The Thai Buddhist New Year is about making merit, not just mayhem with Super Soakers, which happens anyway. But there are biking adventures to be had as this amazing water festival splashes across the country.
What is Songkran?
For three days in April, often at the peak of the hot season, the polite and the profane collide as Buddhist New Year is celebrated in Thailand. Other countries celebrate this too, but Thailand has put its own unique stamp on this holiday.
Songkran traditionally begins with making merit and paying respect to pave the way for a prosperous new year. Alms are given to monks, animals are freed or rescued from slaughter, temples are cleaned, and Buddha images are ritually bathed. Some may bring sand to temples to replace the ground that was trodden away during the year.
Then it’s time to party with the requisite Thai country music concerts and beauty pageants along with lots to eat and drink. People get dressed up in traditional Thai outfits or, more likely, their favourite Songkran shirt (think Hawaiian-style designs, only louder and more colourful).
How is water a part of this?
Not only are Buddha images bathed in perfumed water, but respect is also paid by pouring water over hands or shoulders, usually after getting permission to do so, a symbolic washing away of bad luck.
Somehow, this gentle tradition degenerated into water pistols at ten paces (okay, maybe two paces) and neighbourhood water battles. Bangkok has taken to shutting down Silom Road, a major thoroughfare, for the festivities.
Normally, the buckets pouring from balconies and stealth Super Soaker attacks are all in good fun. It’s hard to lose your temper when everyone around you is soaking wet and wearing some of the most garish shirts ever seen!
But before you unleash your inner five-year old and station yourself to the nearest water source, remember the golden rule (just in case: do to others as you would have others do to you).
Also, Thailand is currently suffering drought conditions in many regions, so go easy.
Is it safe to bike?
With everything happening, a bike tour might seem like an ideal way to get around and check out the sights, sounds, and soakings. And a light spritz may be welcome while bicycling in the summer heat. But to venture anywhere in Thailand over this holiday is to risk getting drenched. Nevertheless, there will be tours for those intrepid cyclists wanting a wet adventure on two wheels! – Cycle Chinatown Half day
Check out more tours running throughout Thailand here.
Laos gets into the same spirit, so you’ll need the same determination to weather the man-made showers across the border. – Luang Prabang Explorer 1 day
For those who prefer to stay dry, Cambodia celebrates the holiday, but without the wild water play. – Cycling Siem Reap’s Countryside 1 day
Or crossing to China’s southwestern province, Yunnan also celebrates this kind of festival called Water Splashing Festival starting from April 12 to April 16 depending on each area. – Yunnan Discovery 12 days 11 nights
For more suggestions for trips over the long holiday, check out SpiceRoads pop-up tours page for Songkran
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Loy Krathong: Thailand’s festival of lights and rivers
Pushkar Fair: Dancing camels and colourful handicrafts. Stay for the moustache competition!
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