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The ultimate guide to a cultural Songkran in Bangkok

While Silom and Khao San have become known for their all-out water wars, there is an alternative side to celebrating Songkran in Bangkok. Here’s what you need to know. 

By Lily Kittisrikangwan | Apr 05, 2016

  • The ultimate guide to a cultural Songkran in Bangkok

By the River 

The New Year is always a good excuse to visit the riverside. This Apr 13-15 sees the return of the Water Festival, organized by Thai Beverage in collaboration with Tourism Authority of Thailand, which will take place across seven riverside venues along the Chao Phraya River from 9am-4pm. 
 
Making your river exploration more convenient, there will be free shuttle boat services between each pier throughout the three days. You can make merit in the morning, shop, eat and chill by the river in the day, and enjoy the concerts and festivities in the evening. It’ll be busy, but it’s a great opportunity to get up early and visit the four participating riverside temples. 
 
Daytime free shuttle boat services will run from 9am-6pm, with a boat departing every 30 minutes between Asiatique-Sathorn-Yodpiman River Walk and another every 15 minutes from Yodpiman through Tha Tien (Wat Pho), Tha Maharaj, Wat Arun, Wat Kalaya and Wat Prayurawongsawasa Worawihan. An evening route will run every 20 minutes from 4pm through midnight between Asiatique-Sathorn-Tha Maharaj. Do take care, though, as the boats can get very crowded. 

Phra Nakhon highlights

Tha Maharaj Community Mall
 
Checking out the organized traditional activities and festival-themed workshops at the open-air Tha Maharaj Community Mall (Maharaj Rd.), which has become a recent star of the area thanks to new openings like Peppina, Gram and Editions bookstore, a chill rooftop grill bar, regular pop-up markets, food trucks and winter outdoor screenings. 
 
Offering alms at the birthplace of Thai massage, Wat Pho (2 Sanam Chai Rd.), which will operate during the festival too (although we’d expect a long queue). You’ve likely already paid your respects to Phra Buddhasaiyat (the third largest reclining Buddha in the world), but throughout the festival, you can also offer alms here, too. 
 
Wat Pho
 
Walking Rattanakosin Island's longest riverside terrace at the neo-classical Thai heritage mall Yodpiman River Walk (Soi Tha Klang). Do make sure you visit Pak Khlong Talad flower market, too, now that vendors have managed to extend the deadline for eviction until the end of June, after which they will permanently relocate to either the Interior Ministry market, Thai Farmers Promotion market or Yodpiman.  
 
 
Dodging the tourists and browsing young designer wares at Asiatique the Riverfront (2194 Charoen Krung Rd.). This Songkran will also see massive live concerts by local artists every night from Apr 13-15. 

Around the Old Town

In addition to the mean streets of Silom and Khao San, the Tourism Authority of Thailand is making sure there are more to the celebrations this year than just water fights. Here’s what’s happening from Apr 10-15 around the Old Town.

The Songkran Parade

The series of events starts with a grand parade which traces the history of Songkran back to the period of King Rama III, through to the legend of the seven Nang Songkrans and the festival’s nationwide explosion during the reign of King Rama V. There will be performance stages in front of Lan Plubplamahajedsadabodin and in front of the Democracy Monument. 
When: Apr 10 (3pm-6pm) 
Where: The parade runs from Lan Plubplamahajedsadabodin through Ratchadamnoen Klang, Ratchadamnoen Nai, Na Phra Lan passing the grand palace, Maharaj Road and finishing at Suan Nakaraphirom. 

Songkran at Bang Lamphu

Home to hip new restaurants and bars (Wing ‘N Thing, Rong Lao), the area around Phra Athit is also one of the places you can count on for local festivities on special days, night markets and even music and theater events. In addition to the usual water fights on Phra Athit Road, the Phra Nakhon district office is bringing Phra Buddha Banglamphu from Wat Bowon to Suan Santi Chaiprakarn for visitors to bathe the Buddha image in the morning for luck and prosperity for the rest of the year, as well as alms-offering in the morning and Thai instrumental performances throughout the day. 
When: Apr 13 
Where: Suan Santichai Prakarn, Phra Athit Rd. 

Songkran at  Wat Pho 

Prior to the main events between Apr 13-15, there will also be a model talad boran (old-school market), with rare Royal court performances (lakorn nok, hoon luang puppetry) to be held at Wat Pho, which is great for those who don’t want to fight with the crowds on the real day. 
When: Apr 10-12 (10:30am-8:30pm) 
Where: Wat Phra Chetuphon Wimonmangklaram Ratchaworawiharn, 2 Sanam Chai Rd., 02-226-0335

Songkran at Wisutkasat 

Credit Photo: www.tourism.go.th
 
What: While Wisutkasat is known for its many  restaurants (that are overwhelmingly vegetarian) and small locally run hostels, it’s had a long history in celebrating the Thai New Year. Said to be the model of the “Dhevi Songkran,” the annual Songkran beauty pageant organized by the Wisutkasat  community has been held continuously since 1935.   
When: Apr 13 
Where: Wisutkasat Rd. (Bang Khun Phrom intersection), under the Rama 8 Bridge 

Thonburi highlights 

Wat Arunratchawararam
 
Crossing over the river and paying your respects to Luang Por Rung Arun as well as bathing 13 other Buddha images from temples around the Bangkok Yai area. Other activities include: local markets, sand pagoda-making and the tradition of carrying sand into the temple. Get back to the Phra Nakhon side by sunset to check the nighttime views of Wat Arunratchawararam (158 Wang Doem Rd.)
 
Wat Kalayanamitr Woramahawiharn
 
Traditional sand pagoda-making
 
Visiting Wat Kalayanamitr Woramahawiharn (371 Soi Arun Amarin 6) and bathing the temple’s Luang Por To (Sum Por Kong). There’s also sand pagoda-making, Thai garland-making, kite-flying, Chinese calligraphy and a quaint market organized by people in the community. This year also sees the first Bike by the River event opened for 150 cycling enthusiasts per day. Sign up now at goo.gl/ikK5ms.   
 
Wat Prayurawongsawas Woraviharn 
 
Merit-making
 
Paying respect to Luang Por Buddhanak and Phra Nak Prok. The local festivities around here will be quite similar to Wat Prayurawongsawas Woraviharn (1 Soi Arun Amarin 4), but here you can actually dig under the marble pagoda. 

Top boutique hotels for an Old Town staycation:

The Siam
 
1. Once Again Hostel 
(22 Soi Samran Rat. 092-620-5445. onceagainhostel.com)
2. Old Capital Bike Inn 
(607 Phra Sumen Rd., 02-629-1787. oldcapitalbkk.com)
3. Loy La Long Hotel 
(1620/2 Songwat Rd., 02-639-1390. loylalong.com)
4. Phra Nakorn Norn Len 
(46 Thewet Soi1 Krungkasem Rd. 02-628-8188. phranakorn-nornlen.com
 
Sala Rattanakosin
 
5. Villa Phra Sumen 
(457 Phra Sumen Rd. 080-085-0085. villaphrasumen.com)
6. Riva Surya 
(23 Phra Arthit Rd., 02-633-5000. snhcollection.com/rivasurya)
7. Sala Rattanakosin 
(39 Soi Tha-Tien, Maharat Rd., 02-622-1388. salarattanakosin.com)
8. Praya Palazzo 
(757/1 Somdej Prapinklao Soi 2, 02-883-2998. prayapalazzo.com)
9. The Siam 
(Khao Rd., 02-206-6999. thesiamhotel.com)

 

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