In the city of Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, the traditional Thai New Year event, the Songkran water festival, takes pride of place on the calendar. Chiang Mai is the largest city in northern Thailand, with a population of almost one million in the metropolitan area.
The city holds great cultural and historical significance for the Thai people. Between the 11th and 16th centuries, the city held great importance as the capital of the former Kingdom of Lanna that once existed in that geographical region.
Visitors Will See a City Where the Old Meets the New
Chiang Mai has gained increasing prominence in recent years, combining a sense of the old and the new and becoming increasingly modernised. It is estimated that some five million visitors travel to the city every year, with up to two million of those visitors travelling from overseas to witness the beauty and culture of Chiang Mai for themselves.
Chiang Mai is the best possible place to visit when it comes to the Songkran water festival, between April the 13th and April the 15th every year. Massive crowds of locals and tourists flock to the moat which surrounds the old city of Chiang Mai.
At the historic Tha Pae Gate, you will find likely find great numbers of people, all attempting to use the water in the moat to fill the buckets that they have brought especially for the occasion, as well as arming themselves with all manner of water pistols and other water guns. Arrive early if you can in order to avoid the massive crowds and the gridlocked traffic.
Water – A Symbol of Purification and Renewal
The water in the moat that surrounds the old city of Chiang Mai is normally in less than perfect condition in terms of sanitisation, but you will be pleased to know that the local authorities are in the practice of clearing it out and replacing it with cleaner water, prior to the start of the Songkran water festival. Despite this practice, it is wise to avoid having any of the water go in your mouth, as Thailand is not known for maintaining strict standards of water purification.
On the 12th of April each year, Chiang Mai plays host to “Wan Sungkharn Lohng”. This is a day for cleansing and cleaning. Local people will typically tidy and clean their house and put on their best clothes in preparation for the dawn of the New Year.
On this day in Chiang Mai in particular, you are likely to see the Songkran festival procession, which sees floats adorned with religious imagery travel thorough the city, in addition to other forms of fun and entertainment.
Throwing water on one another is not just regarded as a way to cool off in the hot April weather, or even as simply a bit of fun (though it is both those things), rather, the symbolism and religious and spiritual significance that is attached to water is what makes the Songkran festival so special.
Being bathed in water is regarded as good luck, and symbolises the washing clean of bad thoughts and actions from the previous year, while looking forward, purified at the start of the next year.