Here’s what I knew about Songkran before I found myself in the middle of it in Laos:
Here’s what I’ve since learned:
Songkran is the New Year celebration in Thailand and Laos. “Songkran” comes from a Sanskrit word that means “passing” or “approaching.” It represents the sun’s movement and marks the beginning of the new year. It’s a 3+ day celebration and water festival, and hugely popular in Thailand and Laos. Most people head back to their home villages for the week, and you can feel the happiness and good cheer as you walk down the streets.
Here’s what each day of the festival is like:
-Morning & Afternoon: drench everyone you see with water using giant super soakers and buckets. Get completely drenched yourself, and probably also covered in flour.
-Evening: eat, drink, and party in the streets.
The water throwing/squirting tradition came from the water from Buddha statues trickling down onto the elders worshiping below, and it symbolizes the cleansing of one’s spirit going into the new year.
Here are your options during the Songkran water fights:
-stay in your hotel room all day
There is no “don’t drench me I’m a tourist” card. Or “don’t drench me I’m holding my cell phone.” There is only undiscriminating drenching for one and all. It’s spectacular.
The first day of Songkran we were disembarking our slow boat we took up the Mekong River, and had to get to our hotel with all our bags. We wrapped them up in trash bags before getting onto the truck, and then sat there like sitting ducks for the 20 minute ride in an open sided truck to the hotel. We got quite enthusiastically drenched by the locals, and by the time we reached the hotel we looked like we’d all jumped into a pool fully clothed.
The next day we were more prepared. We set out for the Kouang Si Waterfall, each of us with giant squirt guns that we bought at the night market the previous evening. We were again in an open sided truck, and this time could fight back, which was way more fun.
I had my GoPro on my wrist, and cut the footage down into a highlight reel:
We did our homestay in a Laos village during Songkran as well, and upon arrival got “cleansed” with water hoses down our backs. After sundown the water fighting winds down, and we enjoyed delicious Laos food, Beerlao, and dancing & partying with the locals.
Needless to say, it’s a pretty incredible celebration. I’m so happy I got to experience it.