The Thai festival of Songkran offers unparalleled intensity and unadulterated fun. It’s a blast (quite literally by way of an epic water fight) that commemorates the Thai New Year. It takes place across Thailand on April 13th to 15th each year and is enacted in all its glory and ferocity in the city of Chiang Mai.
However, the festival has many incarnations that differ according to the diversity of varying cities and regions. Whatever way you are looking to celebrate during Songkran (either as a rampant party animal or as a more sedate sightseer) there are accommodation options to suit your needs.
Phuket is a stunning tourist destination at any time of year. But, it it is during Songkran that it is reaches a fever pitch of vibrancy. The intensity of the water fights is second to none. Tourists and the local population (right down to very small children) throw themselves into the fray with unbounded enthusiasm. It all starts rather mildly in Phuket Town at around 10 am each day. The action escalates by the afternoon in the regions of Patong, Kata and Karon, culminating each evening on Bangla Road in a watery version of full throttle combat.
Phuket offers a culturally rich expression of Songkran festivities. Visitors can attend the procession of the Phra Buddha Sihing image, floral parades, art exhibits and even beauty pageants. Phuket is home to the busiest of all Buddhist temples during Songkran – Wat Chalong. At this temple a plethora of activities take place, including the bathing of Buddha sculptures, the building of sand pagodas and also many rituals of respect honouring monks and elders.
Price and availability:
The average price of a 3 star hotel per night (twin share) is 116 (AU) and a 4 star is 232 (AU) during Songkran (source: Expedia, 2014). Phuket is a very popular and desirable destination so never leave your planning to the last minute.
If you want to be right amidst the action then you will definitely want to head to Chiang Mai. However, staying in this city during Songkran does have its downsides. Calling it busy would be the mother of all understatements. And, it’s not just tourists that make up the massive groundswell of people. Songkran is akin to a Western Christmas in that it is a time when Thai people make a great effort to spend time with family. Chiang Mai is the traditional home province for this fundamentally important celebration. People from all around Thailand (and in particular from cities like Bangkok where they work) perform a mass exodus to this one very overcrowded destination.
Here the water onslaught is at its most concentrated. Some trucks dump up to 44 gallons of water. No person (taxi driver, passer-by etc.) or any piece of electronic equipment (phone, camera) is safe from being soaked. Be prepared that you will be forced to stay put for the duration of Songkran. Attempt to hail a tuk tuk or a taxi and you will most likely find it commandeered by an army of water-pistol toting revellers You will be soaked from morning til night, practically from the very moment you step outside your hotel room.
Price and availability:
The average price of a 3 star hotel per night (twin share) is $120 (AU) and a 4 star is $221 (AU) during Songkran (source: Expedia, 2014). Be forewarned that is if you do wish to stay in Chiang Mai during Songkran you will have to book months in advance.
Bangkok offers the most “bang for buck” (pun intended) when it comes to Songkran. According to “Thai News” and “TripAdvisor” tourists spend considerably less money on accommodation, food, activities, transport and such things as buying water guns etc. to comparable alternatives in other popular cities in Thailand. Bangkok is undoubtedly a cheaper option compared with destinations in coastal areas (like Phuket). However it’s certainly less desirable and it definitely has an element of seediness.
One of the upsides of Bangkok during Songkran is that the usually overcrowded city suddenly becomes slightly easier to get around. The streets become less congested after masses of people leave for Chiang Mai. This is not always a benefit for every type of traveller. Some hold the view that during Songkran the vibrancy and bustle of Bangkok’s signature urban flavour is somewhat diminished. Most local authentic Thai retailers, general stores and markets close down during the three days (although you can rest assured that you can always enter one of the many massive malls).
Price and availability:
The average price of a 3 star hotel per night (twin share) is 114 (AU) and a 4 star is 223 (AU) during Songkran (source: Expedia, 2014). It’s wise to always try to secure a room as soon as you can. It may not be as busy during Songkran than it is during other times of the year but let’s face it: with accommodation in Bangkok you don’t want to be forced to deal with slim pickings.