Samui Wining & Dining
Songkran - the world’s largest water fight.


OK. So you want the number one reason to visit Thailand? Well, in a word - Songkran. That’s if you’re fond of water! And who wouldn’t be during the hottest and driest part of the year. The word Songkran comes from the Sanskrit words meaning ‘New Year’, and it’s the celebration of the Lunar New Year in Thailand. It’s the largest water festival in the world, where thousands of people take to the streets to cleanse their souls and enjoy the community spirit. Held on the 13th, 14th and 15th of April, it’s three days of complete pandemonium throughout the country, although in some areas the celebration continues go on for as long as seven or ten days. People line the streets armed with hosepipes, big barrels, buckets and water guns full of ice-cold water, waiting for all who pass by.

      Songkran is regarded as one of the most important festivals in Thailand, because it encompasses many of the major values incorporated into the Thai way of life. It’s a time for the family to come together to show appreciation, love and respect to each other. Traditionally, Buddha images are bathed at this time. The water that runs off the statues is collected and sprinkled onto the shoulders of the elderly. This ‘blessed’ water is believed to give good luck and prosperity for the future. This custom has evolved to include dousing others with water to relieve them from the heat. The historical, spiritual and religious traditions have developed into what we know today as the largest street water fight you’ll ever experience.

On Samui there are almost no rules during Songkran. Anything goes. On foot, riding your bike or driving your car or truck, be prepared to get wet. Many of the bars, restaurants, hotels and shops will be open for business as usual. But water throwing is not allowed inside. All the water weapons you’ll need will be available in the shops, days before the celebration begins. Invest in a ‘Super Soaker CPS 1000’ before you go out to battle. Feel like a child again, and enjoy the electric buzz as you amble along the streets, soaking up the splashes as a welcome respite from the heat at this time of year.

        If you want to escape from the water for a while, several hotels and resorts offer alternatives to the huge water fight. Within their complexes, entertainment, food and drink are available, in a much drier environment. Alternatively, you can embrace the true traditional aspect to this celebration, by heading off to one of the many temples dotted around the island. Numerous Buddhist followers commemorate this occasion in their place of worship. Starting with making merit, they’ll wake up before the sun has risen (a very magical part of the day) and prepare food to be given to the passing monks. Monks will walk the streets collecting their alms, whilst blessing people or property on their journey back to the temple. On arrival at the temple, the monks will consume the donations of food and drink. And this will be followed by the locals being invited to participate in the feast. Once merit has been made, the locals will listen to Buddhist sermons in the temple. Finally a number of further rituals are carried out, including the cleaning of homes or places of work, and the releasing of birds and fish into their natural habitat.

          If you’re not a Songkran veteran, here are some important points to remember. Clean, cold water must be used along with a water gun, plastic bucket, bowl or hosepipe. Ice-cold water is most refreshing in the high temperatures and gratefully received by willing participants, however throwing ice is frowned upon. Everyone that’s out on the street is fair game. Use a plastic bag or dry bag in order to protect your belongings. Dress appropriately, with loose, light clothes covering your swimwear.

          All the celebrations normally begin to subside around 6:00 pm. However, you’ll always stumble across some late night flicks of water coming your way, especially in the busier areas like Chaweng and Lamai. And these are the places to continue the festivities after the water party has died down. A number of locations offer spectacular firework displays, along with the opportunity to ignite and release your own lantern into the night sky. Enthral in this magical once-a-year occasion.


 Kathy Ross


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