Thailand is a magical country. The amazing food has become renowned the world over and the beaches are paradise. These days travellers are realising that Thailand is a diverse place with lots of different cultural experiences to offer. The Songkran Festival is known as one of the wildest festivals in Asia, bringing more and more explorers interested in experiencing different festivals across the globe.
Songkran is basically the Thai New Year and it takes place in April each year with many celebrations all over the country. Chiang Mai, in the north of the country, and the capital, Bangkok, are probably the most popular destinations to celebrate the festival. You don't have to choose between Bangkok and Chiang Mai as there is time to spend a couple of days in each city, where you will witness lots of festivities, parades and plenty of water!
Songkran at its most basic is a massive water fight. People take to the streets with water guns, bombs, hoses, buckets and anything else they can find. In some cities the fire brigade takes part, soaking crowds with their huge hoses. Traditionally people gave water as an offering to shrines but that has snowballed into a riot of water fights.
In Bangkok many streets are closed to vehicles so that people can wonder freely and enjoy themselves. Lots of the residents leave the city to visit family so it is less hectic than normal. Tourist sites stay open so it can also be a good time to see those without crowds.
In Chiang Mai there are street parades and processions through the ancient city on both the roads and many canals. Buddha statues can be seen floating on boats and people gather on the banks to sprinkle water on them. In the centre of the city, revellers take to the streets to throw water around so make sure to take care of your phone and camera. The city is surrounded by beautiful scenery and national parks with temples. Many take trips out to these to make offerings.
Many travel companies now offer specialised Songkran trips. It is a wonderful way to see Thailand's New Year festival. Thai new year is a riot of fun and water. Offerings are made and parades take place. Having a local guide will help you navigate the craziness and get the most from the trip. Organised tours are a fantastic way to really make the most of this special festival. They provide a local guide who knows exactly what is going on and can take you to the best places at the right time.
Thai culture is very different from anything westerners are used to, so having someone to explain everything enriches the total experience. Often local guides can take tourists to places they would not be able to visit alone and they can communicate with the local people on your behalf.
Organised tours are available for all budgets and can also be tailor made for your group. The budget tours are difficult to beat for value. Even travelling independently you would probably spend more money. The tour companies are able to get amazing deals on accommodation and travel costs.