Chiang Mai is the best place to join the Songkran celebration, which is the most celebrated of all the Thai festivals.
From April 13th to 15th, 2017.
April is Thailand’s hottest month and marks the transition between the end of the dry season and the start of the rice-growing season. As such, Songkran Festival was traditionally considered the beginning of the New Year. It is a time to pay respect, let off steam and celebrate. That means you can expect two very different kinds of events during Songkran: crazy, country-wide water wars and serene
traditional ceremonies at temples.
SONGKRAN, LOTS OF WATER SPLASHING:
Songkran takes place over three days, during April 13th-15th, but in reality it lasts a week, especially in the villages of northern Thailand, where children are on holiday and want to play all day. Chiang Mai has a reputation for being the most fun city during this water festival. Bangkok’s parties may be the biggest and Pattaya’s are the longest, but nowhere else sees as much water flying as
Chiang Mai, which makes it one of the most popular places throughout Southeast Asia to visit in mid-April.
One of the reasons why Songkran in Chiang Mai is the wettest is because the weapon of choice is not the water gun, as in the other major cities, but the bucket, which ranges in size from small sandcastle moulds to industrial-scale pails. Chiang Mai also has a unique and easily available source of water - the moat running around the old city.
The biggest party can be found at Thapae Gate on the eastern side of the city. There, you will find several stages set up and an open-air food market. This is also the scene of special performances including the Miss Songkran Beauty Pageant, Chiang Mai’s Walking Street Market and one of the best places to see the procession of Phra Buddha Sihing to Wat Phrasing. Even though the road is still open to traffic around the moat, it is usually blocked with ravers and revellers. If you would like to take a break, the heart of the old city is a much quieter area, with less water players and lots of cafes
SONGKRAN, TRADITIONS & BELIEFS:
Fun is actually just one aspect of Chiang Mai Songkran festival. It actually has a deep meaning and that is to ask for blessing and to enrich religious intentions. Traditionally people would use only a light
sprinkling of water to symbolize purification. As everyone wishes for good vibes, house wives clean their houses. On the other hand, young individuals are showing their respect to elders by pouring fragrant water on their palms. Songkran festival in Chiang Mai is divided in three major days. The first important day is April 13th, which is called Wan Maha Songkran, meaning the day marking the end of the old year. This day is pretty much a day of preparation: Thai people go to the market and prepare delicious dishes for the new year. They also buy equipment for water playing.
April 14th is Wan Nao (Nao Day). This is an auspicious day when everyone must be cheerful, talk politely and not behave badly. In the morning, food and offerings for the monks are prepared and then distributed to friends and relatives the following morning. In the afternoon, sand is brought to the temple compounds and sand stupas are made as a form of worship to the Lord Buddha. Finally the time
comes for gently splashing water at one another with a word of blessing.
April 15th is Wan Talerng Sok (Talerng Sok day). This day is the most important day of the New Year celebration, this is the year when the new year begins.
Important local traditions includes the making of sand stupas in temples decorated with colorful flags (read our article pages 22-23) and Lanna drums competitions (read our article pages 46-47).
1. Attend Alms Giving, early morning at Thapae Gate (April 13) :
As the sun rises in Chiang Mai, hundreds of Buddhist monks depart from their various temples for Thapae Gate. The tradition of alms offering dates back to the 14th century, yet still today locals
wake up early to prepare food for the monks and wait quietly by the roadside. This ceremony is both peaceful and spiritual and it gives you a wonderful opportunity to experience the real Thailand.
Everyone is welcome to join this Alms Giving ceremony, just walk to Thapae Gate at around 7am.
2. Witness the superb procession of Phra Phuttha Sihing, a revered Buddha image of the North:
The image is taken in a procession that moves from Wat Prasingh and around Chiang Mai city. You can view the procession on Ratchadamnoen road, leading to Wat Prasingh.
3. Enjoy water splashing around the moat:
Envisage a traffic jam for four days with people dancing on top of their cars. This epitomises the spirit of Songkran! Part of the fun of Songkran festival is to walk around the old city’s moat, where most of the action takes place. Hundreds of cars join in which creates the city’s biggest annual traffic jam.
4. Visit Warorot Market:
Warorot Market is the biggest market in Chiang Mai. Take a few hours to walk around and enjoy the experience: people will be wearing traditional Chiang Mai blue clothes or colorful hawaiin style shirts.
Traditional Songkran music will play all day, putting big smiles on everyone’s faces. There will also be many delicious dishes for sale. Don’t miss visiting the left side building which features more than twenty stands of traditional Songkran accessories such as flags for sand pagodas, scented water, Mai Kham Bo wood and flowers.
5. Experience traditions unique to Chiang Mai such as Mai Kham Bho Procession and Sand Offering:
The Mai Kham Bho Procession is centered on the Bho tree, a sacred tree that can be found in temples (picture page 10). Bho trees are surrounded by wooden supports called Mai Kham Bo and these supports are placed around the trees in temples. Local beliefs say that the act of placing support around sacred trees brings luck and prosperity to devotees. Mai Kam Bho pr cessions usually fall on the same day of April as Songkran.
Another important custom is to build sand pagodas in the temples.Vilagers arrive in their best clothes with candles, joss sticks, flowers, ceremonial flags and handfuls of sand.
The sand is used to make miniature pagodas that are decorated with colorful flags and sprinkled with scented water.In local tradition, when people bring sand to the temple, it is a way to compensate for
any they may have inadvertently carried away on the bottom of their shoes during the year.