A guide to everything from cultural events to raucous parties.
Providing you don’t mind getting a little wet, Songkran (Thai New Year) is one of the most fun times to visit Bangkok. Whether you’re a culture seeker or a party animal, here’s a guide to the best places to celebrate this Apr 13-15. For tips on how to stay safe and enjoy the celebrations in full, check out this guide.
Silom: From Dusit Thani all the way to Narathiwat intersection, Silom Road is guaranteed to be crowded during Songkran as it’s always closed to cars for the celebration. Note that 2018 saw a ban alcohol sales in this area, meaning consumption may be confined to nearby bars for 2019. Also, due to the upcoming Royal Coronation (May 4), there will be no official entertainment shows on Silom Road. Up your game at the glitzy W hotel’s Splash Away Weekend (2-9pm, Apr 13-14), when they’ll open up their huge pool for a party with a lineup of some of the city’s top DJs. Tickets cost B790 (one-day)/B1,200 (two-day) in advance, which includes one free drink/day before 3pm, or B990/B1,900 on the door. Come evening, you can move on to the neighboring XXO Party scheduled to take place at The Club at Koi.
RCA: Notorious for its night-time water fights, Royal City Avenue’s (RCA) youthful clubbing strip will be awash with Bangkok’s sexiest partygoers from 6pm-2am. Expect countless parties happening at pretty much every club—from the beginning to the end of the soi. This year, Show DC will welcome the first edition of SIAM Songkran Music Festival, a four-day festival headlined by Dutch DJs Yellow Claw and Afrojack, along with many others. The event also promises plenty of Thai food stalls and workshops on topics like cookery and muay Thai. Four-day passes from B3,900 here.
Thonglor/Ekkamai: Head to Bangkok's high-end hipster hub, where bars and clubs will be hosting parties all Songkran long. Check out DND Water Circus: The Submarine, an event that promises five days and nights of reveling with an under the ocean theme and a music lineup of big Thai stars like The Toys and Thaitanium (Apr 12-16, 5pm. DND, 217/8 Ekkamai Soi 5/1, 094-414-9266. Free).
S2O: Bangkok’s, nay the world’s wettest party is famous for its next-level set up—water jets, laser beams, fireworks, LED light displays—and megastar DJ lineups, and this year’s no exception. Celebrate the festival’s fifth anniversary with Fatboy Slim, Tiesto and Steve Aoki. Apr 13-15, Live Park Rama 9. Tickets B2,000/day here.
Khaosan Road: The backpacker heart of Bangkok is usually concentrated with water fights, loud music and cheap drinks during Songkran (despite government attempts to quell the party). However, this year it has been announced that there will be no official Songkran entertainment at Khaosan in preparation for the King's upcoming coronation in May. The road will still be open to revelers.
Silom: The whole of Silom is crammed with water fights during Songkran, but head to Bangkok’s long-established gay nightlife hub on Silom Soi 4 for a concentration of gay bars and parties. Further down the road towards Soi 34, G-Spot Entertainment will host the Songkran Drag Queen Festival at Maggie Choo’s from Apr 12-14. Tickets B500/day (includes two drinks).
Songkran by gCircuit: Asia's biggest gay dance festival takes place across three days and three different venues, featuring plenty of pool parties and DJ sets. Tickets from B2,600-11,800 here. Apr 12-14. Muang Thai GMM Live House, 8/F, CentralWorld, 999/1 Rama 1 Rd. Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel & Towers, 2 Charoenkrung Soi 30. Centerpoint Studio Thailand, 9, 11 Sukhumvit Soi 105.
In Bangkok, there’s no escaping the raucous water-splashing that pervades the entire city during Songkran—though some areas are slightly tamer than others. If you’re seeking something with a slower pace and a cultural edge, you should look to government appointed celebrations and temples, where many Thais head in their traditional outfits to make merit. A yearly Songkran parade also takes place, though exact details are still to be announced for 2019—watch this space.
Lumphini Park: This huge park is situated between Silom and Siam. During Songkran it plays host to fairground lights, food stalls and cultural performances like Thai dancing and music—as well as the odd impromptu water fight.
Riverside: Make use of the boat services along the river to visit the many riverside temples, such as Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Wat Prayoon and Wat Kalayanamitr—be sure to dress respectfully with your legs and arms covered. It’s here that you’ll be able to take part in traditional activities like offering alms, sand pagoda making and bathing Buddha images. For concerts and cultural performances, stop by Suan Santichaiprakarn by Phra Sumen Fort or Sanum Luang park in front of the Grand Palace; Wisutkasat Road (home to the original Songkran beauty contest); or riverside shopping promenades Tha Maharaj, Yodpiman Riverwalk, Lhong1919 and Asiatique the Riverfront.
Thonburi: Life is always quieter over the west side of the river. This year, the area's creative space ChangChui is set to host Songkran Hun Sa, a traditional celebration featuring merit making, a market and folk performances.
While families may wish to take part in some of the cultural activities listed above, they safely can experience the water-splashing fun of the festival in a few places too—notably Lumphini Park (see above) and Siam.
Siam: Every year, the streets around Siam Square get packed with teenagers toting water guns. CentralWorld mall usually hosts a packed but family-friendly outdoor party with live bands, DJs, food stalls and bubble machines. Just beware the slippery surfaces around the malls and don’t try taking your water gun indoors!
IconSiam: The new, luxury riverside megamall has already made a name for itself for its extravagant celebrations and Songkran is shaping up to be no different. From Apr 11-15, head there for The Iconic Songkran Festival, when you'll be treated to heritage workshops, cultural performances, parades, music and games.
If you’re seeking to see the real Songkran but not in the fuzzy traditional sense, then you might want to consider adventuring out of the designated party zones. A trip on the BTS to areas like Udom Suk will land you in the local action, where teens blast piercing Thai music from makeshift sound systems while dek wan (motorbike gangs) race down the street popping flames from their exhausts, getting drenched with buckets as they whizz by. Yes, it’s raucous and breaks every health and safety rule in the book, but it’s certainly an experience—just proceed with caution.
If you want to experience Songkran at a slower pace, you might want to consider spending it in Chiang Mai. The street parties in the northern capital come with a heavy dose of local Lanna culture. There are traditional events at temples (such as Phra Sing and Phra That Doi Suthep temples). The major water splashing event tends to be at Ku Muang canal. There is a cultural parade on the first day, involving a Buddha statue procession and a Miss Songkran Chiang Mai pageant.
If you want to party Isaan-style (Thailand’s northeast region), then head to the region’s capital Khon Kaen, where the celebration kicks off early with a cultural parade and showcases at various spots around town, while Sri Chan Road is where the main water splashing highlights are. The parties are a bit more subdued here and the drinking is less copious than in other parts of the country. We suggest heading to Kaen Nakhon Lake on the city’s southern edge for a festive food festival instead.
Beach bums have no shortage of options. Phuket offers the best of both worlds: crazy street parties on famous Patong Beach as well as a cute Miss Songkran beauty pageant. On the more traditional front, expect ceremonies such as a flower themed parade and a Buddha statue procession through town. In Krabi, festivities kick off around Ao Nang—great for a more casual celebration, while Koh Phangan is famed for its parties year-round and Songkran is no different, alongside neighboring Koh Tao and Koh Samui. Usually a sleepy seaside escape, Hua Hin can expect to be invaded this year with hip-hop heads thanks to Volo Festival, a festival inside Vana Nava water park headlined by American artists A$AP Rocky and Ja Rule. Apr 13-14. Tickets B2,500 here.