations extend all the way to April 15th, with some parts of the country reveling for even longer.
As well as participating in the fun and games, locals also use this time of the year to gather all the family and visit temples, all the while embracing goodwill, love, thankfulness and compassion that underlies the festival and hearts of the Thai people. Even with the water fight; there is method behind the madness. It is believed that water brings purification and helps wash away any sins and bad luck collected from the year before.
Ideally, it also takes place during the hottest time of the year. Refreshing indeed!
Visitors are, of course, encouraged to join in the fun with the locals. In fact, you would be silly not to! While Songkran is only celebrated on the first day on Koh Phangan island, there is still plenty of fun to be packed into this one day, so take heed of some of these tips to make your splashing safe and fun for everyone… including your mobile phone.
That zip-lock for your phone? Probably won’t work.
Sure, you might think you’ve come up with the most ingenious tactic where you’re going to use four layers of ziplock, a reel of tape, staples, paper-clips and more to keep your phone and money sealed and dry as you walk around. Trust us, it rarely works. If you want a fool-proof method of carrying your phone around without getting it damaged, leave it at home. Intend to stay dry while you’re outside? Don’t be silly, that’s impossible. Which brings us to...
Dry = Impossible.
Plan to stay dry all day? Anyone dry on the roads is a cherry waiting to be popped; the target of anyone armed with a bucket, water gun or hose. No amount of pleading will do you any good, so if you desperately need to stay dry for any reason, we suggest you stay indoors.
Got yourself a Koh Phangan tattoo which you need to keep dry? You poor bugger. You might want to try wrapping your injury in cautionary waterproof material and then recruiting your four best body guards to get you to an indoor-vantage point where you can sit back and watch the fun without getting soaked. Place yourself strategically near electronic and paper items. You may just be able to get away with this.
Leave the drivers alone.
It goes without saying yet is so often overlooked; don’t bother people speeding past you on the road. While it is common practice to celebrate on the street side, throwing water into a motorbike driver's face while they are driving down the road is a serious risk for not only everyone on the road, but also you. Don’t be a fool, drivers have a responsibility so leave them to it and throw your water on the next pedestrian that passes by.
Positive attitude, please!
You might be soaked at times when you least expect it. You might get buckets of ice-cold water being tipped over your head a few more times than you expect. Keep your cool and don’t take anything personally! Be aware that as part of the ritual, Thai people smear a white paste of talcum powder mixed with water on each other’s faces. This is a sign of protection, and it helps to ward off bad luck, so thank them and wish them a happy new year!
Pre-plan your water gun game.
You might see what seems like a never-ending supply of water guns in the stores now, but be warned that they do sell out quickly, giving vendors on the day the liberty to price them significantly higher. Don’t go to crazy with your gun either - the plastic on many of them can be flimsy so if you want it to last the whole day, don’t go throwing them about it the air! Don’t have a water gun? No problem - grab a bucket or a hose and you’re good to go.
“Sawadee Pee Mai!”
This is the Thai phrase for “Happy New Year” - spread the wishes and have fun!
Don’t forget, The Challenge Phangan will be closed during the Songkran period from Thursday 12th April - Wednesday 18th April to give our hard-working staff a well-deserved break, but do join in the celebrations taking place all over the island!
We will re-open again on Thursday 19th April, so if you’re dried out by then, we can sort you out.